What you need to know about bank accounts

Dealing with finances is a key part of studying abroad. Here are some steps to ensure your living expenses are covered while you are studying in Baden-Württemberg.

When you apply for a student visa, you have to prove that you have sufficient funds to finance your studies in Germany. The most common way to do this is with a blocked bank account.


What is a blocked bank account?

A blocked bank account is – as the name suggests – an account with restricted access. The money you pay into this account is meant to cover your costs of living and other expenses while you study in Baden-Württemberg.

The Federal Foreign Office determines the amount that has to be paid into the account every year based on the average cost of living. Check their website for details.
From your deposit, a fixed monthly amount will be transferred to you every month. This may sound complicated but when you read on, the process will become clear.

Why do I need a blocked bank account?

If you are an international student from outside the EU and the EEA, you need to prove that you have the necessary funds to cover your expenses for at least one year in Germany. To renew your student visa, you have to go through the same process again.

The requirement is known by the term “Finanzierungsnachweis” and most students fulfill it by opening a blocked account, also known as a “Sperrkonto”.

It’s called blocked account because you can’t withdraw money at will. You get the predetermined sum every month and that’s it.

“Why? It’s my money after all”, you might say. And that’s true – it is your money. The blocked account has been put in place to protect your host country, community, university, and you. By ensuring you receive the amount to cover your living expenses every month, you will be able to fulfill your financial obligations to your landlord and others and to support yourself.

A blocked account also protects you. Prices can vary drastically in different countries and sometimes it is difficult to keep track of the amount you spend – especially if you are new to a place and deal with a different currency – in this case the Euro.

How do I open a blocked account?

You need to open a blocked bank account as early as possible. That means the moment you receive your acceptance letter from your university, if not sooner.

First check with the Federal Foreign Office, the German embassy in your country or the consulate how much you have to pay into the account. The amount is determined every year based on the average cost of living for students. Some visas like a student applicant visa may require a higher sum than the normal student visa so pay close attention to the specific requirements.

Of course you can also voluntarily pay in more into the account to have a safety blanket. Make sure you adjust the monthly payments accordingly so that you receive the amount you desire.

Government regulations in Germany mandate that you can only open a blocked bank account with an approved bank that follows German financial regulations or is based in Germany. The Federal Foreign Office provides a list of accepted banks on their website.

Where can I open a blocked bank account?

Some German banks offer blocked accounts for international students. Please check with your embassy and consulate which banks are accepted, as regulations may change. There are some fees associated with blocked bank accounts, so don’t be surprised if there are some extra charges.

The bank will specify which documents you’ll need to open an account. They include at least a passport. Once you deposited the money, you’ll receive a blocking confirmation from your bank. This document is needed for your visa application and your residence permit.

If you’re student visa application is rejected, you will get your deposit back – usually minus some administrative fees.

Next steps

“What, there is more?” Yes, but don’t worry, you’re almost there. Once you’ve arrived in Baden-Württemberg, have enrolled in your studies and found a place to live, you need to open a German bank account. Usually, you need to present your passport, your student ID or a letter of admission and your residence registration.

A German bank account is necessary to pay your rent, insurance premiums, your phone bill and other expenses. You’ll also be issued an EC-card to withdraw money from a cash machine and to pay smaller expenses in shops. Most banks also offer online banking.

Once you opened your bank account in your new hometown in Baden-Württemberg, send the account information to the provider of the blocked account so the two accounts can be linked. The provider of the blocked account can now transfer your monthly amount.

Because some steps take more time than expected, make sure you take enough money with you to cover expenses in the first months of study in case there are some delays in your monthly payments.

Also keep in mind that there are often some extra expenses in the first months, for example for a rent deposit with your landlord, for clothes for a different climate or for a bicycle to get around town.

A blocked bank account is the preferred but not the only way to show that you have enough money to cover your expenses while you study in Germany. Here are some alternatives:

  • Documents that show that your parents have sufficient income and assets to cover your expenses as well as a binding letter stating that they, in fact, will support you.
  • A certified and binding letter by a sponsor (f.e. a relative) in Germany who will cover all your costs during your studies.
  • A recognized scholarship for the entire amount you’ll need or a scholarship in combination with a blocked account.