How to manage your money as a Ukranian refugee in Germany

If you’ve decided to stay in Germany as a refugee from the Ukraine, it is good to know how to deal with your finances: How to get free money from the German government, how to get a job and housing. It’s also good to know if you can use your banking app from the Ukraine, or how to open and use a new bank account here.

Staying in the EU

Ukrainians already were allowed to travel in the EU for 90 days without visa. But now the EU has decided that Ukrainians are allowed to get a permit to stay for a year, and possibly even three years in total if the war continues and Ukraine is not a safe place.

EU Temporary Protection Directive

This allows you to go to any EU country. You are eligible to get information on temporary protection and access to employment, accommodation or housing, social welfare or means of subsistence, medical treatment, education for minors. You can also get opportunities for families to reunite in certain circumstances, and guarantees for access to the normal asylum procedure.

In Germany, at this moment, until 23 May 2022 you are fine without any permit as a war refugee. After that, you’ll have to apply for a residence permit at the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (BAMF).

You do not have to apply for asylum in Germany. Some say, it’s even better not to apply for asylum, since that takes more time and will keep you in refugee camps. Any Ukrainian entering the country will be registered and receive a Residence permit for temporary protection, like the EU Directive explained above. It also allows you to work in Germany.

Train ticket

DB (German Rail) offers free transport: just show your Ukrainian Passport to use long distance trains to Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg and Munich and any short distance train from there. Long distance trains to other destinations in Germany are also free but you need to get a ticket by showing your Ukrainian passport. More information on German train tickets

Living allowance, benefits and work

The Residence permit for temporary protection you receive upon registration at entering the country also allows you to receive a living allowance: 162 euro per person per month for singles, 146 euro pppm for married refugees, between 104 and 110 euro per child (read the exact law here).

The Residence permit for temporary protection will also automatically allow you to work.

State benefits

If needed, you have the right to state benefits for subsistence and medical care. For this purpose, registration is required, e.g. at reception centres or the Ministry, Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (BAMF). Basic benefits for refugees amounts to 364 euro per month per single person.

After registration, a certificate (proof of arrival or start-up certificate) is issued, which can be presented to the competent benefits authority.

Free Bank Accounts

A bank account to send and receive money (internationally) and to make payments is useful. Some bank accounts are even free. Note that you can use any bank app in the EU to transfer or receive money to any other EU-based bank.

What’s more, there is no need to enter a bank building to open an account. You can open an account with your mobile phone. A few examples of accounts that you can open instantly with your mobile phone:

Wise is based in London but you can get an EU IBAN with their multi-currency account. This account can also hold and send Hryvnia. Revolut is based in Lithuania but that shouldn’t be a problem. Whatever EU IBAN you get, it’s not allowed to discriminate against your IBAN – you can use it to transfer or receive money to any other EU-based bank.

Free Money Transfer service by PayPal, Ukraine

PayPal offers a free service to Ukrainians that will enable them to send money to PayPal wallets back in Ukraine. This money then can be sent to local bank accounts in Ukraine. It’s free, although the exchange fees might not be. More information.

Free bank account at bunq

You can open a free bank account at bunq bank. bunq bank is Dutch but you’ll receive a German IBAN. It is indeed free (for Ukrainian refugees, for three months), legit and useful. It’s not completely clear what will happen to your account after these three months. According to bunq upon questioning, the account will probably change into a paid account (from 2,99 Euro per month) – but they’re not sure yet (dd. 22 March 2022).

Download the bunq app from the App Store or Play Store, open an account and choose ‘Easy Bank’. After bunq has verified your identity from your passport, you will have an operable bank account for three months, without any charge.

Smartphone and Wifi

For online bank accounts, you’ll need a smartphone to use the banking app and a data subscription or a wifi connection. Calling internationally by phone from Germany is expensive, but you can communicate through the internet. Free wifi can be found at pubs and restaurants. Just ask for the password (or find it on the menu). A (prepaid local) phone subscription is often necessary to receive passwords and codes.

Exchanging and withdrawing cash

Lots of Europeans, including Ukrainians, are surprised how much Germans like cash payments. In some shops it’s still only possible to pay with cash while card payments are not accepted. Best is to always have some cash on you.

Exchanging cash Hryvnia into Euro is consequently possible in most banks and financial institutions. The exchange fee is about five Euro, depending on the exchange location.

You can withdraw cash from any ATM that shows the logo of your card, be it Maestro, V-pay, American Express, Visa or Mastercard, as long as you know the PIN-number. They might charge you a third-party user fee and an exchange fee. Another good reason to try one of the free bank accounts we’ve listed for you.

Useful links

Mira (MA) is our financial warrior from Ukraine. She is fluent in English, French, and Ukrainian. She manages the French and Ukrainian sections of FiFi Finance. She makes financial information accessible for refugees from Ukraine and with that, she helps them to build up a sound financial future. Read more about us.