Bike in the leaves in Arbon, Switzerland

Opening A German Bank Account

Just a few minutes past noon on an oppressively gray November day, Travis and I rushed to an appointment to open a German bank account, our second foreign bank account in just over a year.  Wondering if it would be as difficult as it had been for us in Switzerland, we checked in at the front desk of Commerzbank, then waited with a bit of trepidation in the lobby.  Two representatives greeted us with friendly smiles almost immediately.  We felt a bit like royalty when they led us to a private room.  After offering us cappuccinos with tiny little cookies (why has our bank in the US never done that?), we got down to the business at hand.

A few days before when Travis made the appointment in person, he’d provided them with copies of our passports and his work contract.  We told the bank employee what we wanted, then reviewed the requirements of the account.  It would remain free as long as we deposited at least 1200 euros into it each month, which will be the case since Trav’s paycheck will be auto deposited.  We’d each get a free EC card – the equivalent of a US debit card.  And the account would come with a 50 euro signing bonus.  Suh-weet!

Newly arrived in Germany? Shopping for a checking account? CommerzBank offers a 50 euro signing bonus. Click to Tweet

Since the documents were all in German, the rep carefully explained each page and what we were signing.  We emblazoned our John Hancocks next to a couple of prominent Xs, and BAM!, we were in possession of our very own German bank account.  We were assured we’d be able to access it within two days, and we should receive our new EC cards in the mail within a week.

Pretty standard, right?

It was pretty much like opening an account in the US, except we had to make an appointment here in Germany.  You probably have to do that in some cities with some banks in the US as well.

One final item on our agenda was to transfer the bulk of the money in our Swiss bank account to our new German account.  Assuring us it was no problem at all, the rep offered to walk us through it in his office.  He instructed me to sign into our Swiss bank account online via the Commerzbank computer.  After switching the language to German, he quickly filled out an online request to transfer money from one European bank account to another.  For a fee of about 20 euros for the transfer, it was well worth it.

The bank rep even offered to take care of closing our Swiss account for us, which was really nice.  Since we weren’t quite ready for that, we declined.  We still have a couple of outstanding transactions open with our Swiss bank, so we’ll close our Swiss account in person when we return to Fribourg with a moving truck for our things.

Maybe during our last visit to our bank in Switzerland, we’ll finally see Bill Gates or Oprah.  I just know that some rich, famous Americans still have accounts there…

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