Health Insurance is mandatory for everyone in Germany, and regulated by national law. Health insurance arrangements are individual, and therefore coverages may vary by person.
Statutory insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenkasse - GKV)
The statutory health insurance is run by the German government and covers out-patient and in-patient treatment, prescription drugs, aids and partly dental treatment.
The statutory health insurance is a family insurance, which covers non-working spouses and children without additional contributions. About 85 percent of the German population is insured under the German version of a national health system. There are three options allowing you to be insured in a GKV:
If you are an employee (i.e. hold a working contract) and your gross monthly income is under €54.900 (as of 2015) per year you are obliged to enroll in the GKV. You will pay a fixed percentage of your gross income that is mandated by law. The employer contributes 50% to the insurance premium. Your share (50%) is automatically deducted from your salary.
You can voluntarily join the GKV. You can do this if you e.g. hold a fellowship or earn more than €54.900 per year.
If certain conditions are fulfilled you can join the GKV as a family member of someone enrolled in a mandatory health plan. That entitles you to the same benefits. You are considered an eligible family member if you are (i) the spouse and have no (or low) own income, (ii) the child and not older than 25 years, or (iii) a child not older than 30 years if you are a student, and not beyond the 14 semester of studies.
Private Health Insurance (Private Krankenversicherung, PKV)
Private health insurance can be chosen by any employee with an estimated gross income of more than €54.900 per year or if you held a fellowship. In contrast to the statutory health insurance, the contributions to and coverage of the private insurances are not legally bound. The fees are based on income depending on state of health, age and the insurance rate of the insured so that fees vary for individual insurance holders.
The scope of services from private insurance companies is not regulated by the state and is often more extensive than statutory insurance. Services can also be adapted for each policyholder individually. The insured person usually first pays all treatment costs and will get reimbursed by the Insurance upon submission of the bill.
Please note that some of the insurance companies demand a health certificate from a German doctor. Without this certificate you will have to wait for some months until all or some parts of the coverage, e.g. artificial teeth/denture or birth come into effect.
Other helpful page to understand the German Health System:
We strongly recommend taking out liability Insurance (private Haftplichtversicherung). It is very useful and inexpensive and covers all damage you may cause by mistake, e.g. forgetting to snuff a lighted candle and causing an entire apartment block to burn down. The International Office is happy to help you with this.
However, it does not cover any damage to yourself, your family members, or your own property. If you want to have your own property insured you need to have a household insurance.
Household insurance (Hausratversicherung) will cover your own property in case of fire, flood, burglary etc., but will not cover you for any damage you cause to your neighbours' property. Renters can take out Property Insurance to cover their belongings (including their bike) and the premiums depend on the size of the flat and the value of your belongings as well as the value of your bike.
Money and Banking
The moment you arrive, you will need cash, either to store luggage, pay taxis, or buy bus tickets.
You can bring any amount of German or foreign currency into Germany - but remember to check on your own country's foreign exchange regulation. You can change large-denomination Euro notes acquired in your home country into coinage or you can cash traveller's cheques. There are some currency exchange offices at the airports and main railway stations, usually open in the evening and at the weekends. The other way to change money is at a bank.
The opening hours of the banks vary, but most are open from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and in the afternoon from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Opening a bank account
To open a bank account, you need to show your national identification document and usually a proof of your German address (copy of registration). The most widespread banks are Sparkasse, Postbank, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank.
Certain banks do have a close co-operation with the International office of the CBG and offer special rates and good conditions (e.g. exemption from the usual account charges - Kontoführungsgebühren).
The most common form of account in Germany is a Girokonto (checking or current account). Most financial transactions are completed using this type of account, such as receiving your payment, paying bills, etc.
This card allows you to withdraw cash from the majority of cash machines in Germany and Europe. This is normally free of charge at your own bank's ATMs or at the ATMs of the associated cash group, while cash machines from other institutions will charge you a fee. Many shops, grocery stores and petrol stations also allow you to pay for goods and services using the EC card in conjunction with your PIN or signature. Just look for the EC/Maestro sign on the cash register. Since credit cards are not accepted in certain stores (like Media Markt) and small restaurants in Dresden, you may end up using your EC Card quite often.
Almost every bank in Germany offers their customers the possibility of conducting financial transactions from the comfort of their own home over the Internet. You can pay your invoices (Rechnungen) and transfer money within all EU countries without paying a cent extra. For every transaction, you will need to use a TAN number. You will get the TAN numbers either as a printed list of TANs or as little machine that generates new TANs. Some banks like Postbank also offer mobile TAN: you get this special number on your mobile phone.
Ways to Transfer Money
Credit transfer (Überweisung)
Mostly you pay bills by transferring funds online from your bank account to the vendors' bank account (a transfer is called an Überweisung). Often there is a transfer form included with your bill. If there is no form with your bill, the bank provides them or you will find them on the Internet. You send the form to your bank rather than sending a check to the company/person to whom you owe money.
Standing Order (Dauerauftrag)
A standing order is used for regular payments of the same amount. It allows a fixed amount of money to be drawn out of your account at regular intervals to pay non-varying bills, such as the monthly rent.
Direct Debit (Einzugsermächtigung/Abbuchung)
This is a practical method of payment if you have recurring payments, which vary in size, such as the telephone bill. You give the recipient a direct debit authorization (Einzugsermächtigung), which allows them to deduct varying sums of money directly from your account.
Private Health Insurance, telephone bills or electricity bills are often paid by this method.
Overdraft facility (Dispositionskredit)
An overdraft facility allows you to overdraw your account up to a certain limit set by the bank. The amount of this credit is normally related to your monthly income. Overdraft interest rates are high, so you are recommended to only use them for emergencies.
International money transfer
SWIFT transfers: A common and safe way to transfer money from Germany to another country is via the system of the Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). The transfer should normally be completed in a few hours and the funds should be available within 24 hours, although in practice, this might take longer. Transfer costs vary in terms of commission, exchange rates, and transfer charges.
Paypal system: Although originally designed for international internet transactions, this system also provides a convenient way to make US Dollar/Euro or Sterling/Euro transfers. Have a look at the Paypal system - www.paypal.com (especially if you're American or British).