Why City Registration is Important: Banking in Düsseldorf

As a newcomer to Düsseldorf, the city registration process is one of the most important initial interactions you need to have with the local German Bureaucracy. There are several reasons why you need to just tough it out and head down to the city to register yourself as a resident.

The first and most important reason is, as a foreigner in Germany, it can sometimes be difficult to set up a bank account. As we all know, money makes the world go round, and when we embark on our extended international journey, having access to the local banking system becomes a necessity. Whether it is to have an account to pay your rent from, or, to simply being no longer willing to have to pay international transaction fees every time you use an ATM, if you are here for any extended period of time you will be dealing with a German bank.

While German law does not prohibit banks to open accounts for foreigners, many banks simply don´t want the headache that comes along with having a foreign account holder unless they feel the value outweighs the cost. One simple way to demonstrate this is by showing a banking institution a copy of your City Registration. If you have gone through the trouble of registering, the thinking at the bank is that you will be in Germany long enough to have high enough customer lifetime value, and therefore be worthy.

Obviously, there are some banks that are easier to deal with than others, and unlike in the US, a personal recommendation from an existing client can help make things easier. There are several branches of Deutsche Bank, Sparkasse and Commerzbank around town that deal with us foreigners enough that they are usually able and willing to help a new local get things going. From personal experience, the Deutsche Bank at Kaiserswerther Straße 239 deals with a lot of foreigners and is really very helpful.

One thing to note if you are an American moving to Düsseldorf, after the passing of The Patriot Act, and subsequently, Dodd Frank banking reform in the US, any banks that conduct any business inside the US have new customer reporting requirements. One of the impacts of these reporting requirements is that for those clients who live overseas and/or have overseas assets, both domestic US banks and non-US banks must report your overseas banking activity. Because the rules are very complex, and costly for banks to provide proper reporting on, many US expats are finding it more difficult to open an overseas account and also keep their US based accounts open while they are overseas.

This is a big topic, as it has impacts far beyond simply opening a bank account and brings into question taxation of foreign income, etc… Rather than delve into this any further, below is a short list of articles that can start you down the rabbit hole if you are interested.

Forbes: FATCA Makes Foreign Banks Report Americans

Find your Fix: US citizens can not open account with overseas Forex brokers

AARO: Americans Abroad are Denied Access to Banking and Investment Opportunities