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, digital 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 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 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; once activated, you will receive your first pay-out.
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||12 months|
|Maximum duration||12 months (can be extended afterwards).||No information provided.||12 months (can be extended afterwards).||12 months (can be extended afterwards).|
|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 (€0 if using Expatrio Pay).||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||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||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 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).||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.|
|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.||As soon as funds have been received.||Instantly or up to 24 hours if Expatrio Pay 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||Only Euro||With Expatrio Pay, several local currencies are available. If local currency not available, then EUR or USD.||Only 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 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 issuance of Blocked Account confirmation.|
|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 before the transaction.||No information provided.||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.||Yes||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 Deutsche Bank.||Blocked Account with BNP Paribas S.A. (https://www.bnpparibas.de/en/), a leading international bank.|
BNP Paribas S.A. Germany
60327 Frankfurt am Main
|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 Expatrio Pay, 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.||No information provided.||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.||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.||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, 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.
|Additional requirements for account activation||No||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||No||Yes, in Expatrio office Berlin.||No|
|Money withdrawal||Direct transfers by Coracle to current account after successful verification.||Direct transfers by Deutsche Bank Blocked Account to Deutsche Bank 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 IBAN with Lemonway (Banco de Sabadell).
|Yes, Deutsche Bank.||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.||Deutsche Bank||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 220.127.116.11 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, inlcuding current account.||Yes. Full self-service portal.|
Current account separate environment with Monese.
|Yes. Full self-service portal.|
|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||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.||No||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 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 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.||No information provided.||24 hours SLA.||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 (>750 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.||Yes, Fintiba Plus, including free Travel Health Insurance & Public Health Insurance.|
|Partner referral program available?||Yes.||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 gift 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. 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.
With the comprehensive Blocked Account comparison we hopefully gave you more certainty about choosing the provider that perfectly suits your needs. If you are now overwhelmed with the information, let us summarise the most critical factors.
In a modern world, you expect the account opening and money transfer within minutes, so that you can receive your Blocked Account confirmation directly without any friction. This is the theory and all providers are working on making this possible. We can already state here: they are not there, so when talking about friction, you might want to compare the most critical factors which are: