Money Management

Transferring money overseas in Germany

We explain the process of transferring money in Germany via traditional, online, and mobile banking including costs, transfer times, and more.

Germany money transfer

By Urszula Humienik

Updated 31-1-2024

Fortunately for expats, transferring money overseas in Germany is a fairly straightforward process. That said, there are several factors that you need to keep in mind when choosing where and how to do this. Fees, transfer time, exchange rates, safety, and the amount you are transferring, for instance, all come into play when making the decision. 

There are several options for transferring money in Germany, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. But while online and mobile banking is making it easier than ever to move your money overseas, ensuring that you are doing it correctly can still be nerve-wracking. With this in mind, this helpful guide is here to walk you through the process, including the following:


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Transferring money overseas in Germany

According to Eurostat, Germany transfers more money internationally than any other country in the EU. Indeed, the total outflow in 2019 was US$19 billion; this represents 17.6% of the total outbound personal remittances of the 27 EU members. Most of the outflow from Germany is sent to countries like Poland, France, Romania, Czechia, Türkiye, Austria, the Netherlands, China, and the United States.

Man sending money online

There are many options when it comes to transferring money overseas in Germany. You can do it in a bank, in person, online, through mobile banking, or by using dedicated online money transfer services. Depending on which method you choose, the process can take from several hours up to several days, with varying costs. Exchange rates can also vary significantly between banks and online money transfer service providers; so this is something else to keep in mind.

Sending money overseas via a traditional bank in Germany

Most banks in Germany allow you to transfer money worldwide using a SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) code. You can do this either online, by using a bank app, or by visiting a branch in person.

The cost of transferring money overseas via a traditional bank

Banks in Germany generally charge a flat fee for transferring money internationally. This makes them a good option if you are sending large funds overseas. That said, they often add hidden fees and margins to their exchange rates which are not always transparent. These exchange rates can include an additional 5 to 7% margin which can quickly add up over time.

A Deutsche Bank branch in Frankfurt, Germany

The euro is generally a stable currency, and below are some approximate exchange rates as of April 2021:

  • US$1.2 = €1
  • GBP0.9 = €1
  • AU$1.6 = €1
  • CA$1.5 = €1
  • SG$1.6 = €1

Some transfers, such as those done online or through an app, can also incur extra fees. Fees can also be added to both ends of the transfer, which can increase the overall cost of sending money and decrease the actual amount that is received. With this in mind, it is important to make sure that you are aware of all the costs associated with transferring money overseas via a traditional bank in Germany.

The cost of transferring money via a traditional bank can also vary depending on the bank and the type of account that you have. Some banks, for instance, offer free international transfers for premium account holders. Therefore, it’s worth exploring this before transferring any money.

If you are sending money within Europe, the bank transfer may also qualify for the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) agreement. This facilitates banking across European borders by making international transfers the same cost as a local transfer. You can find out more about this at your bank.

How to transfer money overseas via a traditional bank in Germany

You will need to provide the following information when transferring money overseas from a bank in Germany:

  • The complete name of the recipient
  • Bank name and address of the recipient
  • International Bank Account Number (IBAN)
  • SWIFT/Bank Identification Code (BIC)
  • Account number

Most international bank transfers in Germany take between one and five business days to process. Some banks also offer paid options to expedite this. That said, speeding up the transfer time can be costly. Therefore, it is better to plan ahead of time if you need to transfer funds within a particular timeframe and want to keep costs down.

Transferring money overseas via online and mobile banking

Many people prefer the convenience that comes with managing their finances through online and mobile banking rather than visiting the bank in person. And fortunately for expats in Germany, most banks offer online and mobile banking options via internet services and mobile apps.

Besides this, a number of online-only and mobile-only banks have emerged in recent years, including the following:

  • bunq – an English website and mobile banking app
  • DKB – the second-largest direct bank in Germany
  • N26 – an English and German website and mobile banking app
  • Revolut – English and German website and mobile banking app
  • Santander – offers online and telephone banking services

The cost of transferring money overseas via online and mobile banking

The fees associated with transferring money online via a traditional bank will likely be the same as if you went into a physical branch. Digital banks, such as N26, on the other hand, only impose a monthly account service fee. This might range from between €0 and €16.90 per month. However, as there are no other hidden costs, transaction fees, or foreign exchange fees on international transfers, this can be an appealing option for expats.

How to transfer money via online and mobile banking

Fortunately, using mobile banking apps is fairly straightforward, especially if you already have an account at a bank in Germany. In this case, you can simply download the bank’s mobile banking app and use your existing account information to create an app profile. You can then access all of the app’s features, including making international transfers.

If you don’t have an existing account with a German bank, however, then you will need to open an account before you can download and start using the bank’s app. When transferring money online or through a mobile banking app, you will need to provide the same information as you would if you were visiting a traditional bank. This includes the recipient’s name, bank name and address, IBAN, SWIFT/BIC, and account number.

Essentially, both traditional and mobile banks are safe and secure and have similar security protocols in place. These include high-strength ID protection (e.g., fingerprint or voice/face recognition), high encryption, and instant blocking on lost or stolen cards. You can read more about this in our Guide to mobile banking in Germany.

Online international money transfer services in Germany

Aside from traditional banks, there are several online money transfer services in Germany that allow you to send money overseas. The advantage of these is that you can transfer funds without having to step foot inside a physical bank. Most of these services are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the United Kingdom and are licensed as Electronic Money Institutions. They also have their own safety systems to ensure that your identity and money are kept safe.

The only drawback of using these services is that there are restrictions on the number of transactions that you can make per day. This is due to government regulations. That said, realistically, most expats don’t reach these limits.

Some of the online money transfer services available in Germany include:

To transfer money internationally via one of these online services, you first need to sign up for an account and verify your identity which doesn’t take long. That said, it can sometimes take several days to get your account up and running. Therefore, you might want to arrange this in advance if you are planning on transferring money on a particular date.

Woman typing on her laptop

Once you have set up an account, you can start transferring money straight away. Depending on the service that you use, the money will be transferred within a matter of minutes to up to five days. Just bear in mind that fees can be anywhere between 0.5 and 4% of the total transfer amount.

The cost of transferring money via an online transfer service

Essentially, the total cost that you will have to pay to transfer money overseas in Germany will depend on the transfer service that you use, the amount of money you are transferring, and the speed of the transfer. Of course, the exchange rate on the currencies you are dealing with at the time of the transfer will also come into play.

Whatever option you choose, though, it’s important that you understand the final cost before you transfer any money. It is also wise to bear in mind that while some companies appear to charge low fees for transferring money internationally, they often have high exchange rates. This means that you could end up paying more in the end.

How to transfer money using an online transfer service

Once you have decided which online transfer service you would like to use, the next step is to create an account on their website. To do this, you will need to provide a few details including your name, date of birth, and email address. Depending on the service you choose, you might also be required to verify your identity.

After you have set up an online account, you will need to provide details of the transaction that you wish to make, including the following:

  • How much you are sending
  • The currency your money is in
  • The currency you would like to convert the money into
  • Whether you need a fast transfer or can wait the standard time (which can vary between service providers)

You will then need to provide the recipient’s details, including their name and bank account number. After this, you will need to pay the money to the transfer service provider using a credit or debit card, or via a standard bank transfer. Once the provider has received your money, they will then begin the process of transferring the funds to the recipient. Once this is complete, you will receive a notification that the money has entered the recipient’s bank account.

Wire transfer companies in Germany

Another way of transferring money abroad is by using international money transfer agents such as Western Union and Exchange4free. Conveniently, neither you nor the recipient needs a bank account. Therefore, this can be a good option if you don’t yet have a bank account set up in Germany. There are currently two ways to wire money in Germany: you can either go to an agent or do it online. The latter is not only more convenient but also slightly cheaper.

The cost of transferring money via a wire transfer company

It is important to be aware that because wire transfers are generally faster and more convenient than bank transfers, they aren’t the most cost-efficient solution. Indeed, as much as 7 to 10% of the amount of money you send can be taken as commission. However, if time is of the essence and you need to transfer money quickly, this can be a great option.

How to transfer money using a wire transfer company

To wire funds from Germany, you simply need to pay your money in cash to the agent and provide the details of the recipient and where they will collect the money. The recipient will then need to go to the same agent’s office in their own country – taking their identification with them – and claim the money in cash. Alternatively, you can pay for the transfer using a credit or debit card or through a bank transfer.

western union

The most obvious advantage of this method of sending money overseas is the many locations around the world. The biggest disadvantage, however, is the cost of that convenience.

Foreign exchange brokers in Germany

Conveniently, more traditional ways of sending money globally, such as bank and wire transfers, are giving way to specialized foreign exchange companies; also known as forex brokers. These are increasingly offering a higher range of transfer tools and exchange services that are appealing to expats all over the world. These include free transfers, online money transfers, better exchange rates, 24-hour support, foreign exchange alerts, and the ability to set your own minimum and maximum exchange rates.

Some of the foreign exchange brokers operating in Germany include:

The cost of transferring money via a foreign exchange broker

The advantage of using foreign exchange brokers is that you know the total transfer cost upfront and can lock in exchange rates. Therefore, this can be a good option if you want to send smaller sums of money as well as larger ones, or if you need to transfer money on a regular basis.

Notably, although your broker might offer a free transfer, your own bank may charge a fee to transfer the money into the broker’s account. However, this will typically be the cost of a local bank transfer, or free if you use a broker who has a bank account in the same country. If you are transferring euros within the EU, it will also qualify under the SEPA agreement.

How to transfer money using a foreign exchange broker

With foreign exchange brokers now being available online, sending your money at the best rate is as simple as setting up an account and transferring funds to your broker.

You must first deposit the funds you want to be transferred into the broker’s account. In general, this usually happens online, although other options exist such as direct payment from your bank. They will then exchange your money and send it to the recipient. Although the money is often transferred almost instantly, it can take several days in some cases. Generally speaking, however, most services take between two and four business days.