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 and up-to-date overview of the relevant Blocked Account providers and an extensive step-by-step comparison, which you should read before deciding to choose 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 certain 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, 2021, 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. However, digital providers have accelerated the process, allowing students to set up a Blocked Account in minutes. Nowadays, those are the four most prominent providers (in alphabetic order):
Please note: if the German Federal Foreign Office (represented by its Missions Abroad the embassies or consulates) accepts the Blocked Account for the visa process, this does not automatically mean, that it will also be accepted in Germany by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, represented by its local Foreigner’s Authority (Ausländerbehörde) for the residence permit. Therefore we strongly suggest to only open your Blocked Account with a provider in compliance with the residence act (Aufenthaltsgesetz), which says that “the Blocked Account has to be with a bank that is allowed to perform banking services in Germany and on the name of the student”. We have unfortunately seen many students struggling with this during the time of arrival. This applies especially if you open a Blocked Account with foreign banks but also if your money is held in escrow for you (as then it is not in your name) which has happened in the unfortunate case of BAM!. Do not worry, we help you navigating and making the right decision!
Please note that even though Expatrio is DEGIS’ founding partner, we made this comparison objectively based on publicly available data which you can check on the referenced websites. The opinions given are personal as you might have different priorities and preferences.
We focused on the three digital providers which are Coracle, Expatrio and Fintiba. They are all offering a fast and convenient way to open a German Blocked Account. Oftentimes they also offer other mandatory products like health insurance in their packages compared by DEGIS. Unlike traditional banks, the digital providers allow the users to submit their applications and documents online, which saves a lot of time and helps to avoid excessive paperwork.
Overall, after taking all the aspects into consideration, we compiled the following view on the Blocked Account providers as follows, again in alphabetic order:
You can find a detailed comparison in the table below; this is held up-to date on the information we were researching in the providers’ Terms & Conditions, the FAQs and from qualitative data we collected over the time from the DEGIS members.
There are many factors to take into consideration:
You find the details below.
We have compared the prices in detail and have also taken the Terms & Conditions into consideration. Here we found that Fintiba is charging already from the moment when the money is paid into the Blocked Account, whereas the other providers start charging once the pay-outs start in Germany. The difference between pay-in and start of pay-out is based on research among students roughly three months, which we considered in our calculation.
The sum of the fees for a 12 months Blocked Account, if fund transfer three months before arrival in Germany:
It is important to not only take the price into consideration, but also to have a look at the other important factors in the following.
If you are in a hurry, it is all about speed here. With Expatrio and Fintiba you can receive the opening confirmation within minutes, as they make use of a technology which machine-reads your passport (OCR). Also, with those two providers, the process is very convenient, with some advantages for Expatrio as they ask for less documents (only passport). With Expatrio and Fintiba you will get access to your own Login-area, where you can handle everything with a self-service. This is not only important for the convenience, but also for the highest level of security, as e.g. no emails with sensitive information will be sent.
Here we have heard many stories about difficulties in sending money, the processing time, high banking fees and costs for money exchange and plenty of extra documents required due to banking regulation. Therefore, for DEGIS, this is the most important factor to be taken into consideration during the opening process.
After you transferred the necessary funds and they are reconciled by your provider, the blocking confirmation will be issued, which you need for your visa application. The faster you get it, the more peace of mind you have.
When you come to Germany, the Blocked Account has to be activated. This requires additional verification, e.g. providing a copy of your visa document, a German address and a current bank account. This is the moment of truth and therefore DEGIS’ most important factor in the activation process to be taken into consideration; once activated, you will receive your pay-outs and everything usually goes its way smoothly. You do not want to get stuck here as it would literally mean that you would be out of money, not being able to pay rent, insurance etc.
Once you arrive to Germany, you want to access your money fast. Coracle and Expatrio are straight forward on which documents they require for verification. Here Fintiba has a major disadvantage, with the upload of several documents and the mandatory physical provisioning (print out, sign, send via mail) of the so called “Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner” (W-8ben), which has to be send physically to Fintiba office and being approved before fist pay-out! Furthermore, the verification is complex for country group 1 (e.g. China & Russia; download of verify-U App) and way more cumbersome for country group 2 (e.g. India) with an offline verification in the Post office (or alternatives, e.g. Fintiba office Frankfurt, Sutor Bank Hamburg, or DAK office).
There are plenty of other factors influencing the rating. In the following we describe the most important ones:
Expatrio and Fintiba are both putting many cherries on the top, with an advantage for Fintiba having an App and Expatrio having the best reviews and further tailored offerings. Coracle is lacking such additional factors.
We once again want to emphasise, that even though Expatrio is DEGIS’ founding partner, we made this comparison objectively based on publicly available data which you can check on the referenced websites. The opinions given are personal as you might have different priorities and preferences.
The comparison might seem overloaded, but it takes all necessary variables into account to enable you to compare thoroughly.
|PRICING FOR BLOCKED ACCOUNT|
|Minimum duration||1 month||1 month||12 months|
|Maximum duration||12 months (can be extended afterwards).||12 months (can be extended afterwards).||12 months (can be extended afterwards).|
|Monthly fee||€0||€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.||Yes, €100, fully refundable.||Yes, €100, fully refundable.|
|Example 1: Sum of the fees for a six months Blocked Account (typically exchange student)||€99||€79||€118.40|
|Example 2: Sum of the fees for a twelve months Blocked Account (typically full-time student)||€99||€109||€147,80|
|Realistic Example 3: Sum of the fees for a twelve months Blocked Account if fund transfers three months before arrival in Germany||€99||€109||€162,50|
|Extension fee||€60||€49; monthly fees also apply.||€29 EUR; monthly fees also apply.|
|Contract amendment fee||No information provided.||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 (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||Fintiba is the most expensive providers if Blocked Account is needed for one 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 made 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, convenience and security of the process as described below.
|BLOCKED ACCOUNT OPENING|
|Account opening process||Online||Online||Online|
|Processing time: Account opening||Manually max. 24 hours.||Automatically within minutes if technology approves, otherwise manually max. 24 hours.||Automatically within minutes if technology approves, otherwise manually max. 24 hours.|
|Documents required for account opening||Upload copy of passport and photo ID (national ID or driving license).||Upload copy of passport.||Upload copy of passport, selfie-picture with passport.|
|Account opening confirmation||By email.||In User's log-in portal.||In User's log-in portal.|
|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. Coracle sends all instructions and confirmation via e-mail which can be rated as less secure.|
|Confirmation after transfer of money||Usually 3-5 business days, in rare cases longer.||Instantly or up to 24 hours if Cohort Go is used, otherwise 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||Only Euro||With Cohort Go, several local currencies are available. If local currency not available, then EUR or USD.||Only Euro|
|Proof of transfer needed?||Yes||No, but might be requested.||No, but might be requested.|
|Several transfers possible?||Yes||Yes||No, exceptions possible. Additional documentation about the source of funds will be required.|
|Exact amount has to be transferred?||No information provided.||No, exceeding funds will be paid-out with first monthly disbursement. Additional documentation might be required. It has no influence on issuance of Blocked Account confirmation, but has to be completed before first pay-out.||Yes. But in case exceeding funds are transferred, they might be rejected or they will be paid-out with first monthly disbursement. Additional documentation about the source of funds will be required before Blocked Account confirmation can be issued.|
|Third party transfers possible (parents, relatives, friends)?||Yes, but third party needs to be verified additionally with photo identification document, their account number and the amount being transferred by them prior to the transaction.||Yes, but additional verification might be requested which has to be completed prior to first pay-out.||No information provided.|
|Proof for origin of funds needed?||No information provided.||No, but might be requested.||No, but might be requested.|
|Fund transfers route||Unclear structure: Blocked Account with Banco de Sabadell (Lemonway), or Postbank escrow account overseen and managed by law firm Bransky.||Blocked Account with BNP Paribas S.A. (https://www.bnpparibas.de/en/):|
BNP Paribas S.A. Germany
60327 Frankfurt am Main
Alternatively with Commerzbank.
|Blocked Account with Sutor Bank (https://www.sutorbank.de/), a German private bank:
Max Heinr. Sutor oHG
|DeGiS opinion on money transfer||Expatrio is offering the transfers in several currencies with the fully embedded Cohort Go, which might save foreign exchange costs and accelerates the process.
Also the flexibility and additional verification requirements in case of third party transfers and exceeding funds should be taken into consideration.
|ACCOUNT ACTIVATION UPON ARRIVAL IN GERMANY|
|Processing time: Account activation upon arrival||A few days, in some cases up to 7 days.||24 hours after upload of all required documents.||No information provided.|
|Documents required for account activation||Upload proof of immigration entry stamp, upload proof of German current account. Local German address.||Upload copy of 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, in any case, a phyiscal Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner (W-8ben) has to be sent physically to Fintiba office to confirm that User is non-US citizen and has no tax obligations in the US. Account activation only after approval by Sutor Bank.
|Additional requirements for account activation||No||No||If Country group 1 (e.g. China, then download verify-U App, book appointment, do 10-15 mins video legitimation call (needs LTE connection) with Ident Token.
If country group 2, offline verification will be performed in Germany with PostIdent procedure where User has to go to a Deutsche Post branch and verification will be sent by Deutsche Post to Fintiba by physical mail. As Fintiba experienced problems with Postident for passports from certain countries, there are alternatives, like verification in DAK office or at local banks.
|Alternative account activation procedures||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 (online or offline), User has to set-up payments with TAN which will be sent to German mobile phone number. Afterwards direct transfers to current account.|
|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 (verify-U) or even the offline PostIdent procedure plus the inevitable set-up of the pay-outs with a mobile TAN.
Fintiba also asks for a special document (W-8ben), which has to be provided physically to their office. All those verification steps might cause confusion, friction and severe delays in activation.
|BLOCKED ACCOUNT BANKING PROVIDER|
|Individual German account number available in blocked account?||No.|
Either transfer to Escrow Blocked Account (Postbank) or to Spanish provider Lemonway (Banco de Sabadell).
|Yes, BNP Paribas.||Yes, Sutor Bank.|
|Blocked Account under Student's name||No. |
Escrow Blocked Account on the name of law firm Bransky.
|Operating bank(s)||Postbank or Lemonway.||BNP Paribas||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. Coracles set-up is unclear, whereas Expatrio is partnering with the global BNP Paribas and Fintiba with the local 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 and an individual account number, as this is required by immigration law (§ 2 Abs. 3 AufenthG and Allgemeine Verwaltungsvorschrift zum Aufenthaltsgesetz 188.8.131.52 VwV-AufenthG). In case of doubt, local foreign authorities will not accept the blocked account if compliance with the law is questioned.|
|Online account function||No||Yes. Full self-service portal.|
Current account separate environment with Monese.
|Yes. Full self-service portal.|
|Account statements available||No information provided.||Yes||Yes|
|Blocked Account for minors (underaged)||Yes, with written parental consent.||No||No|
|DeGiS opinion on Blocked Account usage||The online self-service function is an inevitable feature for the User's convenience.
It is necessary to have a current account for the monthly blocked account pay outs, therefore Expatrio is 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.||Money-back guarantee including all fees in case of visa rejection. Also during pandemic times, no fees were charged in case of visa refusal as a gesture of goodwill.||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 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.||Mon. to Thurs. 09:00–18:00 CET, Fri. 09:00–17:00 CET.||Mon–Fri. 09:00–13:00 CET.|
|Service level agreement (SLA)||No information provided.||24 hours SLA.||No information provided.|
|Branch service available||No||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||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||Yes, iOS and Android.|
|Free guiding information available?||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.||Google, Facebook, Trustpilot (>750 verified reviews).||Google, Facebook.|
|Bundles available?||Yes, Coracle Prime only for university students, including free Travel Health Insurance & Public Health Insurance.||Yes, Value package, open for all types of students (university, language school, Studienkolleg, etc.), including free Travel Health Insurance & Public Health Insurance.||Yes, Fintiba Plus, including free Travel Health Insurance & Public Health Insurance.|
|Partner referral program available?||Yes.||Yes, commission €10 for Blocked Account 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 gift card. Referral only works when using the website, not the App.|
|Other||n/a||Expatrio is providing the possibility to get job offers in the log-in portal, according to the student's background. There is also the possibility to find accommodation and universities as well as language schools.||Fintiba is organising a job fair for international students.|
A comparison of Blocked Account packages, including a mandatory Health Insurance and other products can be found here on our Blocked Account bundle comparison site.
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