Bank Cards in Germany

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This page provides the frequently asked questions about the different bank cards in Germany.

ATM card

Almost every bank customer they have in their wallet and used it as a matter of course, to withdraw money to print account statements or to make cashless payments: the ec card. It belongs to the standard program and is usually issued by banks directly with the account opening. Today it is but as Girocard called. But which systems are behind the card and the meaning of the abbreviation, many consumers is simply unknown. Therefore we dare to look behind the scenes of the ATM card.

EC = electronic cash = old system

Thus, the cash withdrawals or purchases are attributed to the correct account, we need a unified system. In the Federal Republic  of Germany  “electronic cash”, ec was briefly introduced for which the German banking industry was responsible. The principle: electronic cash must be confirmed each transaction with a personal identification number (PIN). Where the card paid or withdrawals can be made, ec is recognizable by the logo. Initially, the cards were only provided with a magnetic strip. Were on him and all relevant data is stored. You will read about the terminals and vending machines.For safety reasons, because the data on the magnetic stripe can be copied very easily, are ec cards since 2000 additionally provided with a chip.

Maestro and V Pay cards are the new EC-karte

The “ec-/Maestro-Karten” are history. The new system, called Maestro and V Pay . Basic things have not changed for consumers. As before, the cards are likely to pay and withdraw money.

Debit card system

At first glance, it is at a ATM card (V Pay, Maestro) is a plastic card with a slightly raised embossed lettering, an EMV chip and a rear-mounted magnetic strip. The technical equipment that allows to withdraw cash from ATMs and pay cash. Thus it belongs to the family of debit cards. “Debit” from the Latin “debere” for debt or the English “debit” account for stress in the context means nothing more than that the card transactions are charged in a short time on the current account. Say: The account is (immediately) charged with the payments.

GeldKarte (debit card)

Sometimes just buy five rolls or pull a pack of cigarettes from vending machines without having to have the right change in your wallet have: This is the idea behind the cash card. It is virtually an electronic purse, small amounts can be paid from the. The advantage over the otherwise common payment options like ec-/Maestro, checking and credit card lies in the fact that neither a signature nor a personal identification number are required to complete the process. The “administrative burden” for the transactions is minimized and it is clearly ahead at the checkout quickly.

Saw the start of 1996

The cash card was introduced in 1996. It will be offered as a standalone product – be upgraded or supplemented or as an additional feature, the ec-cards – but rather rare. To recognize the cards on her round, held in blue and red logo with the words “cash card”. The most important part of the card is the chip. It serves as a memory in which the current balance is stated.

Charging money card

On average, the German book about 30 euros to their cash card (as of 2010). The charge simply realized at an ATM. Today, most machines are equipped with this technology. You can charge at any ATM with the chip then any money cards. This is ideal for all direct banking customers.

If the GeldKarte (debit card) at a checking account is linked, what with cash card function is the rule for ec-card, the amount is deducted directly from the deposit account. If, however, an account unbound map, it requires a loading terminal, which has two card slots. Then the credit is booked on an ec-/Maestro card on the cash card. If a smart card reader is present, the card can be filled since 2007, via PC and online banking again. The maximum amount is 200 euros in all variants.

Pay by card

To pay later with the money card, it is inserted into the corresponding terminal, confirmed just like a credit or other bank card, and the amount of a button. At the same time the sum is deducted from the balance. In the background, while working a so-called shadow account, which is maintained by the dealer central registry for each GeldKarte (debit card). This account not only the money card number is stored, but every payment and charging. Prerequisite is that the cash card can be used at all: The dealer has completed for a cash card acceptance agreement with his bank.

Advantages and disadvantages of the cash card

The ease of use certainly speaks for the money card. In addition, it is used for age verification – for example on cigarette vending machines – and can also be used for electronic tickets. On the other hand, cash card and cash card function will only be accepted in Germany, cannot transfer the credit and the credit risk of a total loss, should the card be lost or stolen. Since no user identification is necessary, anyone can pay with a GeldKarte (debit card), whether it belongs to him or not.



Girocard is a German equivalent of a bank-issued debit card using which you can withdraw cash from ATMs and pay cashlessly at point-of-sale (POS) terminals. In order to ensure that these cards can also be used abroad, it is co-branded with Mastercard (Maestro), Visa (V-Pay) or JCB. Previously known as EC-Karte, the terms girocard and EC card are often used synonymously.

Since it is a debit card, payments and cash withdrawals using Girocard are immediately debited directly from your account. Girocard is a standard card issued with a German bank account.  Read more information on a German bank account.

Girocard features demystified

Each bank has a slightly different format for the design of a girocard, but mostly have these features shown using an example of a Sparkasse girocard.

Girocard features

1: Your IBAN number

The IBAN is your account number which is standardized European account information used for SEPA bank transfers within the EU.

2: Chip

All modern Girocard come with a chip for security reasons where you are required to enter your four-digit pin when paying. The new cards also have a “contactless” symbol so you can pay quickly without entering the PIN.

3: The Maestro/V-Pay logo

Girocards are cobranded either with Maestro or V-Pay so that it is accepted worldwide.

4: The girocard logo

You can identify a Girocard with the Girocard logo on the debit card.

5: Validity date

At the time stated on your card, you will automatically receive a new card.

6: Emergency blocking number

If your card is lost, you can call the emergency number 116 116 anytime to block your card. Read more : How to block your card in Germany?

7: The signature field

If you have received a new Sparkassen Card, sign it on the strip.

8: The card number

If you have multiple girocards for the same bank account, you can differentiate the cards using this card number.

9: BIC

Credit institutions worldwide can be clearly identified via the BIC. The BIC is composed of eight or eleven alphanumeric characters.

10: Girogo and the GeldKarte

This symbol stands for the GeldKarten function. With the GeldKarte chip of your girocard, you can top-up the chip with cash and then pay on machines which accept chip payment. Unlike debit card payment, the chip function of GeldKarte technology does not need internet connectivity. This is especially useful for paying small amounts (tickets, parking fees, cigarettes, etc.) on machines that support the GeldKarte technology.

Note: The credit on your GeldKarte chip is like cash. If you lose your card, the chip balance is also lost. If you want to unload the money from your chip, you can do it at the ATM as well.

11: The EUFISERV Logo

Via EUFISERV, you use your Card to transact transactions in the European ATM network.

12: The magnetic strip


Cashpool – Wikipedia

The cash pool is a group of banks which allows its customers to access a common ATM (Cash Machine) infrastructure of any member banks in order to make free cash withdrawals in Germany. It was founded in 2000 by SEB, Citibank (now Targobank) and the Sparda banks.


As of 2013, there are about 2,900 ATM machines in the cash pool.


Cash Withdrawal from any of the ATMs from the cash pool banks is free of cost.

Foreign customers are charged a flat fee of € 1.95 per withdrawal.


Customers can search for the nearest ATMs using the website

A smartphone app for locating the nearest ATM is also available for download in the iTunes Store and Google play .



  • Degussa Bank GmbH
  • netbank AG,
  • Santander Consumer Bank AG,
  • Sparda Banken-Gruppe
  • Targobank,
  • Wüstenrot Bank AG Pfandbriefbank,


  • Anton Hafner OHG, Bankgeschäft,
  • Bank für Sozialwirtschaft AG,
  • Bankhaus Bauer,
  • Bankhaus C. L. Seeliger,
  • Bankhaus E. Mayer AG,
  • Bankhaus Gebr. Martin AG,
  • Bankhaus J. Faisst OHG,
  • Bankhaus Ludwig Sperrer KG,
  • Bankhaus Max Flessa KG,
  • Bank Schilling & Co. AG,
  • Bankverein Werther AG, ,
  • BBBank eG,
  • Citibank Privatkunden AG & Co. KGaA,
  • Conrad Hinrich Donner Bank AG,
  • Fürstlich Castell’sche Bank, Credit-Casse AG,
  • Gabler-Saliter Bankgeschäft KG,
  • GE Money Bank GmbH,
  • Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. KG,
  • Merkur Bank KGaA,
  • National-Bank AG,               
  • Pax-Bank eG,        
  • SEB AG,
  • Steyler Bank GmbH,
  • Südwestbank AG,

ATMs and some card terminals read your card through the magnetic strip.

What should you do in case of loss of card?

The loss of the current card / ATM card to take lightly, revenge might already after a few days. Who comfortable sitting back and assumes that the card appears again or logs an honest finder, behaves with gross negligence from the perspective of the banks and liable for all damages caused by a possible card misuse. To respond immediately, however, the liability of the customer is limited to 150 euros. Go higher amounts charged to the bank. Therefore: Not long torches, but immediately take all necessary steps to make thieves and swindlers no chance.

Search Card

The first reflex when the ATM card not inserted in your wallet or in your wallet: Search. The idea is good and certainly useful. Finally, the card ends up occasionally in your pocket instead of in the purse or will be left in the store. However, as the search proves fruitless, leaving only the card lock.

Block the Girocard / ATM card

On weekdays and during business hours of the bank should leave the ATM card whenever possible, we lock in the store or by phone call to the bank. The lock engages immediately and not delayed as in the blocked numbers in the general case. This service numbers are valid for almost all banks. Especially for ATM card, the 01805/021021 established (for a fee). For all the cards, and credit cards, is the 116 116 (free within the Federal Republic). The lock request forwarded to the bank. This will require the account number and the bank routing number.

Cost of blocking the card

Whether the card lock is free or charge, depends on the price list of the bank. Most banks appear accommodating and do not charge for the lock. Other companies charge up to 15 euros. Added, depending on the bank, further costs for the replacement card and the new personal identification number (PIN). The tip to treat the card like cash and not easy to just plug in your pocket, is no accident.

Additional safety measures after the card is lost

Who wants to go completely on the safe side, should be blocked not only the card but possibly also the account. Thieves could by direct debit, in which the signature is sufficient to verify the payment, cause despite barrier damage. Because the card readers are not connected to the computers of the bank. Not only monthly but often – – to check easier and less costly to the bank statements regularly. Only in this way can be timely filed an objection if the perpetrators strike and want to enrich themselves at the expense of the cardholder.

Block a lost card in Germany

If the ATM card is lost or stolen, quick action is essential. This means that the card must be closed immediately. This is particularly important, since the new rules came into force on banking transactions in November 2009. Since then, the customer is liable for misuse of card with up to 150 euros. The liability takes from the moment of the loss to the card lock. Only then, the Bank has an obligation. Protect consumers commonly speak of a deterioration in the terms and conditions. Bank customers can therefore only be advised, no time to lose if the ATM card is no longer in place.

There are many ways to block a lost card. Call the bank or the customer service numbers of the bank. This might not be possible if the card was lost on a weekend or after-business hours. In such cases the is not possible if the card was lost during a weekend or after business hours. There is a German wide hotline for registering a lost card of any bank.

Blocking EC Cards –  The central hotline for blocking a EC-card is 01805 / 021021.  Here you can report a lost card using your bank information. You might need the bank account number and branch code for this.

Blocking other cards – A central toll-free number 116 116 can be used to block other card of any bank. About 95% of all German bank cards are members of this service from their website


  • Regardless of which way the card is blocked, experts advise to record  the date, time, and possibly the contact person when blocking.
  • Consumers should check with their local bank, which blocked number applies to them. Many banks have their own service center, block a ATM card immediately.
  • The card should always be treated like cash and account should be blocked

Lock Card and Account

Despite prompt card lock remains a problem: scammers can continue shopping with the card and ensure damage. It makes possible the direct debit method in which instead of a personal identification number (PIN), only one signature is required. The card readers are not linked to central computers of banks. In addition, many businesses control the signature only fleetingly. To prevent this, remains only an account lockout. This, however, also other payments would be blocked and the personal finances would largely stalled. Who would not go as far as the bank statements must be examined closely. Once payments arise that can not be assigned or which were not made, objection must be filed with the Bank.

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