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I am temporarily working in Germany, and am at a company where the onsite canteen only supports payment using an EC card. I am from the UK, where this concept doesn't exist (in fact, I think EC cards don't exist outside Germany). I have access to conventional MasterCard/Visa credit/debit/ATM cards, and of course Euros in cash.

Is it possible to get some form of temporary EC card, ideally with a pay-as-you-go style model, where I can top the card up with money and run it down? I know such a concept exists for other card types (for example Mastercard).

Ideally I would apply for/get this online, or with minimum paperwork/hassle (e.g. I would like to avoid opening a full current account with a German bank). I don't speak German either.

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    The canteen doesn't even take cash? – JonathanReez Supports Monica Jul 31 '15 at 11:00
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    @JonathanReez nope. They are "advanced". – Andrew Ferrier Jul 31 '15 at 11:25
  • Wouldn't it be possible (and the easiest) that one of your colleagues tops up your card and you give them cash? If you really just need it for your canteen everything else seems like a lot of hassle for this. – Reinstate Monica - dirkk Sep 4 '17 at 22:05
  • @dirkk as I said, I don't have an EC card. – Andrew Ferrier Sep 21 '17 at 22:05
  • @AndrewFerrier I got that, please read my comment again. I guess one (all?) of your co-workers have an EC card, so I was suggesting one of your colleagues tops up your card and you pay them back with cash. That's how I handle this (I have the same situation). – Reinstate Monica - dirkk Sep 22 '17 at 7:54
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The EC cards where rebranded as Girocard a few years back and is only available with a bank account.

There are some banks that let (almost) anyone open an account that can only carry a positive balance (as long as you aren't a US citizen or resident). That would take a week or two until you have the card. Usually banks with walk-in branches don't offer free accounts in your situation and online-based banks usually don't have an English-language website.

Any of the free bank accounts at online banks do the trick if you have a German address (e.g. DKB, DAB bank, Consorsbank, comdirect, ING Diba). Opening an account is not too complicated, you fill in a simple online form with your details, print the application, go to a post office with your passport and registration confirmation, and wait for your card. Money to such accounts can usually only be transferred for free with a bank transfer from another european Euro account. All other methods incur a hefty fee. However, comdirect customers can use Commerzbank ATMs to deposit cash for free and 1822direkt customers can use ATMs of the Frankfurter Sparkasse as well.

Maybe a V Pay or Maestro prepaid card would work at that machine but I know no German bank that offers one of those. There are some banks in other countries that have such cards.

  • OK, doesn't sound too positive for me. When you say "only be transferred for free with a bank transfer from another european account" - do you mean a European account, or one denominated in Euros? I have the former, but not the latter... – Andrew Ferrier Jul 31 '15 at 6:49
  • @AndrewFerrier I forgot to mention that. There would be a fee for currency conversion which is pretty high in some cases (I saw up to 20€). You could open a GPB account here too but that's starting to get complicated. Best option maybe would be to open an account with comdirect (free cash deposits at some banks) or – if you are in Frankfurt – with 1822direkt (free with at least one transaction a month). – neo Jul 31 '15 at 8:28
  • @AndrewFerrier You can use a service like Transferwise or Currencyfair to minimize transfer costs. Will allow you to transfer from anywhere at around a fairly minimal 0.5-1% fee. – Aron Apr 8 '16 at 15:46
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I am familiar with the problem: in many places I too have found that only an EC card is accepted by the vendor's card-machine, or by the shop, petrol station etc. I have spent much time researching this. I have been unable to find any bank or institution in the UK which provides an EC card. It appears that one can acquire an EC card only by opening a bank account in a German town or village. To do so may be difficult or even impossible if one is merely on holiday in Germany for a short while, however I think that I will visit a bank in Germany and ask when I am next there. Sorry to have no easy answer. It would be nice to get a clear and official answer from a banking expert. None of the bank staff at my bank in the UK knew anything about this issue and could give me no help. Without an EC card one has to carry sufficient cash in various areas of Germany or else big trouble if you run out of petrol and if the petrol station will not accept any other card.

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    @DarthVader "It appears that one can acquire an EC card only by opening a bank account in a German town or village." How is that not an answer? – David Richerby Sep 5 '17 at 8:53
  • @DavidRicherby Acknowledged. But I feel the answer might not be helpful/comprehensive enough for the OP who stated explicitly he would like to avoid opening current accounts in Germany. – DarthVader Sep 5 '17 at 9:29
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    @DarthVader Well the answer appears to be "Tough luck. Opening an account is the only way." I've no idea if that's the correct answer but it is absolutely an answer. – David Richerby Sep 5 '17 at 10:13
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I think that you could use a "GeldKarte". You should ask your canteen. In the canteen of my university we can only use a GeldKarte, which is implemented on my university ID. It gets very popular around here in the last few years and is a more or less anonymous way for fast money transfer.

The terminal where you have to pay has have this symbol: enter image description here
(source: wikimedia.org)

You can order it online but should in advance check if you can upload money to it (we have an terminal in our canteen). For the GeldKarte you don't have to have a bank account. You can upload money (up to 200€) on several ways (having a bank account probably by a terminal of your bank, online via card reader, GeldKarte terminals and probably somewhere for cash).

  • I'm pretty sure they only take EC card, but I will check. – Andrew Ferrier Aug 2 '15 at 14:13

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