Your bank will send you an EC card (electronic cash card) by post for your account and under separate cover a PIN number (personal identification number) which you need to withdraw money at an ATM (cashpoint). With the card you can also get bank statements there and in some cases even make transfers. Withdrawing money at an ATM is free at branches of your bank or banks in the “Cash Group” association of banks. How- ever, using ATMs at other banks will incur additional costs. Transfers abroad can also be expensive. The best course of action is to ask the bank in your own country whether it has a cooperation agreement with a German financial institution. You can set up standing orders for regular payments such as rent, and it is also possible to provide authorisation for direct debits, i.e. regular but variable amounts (for example for insurance or telephone) are automatically debited from your account.
As well as the EC card, there are also credit cards that you can use to make cash-free payments. They can also be used to make withdrawals at ATMs, although this carries an extra cost. The most widely used cred- it cards in Germany are the Eurocard/Mastercard and Visa card. The EC card is more commonly used to make payments in German shops, but sometimes there is a minimum amount for purchases.
The German health system has a very good reputation and has a network of hospitals and doctors throughout all regions – but medical treatment in Germany is never free! All costs, even for emergency treatment, must be paid for by you or your health insurance. Comprehensive health insur- ance is therefore also very important and proof must be provided when you visit a doctor, normally by means of your health insurance card.