Payment methods common in Germany

An overview of the possible payment methods used by the Germans in Germany. Cash, bank transfers, internet wallets, credit cards and EC cards.

Cash Euro – €

The most old-fashioned way is still the most popular in Germany. More than half of the total money turnover of burghers falls on “paper” euros.

As a rule, Germans pay in cash in supermarkets, cafes and restaurants. But, in principle, with regard to exactly the purchase of goods at a handshake distance, you can pay with ordinary money for anything.

Often they pay in cash for buying a car, especially since in this case you can get a discount. And my housemate bought for cash … an apartment worth about € 400,000! A German retired entrepreneur came to the seller with a suitcase, put it on the table and asked him to count what they then did together and did for several hours. Well, grandfather does not trust all computers and the Internet!

Secure, anonymous and fast – German consumers still prefer to pay with banknotes and coins. Payment by card or other non-cash payments are gradually becoming common, but the turnover comparable to cash in euros is still very far away. The Germans’ love for banknotes cannot be broken!

On average, each German’s wallet contains 107 € – one hundred bills, the rest – in coins. The absolute majority – 88% – plan to use “paper” money in the future. You will definitely have to use the stock of cash in the bakery, as a rule, cards are not accepted there. In other places there are alternatives, although up to € 10, other forms of payment are not welcome anywhere. Each transaction through a card terminal is subject to a commission, and with a large number of small purchases to an average entrepreneur, this is only at a loss.

Alternative payment methods do not replace the wallet for the Germans, but they provide additional options in choosing a means of payment.

EC card or Girocard

Now let’s talk about cards. Do not rush to draw analogies with the maps that you know about from experience in your countries. German EU cards are not exactly what is commonly understood as credit cards.

Bank cards in Germany were introduced in the last century, and from the very beginning, the goal was for all German ATMs and all card terminals to work within the country according to a single standard. And so that the Germans do not have problems abroad, EC-cards are equipped with a chip from the VISA system (V-PAY) or from MasterCard (Maestro).

Each card is linked to a current bank account… When paying, a transaction occurs between the merchant’s bank and the cardholder’s bank, and the money is debited from the account. At the same time, Girocard is not a credit card, that is, there must be money on the account so that it can be withdrawn. And if there is no money, then there is either a refusal to transfer money, or the bank issues a so-called “dispo credit” (from the word “disposition”), a minus is formed on the card, which is usually subject to a very high annual interest (on my card – 17%) and must be repaid within a month. There are also limits on the size of the dispocredit, which are set by the bank for each client individually, depending on his credit history. At the very beginning of life in Germany, the limit is usually the smallest (I had the opportunity to “go into the minus” by only 10 € in the first year) or even zero, but you can gradually increase the limit.

So a migrant at the beginning of his stay in Germany should be very careful with paying for purchases with an EC card and make sure that there is always money in the account.

The Germans themselves use the Girocard frequently. About a quarter of all German burghers’ money turnover falls on this card. It is accepted almost everywhere (except for the aforementioned bakeries): in supermarkets, at gas stations, in ticket machines, and, of course, in all stores. Usually, to pay with an EC card, you need to enter the PIN code of the card, but there are also terminals that require a signature on the check, which must match the signature of the card holder on its back.

For private traders, payment transactions via an EC card are free, so there are no other special restrictions on the use of Girocard for purchases.

Credit cards

Classic credit cards – in Germany, VISA, MasterCard and American Express – are used by Germans much less often. They account for only 3-5% of monetary transactions.

You can pay with them only in some supermarkets from those that are “more expensive”: REWE, EDEKA and the like. Credit cards are also more commonly accepted in clothing stores where prices are above average. It is convenient to pay with a card for gas at a gas station, since sometimes you can do this without leaving the car, through a terminal built right into the rack.

The most common use for these cards is online shopping. Internet sales services are highly developed in Germany. You can pay for purchases in different ways: from paying the invoice by bank transfer to using different online wallets. But you shouldn’t forget about the credit card either.

Usually such cards cost 20-30 € per year, excluding the first, but they allow you to take out a loan “on the fly” at 0%, which, however, at the end of the month must be repaid from the current account associated with the credit card.

Banks issue credit cards to migrants in the first or second year in Germany only if there is a particularly large salary.

Bank transfers

A little more often than credit cards, Germans use bank transfers . They are also suitable for all types of online shopping. But the main application of settlements through a bank is to pay rent for housing, as well as some standard regular payments, such as telephone and electricity bills, taxes, fees for using television and radio channels, and the like.

Another payment method used by the Germans is Lastschrift. This is roughly the same as a bank transfer, but organized in a slightly different way. If the transfer is carried out by the owner of the account, the last font, on the contrary, is initialized by the recipient of the money. This comes in handy when it comes to standing payments, like paying electricity bills or kindergarten, just so you don’t run out of bill. To make a transfer in this way, you must issue a written permission to the recipient.

Internet wallets

Well, the smallest turnover of money of an average citizen of Germany falls on various online services. Despite the fact that it is very convenient and practical, Germans pay only 2-3% of purchases through Internet services.

The most popular online payment method in Germany is PayPal. Payment from this wallet occurs instantly, and to determine the addressee of the money, you only need to know the recipient’s email address.

To register on the PayPal service, you need to have a credit card or bank account. In the first case, all expenses will be automatically deducted from the card, but in the second, you will first have to transfer funds from the account to the Internet wallet, and only then make quick money transfers.


As you can see, in Germany there are many ways to spend money and the Germans use all of them quite actively.

You still need cash in your pocket, but you have to use it less and less often. If 5-6 years ago, card terminals for EC cards were far from being in all supermarkets, now this is usually the norm. Also, more and more stores are switching to the ability to pay for purchases with credit cards.

Internet services are also developing, and the share of money turnover through Internet wallets is constantly growing, although it is still at a minimum.

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Igor Smith/ author of the article
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