Definitions of Reference Account


Anyone wishing to open a call or fixed-term deposit account needs a reference account. This is an account with payment functions, such as a checking account. It is only possible to dispose of the assets in the investment account via the reference account.

  • The reference account can be with the same bank as the fixed-term or overnight deposit account or with a different bank.
  • The holder of the reference and investment accounts must be the same person.
  • A change of the reference account is possible.

What is a reference account?

Anyone who has an investment or savings account without payment functions needs a reference account . In most cases, this is the current account that the investor uses in everyday life for transfers, standing orders and cash withdrawals. Sometimes a current or reference account and an investment account are offered as a package and can be opened together. In most cases, however, an investment account is opened separately.

Whoever wants to dispose of the credit on the investment account must transfer the money from there to the current account; only then can the account holder carry out transactions or withdraw the money. Payments into the savings account do not necessarily have to be made via the reference account. The fact that the reference account is always connected upstream as a payment account increases the security of the money invested: if third parties have the data in the investment account, they can only deposit money into it, but not withdraw it from it.

When is a reference account required?

Reference accounts are required for the following types of savings investments:

  • Overnight money account
  • Fixed deposit account
  • Securities account

In addition, many banks require a reference account to pay out loans . Some fixed deposit accounts have the special feature that there must be a clearing account in addition to the reference account. This is particularly likely if the reference and fixed deposit accounts are not with the same bank. The financial institution with which the fixed deposit account is to be opened may then require that the customer also set up such a clearing account with them.

A type of savings system that does not require a reference account are current or credit card accounts with interest. They are, so to speak, a reference and investment account in one.

What conditions does a reference account have to meet?

There are a few requirements an account must meet in order to be recognized as a reference account:

  • Only accounts that allow payment transactions are permitted as reference accounts. Classically, these are current accounts that are used to process transfers, standing orders and cash withdrawals.
  • It is imperative that the reference account is owned by the same owner as the investment account. However, it doesn’t have to be with the same bank. There are financial institutions that offer, for example, a call money account in connection with a current account, but in principle both accounts can be with different financial institutions.
  • The reference account must be held with a German bank.

Change reference account

The reference account must be specified when opening a savings account, but it can be changed afterwards. The change usually takes place when the investor has opened a new current account with better conditions and now wants to use it as a reference account. Specifically, these can be reasons such as:

  • available online banking
  • Bonus and cashback offers
  • a greater number of available ATMs
  • Credit card availability
  • lower overdraft rates
  • lower account management fees
  • low or no fees for withdrawing money domestically and internationally
  • cheap credit card fees

At the latest when the If the return on the investment account is significantly depressed by the costs for the reference account, it is advisable to change the reference account. The change is usually not difficult, but it can be beneficial to ensure that both accounts are available for a transitional period. When switching, you should always bear in mind that the money transfer to the reference account may take longer if it is with a different bank than the savings account.

Requirements for changes to a reference account

The customer enters a new reference account either in writing or via a program item in online banking. In addition, a verification of the new account is usually necessary. The bank that manages the investment account often transfers a single-digit cent amount to the new reference account and the customer confirms receipt of this transfer.

It is always easiest to discuss the individual steps for the change with the bank or to view the necessary guidelines in the online banking area. It should also be noted that the change can take a few days; therefore the old reference account should not be closed immediately.