Transfers

How to transfer money within Germany or abroad

A transfer is used to transfer money from one bank account to another, using a special form ( Überweisungformular).

On many occasions, you will receive bills with a preprinted Überweisungsauftrag containing the billing amount and the bank details of the recipient. When handing in a transfer, keep a copy for your reference.

Standing orders ( Dauerauftrag): If you make regular payments of a set sum, such as rent, it is recommendable to arrange for a standing order ( Dauerauftrag). The amount will be transferred automatically from your account on a specified date and to the recipient.

Direct debit authorization ( Lastschrift or Einzugsermächtigung): This is a practical method of payment if you have recurring payments which vary in size, such as the telephone bill. You give the recipient a direct debit authorization ( Einzugsermächtigung) which allows them to deduct varying sums of money directly from your account. Of course, you can later cancel the Einzugsermächtigung to stop the direct debit.

This method of payment may be new to you and some people worry that it is open to abuse. However, all direct debits are registered on your bank statement so that you can easily check them and reverse any incorrect debits. Any money deducted incorrectly from your account can be asked back and should arrive within a few weeks. You should check your bank account statements for errors.

International money transfers

Bank transfers in Germany are usually quite fast and straightforward, but this is not always the case for international transfers. Transfers to and from Germany can take weeks, especially between non-affiliated banks. You might want to consider some of the following alternative transfer methods:

SWIFT transfers: One of the safest and fastest methods of transferring money is via the system of the Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). A SWIFT transfer normally completes in a few hours and the funds should be available within 24 hours, although this can take longer. Transfer costs vary in terms of commission, exchange rates and transfer charges.

Bank drafts: A bank draft ( Bankscheck) should be sent by registered post as it is impossible to stop payment if it is lost or stolen. Bank drafts are not treated as cash in Germany and must be cleared like personal cheques.

Money transfer agencies: Another way of transferring money abroad is to use an international money transfer agent such as Moneygram or Western Union. Although originally designed for people without bank accounts, these agencies are generally faster (it takes around 10 minutes) and more reliable than traditional bank transfers. However, commissions on telegraphic transfers are quite high (around 7 to 10 percent of the amount sent). You simply bring pay your money in cash to the agency office and tell them where the person you are sending it to will pick it up. The recipient of the money can then go with his identification to the office you named and receive the money instantly in cash.

Paypal: You might want to have a look at the Paypal system - www.paypal.com  (especially if you're American or British). Although originally designed for international internet transactions, this system provides a convenient way to make US Dollar/Euro or Sterling/Euro transfers.

Importing and exporting money:

You are permitted to import and export any amount of money to and from Germany, although you're (at least in theory) obliged to report to the Bundesbank any movements in excess of €12,500. But you should check the country of origin/destination of funds to see if restrictions apply there.

Further reading

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