A specific form (Überweisungformular) is required to transfer money directly from one bank account to another. If you receive bills with a preprinted Überweisungsauftrag containing the billing amount and the bank details of the recipient, it is advisable to keep a copy for your own reference.
If you make regular payments for a fixed sum, (such as rent), it might be more efficient to arrange a standing order (Dauerauftrag). A chosen amount can be transferred automatically from your account to the same recipient on a specified date every month.
Direct debit authorization (Lastschrift or Einzugsermächtigung)
If you have recurring payments which vary in size (such as a mobile phone bill), a direct debit might be the most practical method of payment. You give the recipient a direct debit authorization which allows them to deduct varying sums of money directly from your account. All direct debits are listed on your bank statement so that you can easily check each one. Any direct debit deducted incorrectly from your bank account can be reversed and the money should be transferred back into your account within a few weeks. You should check your bank account statements regularly for errors (although mistakes are rare). You can cancel a direct debit at any time.
International money transfers
Bank transfers within Germany are usually fast and straightforward, however, this is not always the case for international money transfers. Transfers to and from Germany can take weeks, especially between non-affiliated banks. You might want to consider one of the following alternative transfer methods.
One of the safest and fastest methods of transferring money is via the Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). A SWIFT transfer normally clears within a few hours and funds are usually available within 24 hours (although this can take longer). It's important to note that transfer costs vary in terms of commission, exchange rates and transfer charges.
Bank drafts (Bankscheck) are not treated as cash in Germany and must be cleared like personal cheques. A bank draft should be sent by registered post as it is impossible to cancel payment if it is lost in the post or stolen.
Money transfer agencies
International money transfer agencies such as Moneygram or Western Union were originally designed for people without bank accounts, and are a speedy option (it takes around 10 minutes) and more reliable than traditional bank transfers. However, commissions on telegraphic transfers can be quite high (around 7 to 10 percent of the amount sent). You simply bring cash to the agency office and tell them where the person you are sending it to will pick it up. The recipient of the money can then go (with formal identification) to the named office and instantly receive the cash.
If you're American or British, Paypal (www.paypal.com) provides a convenient method of making US Dollar/Euro or Sterling/Euro transfers.
Importing and exporting money
You are permitted to import and export any amount of money to and from Germany, although you're obliged to report any transfers in excess of €12,500 to the Bundesbank (the central bank of the Federal Republic of Germany). It is also advisable to check the rules for the country of origin/destination of funds to see if restrictions apply there too.