One of the main requirements for your student visa is the Blocked Account (Sperrkonto). With the DeGiS Blocked Account overview, you can understand the concept and find the best suitable provider suiting your needs.
Before getting a German visa, and well before starting a course at a German higher education institution, foreign students need to open what is called a blocked account or “Sperrkonto” in German. Most probably, not many of you have encountered this kind of account before, but if you decide to move to Germany, it’s important to understand how it works to ensure a seamless visa application experience as well as a comfortable stay in the country. DeGiS is giving you the most comprehensive overview of the relevant blocked account providers and a extensive step-by-step comparison, which you should read before deciding to chose one of the providers.
Basically, a blocked account is a way of proving to the German state that students have the financial means to support themselves for a one year period. In many cases, the blocked account is a visa requirement. A blocked account is not a regular current bank account that all of us are used to. The main difference is that by opening a blocked account you will not get direct access to your funds and you will not get an ATM-card. There will be no opportunity to pay for goods/services directly from your blocked account. Instead of that, you will be receiving regular monthly disbursements from your blocked account to your regular current bank account. You can treat it as a monthly allowance which should cover your living expenses.
Normally a blocked account is required from those people who do not have a stable and sufficient income within Germany. For example, students or language students, au-pairs, scholars, interns, etc. From January 1, 2020, the monthly required blocked amount is €853, which sums up to €10,236 per year. It would be useful to remember that apart from the amount you need to “block”, there will be additional costs connected to the blocked account set-up and maintenance. Those costs will vary depending on the blocked account provider you choose.
A blocked account is a compulsory aspect of the application process for a student visa and therefore you need to take it seriously and not to postpone till the last moment. It’s a good idea to arrange all of the bureaucratic aspects of your future studies in Germany in advance and blocked account is one of those aspects. Be prepared that it will take some time to open it and plan accordingly.
In the past, opening blocked accounts in Germany has been fairly time-consuming. Applicants used to wait for weeks from the moment they submitted their application to approval of the account. Applications can still take days or weeks with traditional providers like Deutsche Bank. However, newer providers have accelerated the process, allowing students to set up a blocked account in minutes.
Not only traditional banks are allowed to provide such a service as a blocked account setup. There are alternative providers such as Expatrio, Fintiba or Coracle, which are offering a fast and convenient digital opportunity to open a German blocked account and which is approved by the German Federal Foreign Office. Oftentimes they also offer other mandatory products like health insurance. Unlike traditional banks, Expatrio, Fintiba, and Coracle allow the users to submit their applications and documents online, which saves a lot of time and helps to avoid excessive paperwork.
You can apply online with Expatrio, Fintiba, and Coracle. Within just a few minutes you know the exact blocked amount and your application is done. With some of the providers, you can also apply for other mandatory products like health insurance or a current account at the same time, so that you do not have to run through the same process later again. The providers then need to approve your application and once successful, they will make a document available which gives you clear instructions on where to transfer the funds to.
There is also the possibility to do an offline application with Deutsche Bank. This has for a long time been the most prominent blocked account provider, but the emergence of the digital blocked account providers, many students tend to choose the online process. Alternatively, you can open a blocked account with local providers like Kotak Mahindra in India. Please be aware that those blocked accounts might be accepted by the German embassy or consulate to issue your visa, but might not be accepted by your German city’s Foreigners Office, because by definition of the German residence law (Aufenthaltsgesetz), the blocked account has to be with a German bank. We have unfortunately seen many students struggling with this during the time of arrival, therefore we strongly suggest to open your blocked account with one of the four providers officially officially accepted by the German Federal Foreign Office:
You can find a comprehensive comparison for the providers below.
This part of the process is done by the blocked account provider you are choosing as they need to verify your documents and make sure that the necessary data is provided.
The total amount that needs to be transferred mainly depends on the length of the student’s stay in Germany and the fee charged by the blocked account provider. It would be also important to highlight that the international money transfer can take a few business days and in some extreme cases up to a few weeks, so don’t expect an instant transfer and allocate your time accordingly.
When the funds are received, the student gets a special paper confirming the status of the blocked account. This document is exactly the thing that the German embassies and consulates expect to receive from the applicants for a student visa.
When coming to Germany and in need of a Blocked Account you might end up comparing the different providers. As said, DeGiS strongly recommends to only use the providers officially accepted by German Federal Foreign Office. But still, you have to compare the four providers, which is certainly difficult as the marketing machines of those providers are working well, making it almost impossible to gain the transparency you are seeking for. Let us help you by comparing the providers in general and by comparing the packages which include Health Insurance and other benefits.
This overview is an objective overview based on the publicly available information, which you can find on the providers’ websites. Even though it seems overloaded, it takes all necessary variables into account to enable you to compare thoroughly. Please invest 15 minutes of your time to make a sound decision that will impact your student life in Germany.
|PRICING FOR BLOCKED ACCOUNT|
|Minimum duration||1 month||No information provided||1 month||1 month|
|Maximum duration||12 months||No information provided||12 months||12 months|
|Monthly fee||€0||€5.90||€5.00 (starting from the moment of activation)||€4.90 (starting from the moment of first pay-in)|
|Account Buffer required||Yes, €80, fully refundable||No information provided||Yes, €100, fully refundable||Yes, €100, fully refundable|
|Example 1: Sum of the fees for a six months Blocked Account||€99||€150||€79||€118.40|
|Example 2: Sum of the fees for a twelve months Blocked Account||€99||€150||€109||€147,80|
|Example 3: Sum of the fees for a twelve months Blocked Account if fund transfers three months before arrival in Germany||€99||€150||€109||€162,50|
|Extension fee||€60||€150||€49; monthly fees also apply.||€29 EUR; monthly fees also apply.|
|Contract amendment fee||No information provided.||€150||No additional charges.||No information provided.|
|Fee for current account||Depends on the respective bank where the current account is opened.||The current account function is included in the blocked account.||The current account function is included in the blocked account (Free Monese current account), but is not mandatory, thus a current account can be opened at any bank.||Depends on the respective bank where the current account is opened.|
|DeGiS opinion on pricing for Blocked Account||Deutsche Bank and Fintiba are the most expensive providers if Blocked Account is needed for a whole year. Keep in mind that Fintiba is charging from the moment funds are received to your Blocked Account in the likely event that the transfers of funds is a few months prior to arriving to Germany which furthermore increases costs (Example 3). Coracle and Expatrio are cheaper alternatives with Fintiba having a good offer for account extension. Expatrio also includes a free current account in the account opening process with no extra effort, which is convenient.
DeGiS recommends to not only take the price into consideration, but also the speed and security of the process as described below.
|BLOCKED ACCOUNT OPENING & MONEY TRANSFERS|
|Account opening process||Online||Through the German Embassy/Consulate or, if available, a local Deutsche Bank branch office in the country of origin; no online forms.||Online||Online|
|Processing time: Account opening||Manually max. 24 hours.||Normally one week after all the documentation has been received, but longer in peak periods.||Automatically within minutes if OCR-technology approves, otherwise manually max. 24 hours.||Automatically within minutes if OCR-technology approves, otherwise manually max. 24 hours.|
|Documents required for account opening||Upload copy of passport.||Completed and printed application form, original passport, prepaid envelope, evidence of the source of funds (e.g., bank statements).||Upload copy of passport.||Upload copy of passport, selfie-picture with passport.|
|Account opening confirmation||By email.||By email or postal mail, depending on the chosen delivery method.||In User's log-in portal.||In User's log-in portal.|
|Confirmation after transfer of money||Usually 3-5 business days, in rare cases longer.||As soon as funds have been received.||Automatically as soon as the funds have been received, usually 3-5 business days, in rare cases longer.||Automatically as soon as the funds have been received, usually 3-5 business days, in rare cases longer.|
|Available currencies||Euro||Euro||Several local currencies available.||Euro|
|Several transfers possible?||Yes||No||Yes||No, exceptions possible. Additional documentation about the source of funds will be required.|
|Exact amount has to be transferred?||No information provided.||Yes||No, exceeding funds will be paid-out with first monthly disbursement. Additional documentation (bank slip) might be required (has no influence on issuance of Blocked Account confirmation, but has to be completed before first pay-out).||Yes. If exceeding funds are transferred they will be paid-out with first monthly disbursement. Additional documentation about the source of funds will be required before issuance of Blocked Account confirmation.|
|Third party transfers possible||Yes, but third party needs to be verified additionally.||No information provided.||No, but might be requested.||No information provided.|
|Proof for origin of funds needed?||No information provided.||Yes||No, but might be requested.||No, but a phyiscal Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner (W-8ben) has to be sent to confirm that User is non-US citizen and has no tax obligations in the US.|
|Fund transfers route||Blocked Account with Banco de Sabadell, then transferred to Postbank escrow account overseen and managed by law firm Bransky.||Blocked Account with Deutsche Bank.||Blocked Account with Commerzbank.||Blocked Account with Sutor Bank.|
|DeGiS opinion on Blocked Account opening||The opening process with the digital providers Coracle, Expatrio and Fintiba are convenient with Expatrio and Fintiba being more technically advanced in the account opening and the fund receiving process. Also both providers have a secure log-in portal. Furthermore, Expatrio is offering the transfers in several currencies which might save foreign exchange costs and accelerates the process. Fintiba asks for a special document (W-8ben), which has to be provided physically.|
|ACCOUNT ACTIVATION UPON ARRIVAL IN GERMANY|
|Processing time: Account activation upon arrival||A few days, in some cases up to 7 days.||No information provided.||24 hours after upload of all required documents.||No information provided.|
|Documents required for account activation||Visa document with immigration stamp, current account for receiving monthly funds (current account details are not necessary if you use Monese).||Filled out and signed service order, along with local German address registration certificate; service orders can also be submitted at any Deutsche Bank branch office.||Visa document with immigration stamp, proof of local German address (does not have to be registration, can be temporary address) and current account for receiving monthly funds (current account details are not necessary if you use Monese).||German visa document, local German address, German current account for receiving monthly funds, German mobile phone number. Furthermore depending on nationality, either 10-15 mins video legitimation call (verify-U App, needs LTE connection) with Ident Token or offline process (e.g. India, Korea) required which might cause delays.|
|Additional requirements for account activation||No||No||No||Download verify-U App or offline PostIdent procedure where User has to go to a Deutsche Post branch. Verification will be sent by Deutsche Post to Fintiba by physical mail.|
|Alternative account opening procedures||No||No||Yes, in Expatrio office Berlin.||No|
|Money withdrawal||Direct transfers by Coracle to current account after successful verification.||Direct transfers by Expatrio to current account after successful verification.||After successful verification by Fintiba, User has to set-up payments with TAN which will be sent to German mobile phone number. Afterwards direct transfers.|
|DeGiS opinion on Blocked Account opening||All providers need a certain degree of verification procedure to comply with banking laws. Expatrio and Fintiba have a convenient upload process in their log-in portals. Fintiba is requiring heavy in depth verification with at least App download and 10-15 mins call or even the cumbersome PostIdent procedure plus the inevitable set-up of the pay-outs with a mobile TAN.|
|BLOCKED ACCOUNT BANKING PROVIDER|
|German bank account number availbale?||Partially, transfers to Spanish IBAN (Banco de Sabadell), then forwarded to German IBAN (Postbank).||Yes, Deutsche Bank.||Yes, Commerzbank.||Yes, Sutor Bank.|
|Blocked Account under Student's name||Partially, escrow Blocked Account on the name of law firm Bransky.||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Operating bank(s)||International payments via Lemonway, Blocked Account at Postbank.||Deutsche Bank||International payments via CohortGo and Mangopay, Blocked Account at Commerzbank.||Sutor Bank|
|DeGiS opinion on Blocked Account opening||Given all Blocked Accounts are approved by the German Federal Foreign office, the professionalism is high, furthermore German banking laws are strict. Deutsche Bank is a well known institution, similar to the banks Coracle and Expatrio are partnering with. Fintiba is partnering with Sutor Bank, an internationally less known but also fully regulated bank. It is important that the Blocked Account is under the student's name and with a German bank as this is required by immigration law (§ 2 Abs. 3 AufenthG and Allgemeine Verwaltungsvorschrift zum Aufenthaltsgesetz 188.8.131.52 VwV-AufenthG).|
|Online account function||No||Yes, inlcuding current account.||Yes, current account separate environment with Monese.||Yes|
|Account statements available||No information provided.||No information provided.||Yes||Yes|
|Blocked Account for minors (underaged)||Yes, with written parental consent.||Yes, with written parental consent.||No||No|
|DeGiS opinion on Blocked Account usage||It is necessary to have a current account for the monthly blocked account pay outs, therefore Deutsche Bank and Expatrio are convenient. For minors, it is important that not only the Blocked Account can be opened, but also that the minor student can open a current account under his name in Germany, which is almost impossible - and in this case, the funds on the Blocked Account can not be accessed.|
|BLOCKED ACCOUNT CLOSING|
|Cancellation fee in case of visa rejection||Money-back guarantee including all fees in case of visa rejection.||No||Money-back guarantee including all fees in case of visa rejection.||Set-up fee (€89) and monthly fees so far after pay-in (€4.90 p.m.) will not be reimbursed.|
|Documents needed to close account||Official certificate from the embassy or consulate confirming that the visa application was rejected respectively withdrawn or you canceled your visa.||Official letter de-blocking the account or original notice of the visa rejection, along with written instructions to close the account (signed account closure application).||Official certificate from the embassy or consulate confirming that the visa application was rejected respectively withdrawn or you canceled your visa.||Official certificate from the embassy or consulate confirming that the visa application was rejected respectively withdrawn or you canceled your visa.|
|DeGiS opinion on Blocked Account closing||All providers need certain documents to close the Blocked Account especially if they are terminated earlier than expected, because the funds are blocked in favor of the German government. Therefore, the German government also has to unblock the funds and the providers will then refund the remaining funds. DeGiS appreciates the money-back guarantee provided by Expatrio and Fintiba in case of visa rejection, so that the student does not have to bear costs for the Blocked Account.|
|CUSTOMER SERVICE AND SUPPORT|
|Customer support||Mon. to Fri., 09:00–17:30 CET.||Via telephone, branch offices and online.||Mon. to Fri., 09:00–18:00 CET.||Mon–Thurs 09:00–12:00 & 13:00–17:00; Fri 09:00–12:00 & 13:00–15:00 CET.|
|Service level agreement (SLA)||No information provided.||No information provided.||24 hours answer guaranteed.||No information provided.|
|Branch service available||No||Yes, in all major cities and towns.||Yes, Berlin.||Yes, Frankfurt (Fintiba), Hamburg (Sutor Bank).|
|DeGiS opinion on Blocked Account Service||It is important to have a high availablity and service levels in place, especially during peak seasons like the semester start. A local office can be beneficial but DeGiS does not find it necessary as everything can be handled online.|
|OTHER RELEVANT FACTORS|
|Available languates||English||German / English.||Website, application and help centre in German, English.||Website German, English.
Application German, English, Chinese, Spanish.
Help centre also available in Chinese.
|App available?||No||No||No||Yes, iOS and Android.|
|Free guiding information available?||No||No||Yes, large information available about living, studying and working in Germany.||Yes (but only available for customers), large information available about living, studying and working in Germany.|
|Customer reviews||Google, Facebook.||No information provided.||Google, Facebook, Trustpilot (verified reviews).||Google, Facebook.|
|Bundles available?||Yes, Coracle Prime only for university students, including free Travel Health Insurance & Public Health Insurance.||No||Yes, Value package, open for all types of students (university, language school, Studienkolleg, etc.), including free Travel Health Insurance & Public Health Insurance & free private liability insurance.||Yes, Fintiba Plus, including free Travel Health Insurance & Public Health Insurance.|
|Partner referral program available?||No information provided.||No||Yes, commission €10 for Blocked Account and €20 for Public Health Insurance, with individual referral code, paid to customer's current account.||Yes, commission €10 and €15 bonus for the new customer, if purchasing Fintiba Plus, both paid on a digital Master Card. Referral only works when using the website, not the App.|
|Other||n/a||n/a||Expatrio is providing the possibility to get job offers in the log-in portal, according to the student's background.||Fintiba is organising a job fair for international students.|