Transferring money within German bank accounts is easy, fast, and free. Transferring money between countries within the European Union is also easy, fast, and free when using SEPA (Single Euro Payment Area). But what if you want to transfer money outside the European Union – or from abroad to a European country?
As expats living in Germany might face this problem a lot when transferring money to their home country or from their home country, let us take a look at the 2 options you have when transferring money internationally. Both international money transfer possibilities differ basically in speed and amount of fees you have to pay.
But before, there is one very important legal rule when transferring funds from a foreign country to a German bank account, or from German bank accounts to foreign bank accounts. Not following this legal rule will be considered a criminal offense that can result in a fine of 30.000€.
Legal Rule for International Money Transfers
All foreign bank transfers from the amount of 12.500€ have to be reported to the German Bundesbank by German law. It doesn’t matter if the money is transferred from an international bank to a German bank account or from a German bank to an international bank account. That also includes money to and from your own bank accounts if you are a resident or a company in Germany.
Luckily, reporting your international money transfer to the German Bundesbank is very easy with the following 3 possibilities. The report is nothing to be scared about. It will just get scary if you do not report your international money transfer by the 7th calendar day of the following month. Bundesbank will consider your transfer as “not submitted” beyond this deadline.
Not reporting your international money transfer is considered a criminal offense by German law and can result in a fine of up to 30.000€ for every transfer not reported. So please report your transfer in time, because the German government does not take money issues lightly.
These are the 3 ways to report your international money transfer to the German Bundesbank:
Phone: This is probably the easiest and fastest way to call the hotline of the German Bundesbank with the phone number given on their website. Their employees will help you to submit your report correctly (if you reach an English-speaking employee of course).
E-Mail: If you make international money transfers on a regular basis, you can also send the German Bundesbank an e-mail if already know what information you need to report. May be easier for some people than passing information by phone.
Online: The German Bundesbank offers an international money transfer reporting portal as well that can be used instead of calling or sending an e-mail. Before you are able to use the reporting portal, you have to register here and get a reporting number.
For your first international money transfer to Germany or from Germany, using option 1 might be the easiest to just call the German Bundesbank. This way a service employee can help you to report, so you don’t forget any important information.
“We just saved you 30.000€. You're welcome.”
Transfer Way #1: International Bank Transfer
Option 1 to transfer funds between borders is the traditional international bank transfer. To utilize this option, you need two bank accounts. One bank account with a foreign bank abroad and another bank account at a local bank in Germany. Between those two bank accounts, you can make a special foreign bank transfer with your IBAN and BIC (also known as SWIFT code).
As long as you transfer internationally with SEPA and without currency exchange (e.g. from Euro to Swedish Krona), your funds will arrive quickly in the account you want them to, and your transfer should be free of charge. As soon as you leave the European Union and exchange currencies, you will have to wait potentially weeks for the funds to arrive and pay some hefty fees.
Fees for international bank transfers can include handling fees, sending fees, receiving fees, brokerage fees, 3rd party fees, etc. Banks can also use their own exchange rate that is different from the real exchange rate you find online and pocket some fees there as well. Definitely pay attention to the exchange rate the sending bank gives you in order to save some money.
The real issue with international bank transfers from a customer perspective is that the fees are kind of a black box. Every bank determines its fees individually, so there is really only one way to tell the exact fees for your international money transfer: Use a currency converter after your funds have arrived in the receiving account and see the difference between the currency converter and the funds that have arrived.
Instead of waiting weeks for your money to arrive from an international bank transfer and having to pay potentially hefty fees, you can also use option 2: A money transfer service.
Transfer Way #2: Money Transfer Service
As traditional international bank transfers are not exactly the most efficient way to transfer funds from Germany or to Germany, the upcoming FinTech startup scene developed some innovative business ideas. In a short amount of time, new startups established a worldwide network of bank accounts that basically eliminates the need for currency exchange.
When sending money abroad, you basically pay into a local German bank account of the money transfer service. As soon as your funds are credited to this local bank account, the money transfer service will pay out your transfer in the country you want to send it to. The money you are sending to Germany or from Germany will basically never leave the country.
As a result, these money transfer services avoid bad exchange rates, long transferring times, and high fees when transferring funds across borders. These FinTechs charge just a small fee for their service that is transparent from the very beginning.
That is why we reached out to the two best money transfer services based on our own research and user rating on the internet to secure a bonus for our readers: Azimo & Transferwise. If you open your account by clicking their names, your first international transfer will be completely free of charge.
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International Money Transfer with Azimo & Transferwise
With both Azimo & Transferwise you can compare which international money transfer service covers the country you want to send money to, or money from, at the cheapest cost for you. Both will display their fees very transparently in advance, so you know exactly what you will be paying.
And if you register your account with these links: Azimo & Transferwise, your first international money transfer with either one of those money transfer services will be free. No fees at all.
So whichever country you want to send money to, or receive money from, our two ways to transfer funds internationally should help you out. Either international bank transfers or money transfer services like Azimo & Transferwise should cover almost any country on this planet.
Choose the option that you like best. If you don’t trust the young & upcoming FinTechs, use the traditional way of transferring funds abroad with an international bank transfer. If you want your transfer to be as fast & as cheap as possible, money transfer services like Azimo & Transferwise might be right for you.
Just don’t forget to report your international money transfer to the German Bundesbank if you transfer more than 12.500€.
Which option do you prefer to transfer funds across borders? Let us know in the comments below.