How to get your Schufa score in Germany—a guide
Starting out in Germany? Getting your German credit score is easy—here’s how.
4 min read
There are a few financial decisions you’ll make that feel like milestones of adulthood—filing your own taxes, creating your retirement fund and getting your credit score. One of these is considerably easier to do than the others.
In Germany, your creditworthiness is most likely tracked and recorded by Schufa Holding AG, Germany’s biggest credit agency. Schufa is the shorthand abbreviation of Schutzgemeinschaft für allgemeine Kreditsicherung, which roughly translates to “general credit protection agency.” Whenever someone refers to your Schufa score, Schufa report, Schufa rating and so on, they’re talking about the same thing—your “Schufa Auskunft”—credit information that will follow you for the remainder of the time you live in Germany.
What is a credit score anyway?
Your credit score is a measurement of how reliably you’ve met financial obligations like utility bills and credit card payments, and it’s used to decide how worthy you are of being granted further obligations like personal credit loans. Banks typically check your score when you apply to open an account, phone and internet providers check when you apply to create a new contract, and landlords and property managers will always ask when you apply to rent a flat.
These companies will be able to check your Schufa and determine whether you have any unpaid debts, and if you can be trusted as a customer or tenant. If you apply for a loan at a bank, for example, your Schufa can also determine how much interest you might pay for that loan. The higher the risk for the bank, the higher the interest you might pay.
What determines your credit score?
The easy answer is whether you’ve paid all your bills on time and in full. Your Schufa is automatically created as soon as you register your address upon moving to Germany. Your previous credit score from wherever you moved from does not influence your Schufa in Germany, and you can’t use your American credit score, for example, to apply for a loan—no matter how good it may be. Germany offers the advantage of allowing most, if not all, of your bills to be paid automatically every month by direct debit, so you can avoid the risk of forgetting to pay them. It’s also a good idea not to open too many bank accounts and credit cards, and not to switch banks too often.
How do you apply?
The easiest method is to order a Schufa Bonitätsauskunft directly from meineSCHUFA.de. This is the official, certified credit report that all landlords accept, which guarantees your privacy and security. You’re going to need this any time you apply for a flat, so make sure to get one around the same time that you’re applying to make sure your report is up to date. Remember to opt in for an online download when you purchase your report—you’ll receive a confirmation email that allows you to download the PDF with a unique verification code. Go ahead and ignore meineSCHUFA kompakt, plus and premium, as you won’t really need any of those services for this purpose.
Your other best option is to order a SCHUFA-BonitätsCheck from any of the major Immobilien sites, including ImmobilienScout24, Immonet and Immowelt. ImmobilienScout24 accepts all payment methods including your credit/debit cards and PayPal, whereas Immonet and Immowelt will only accept SEPA direct transfers, so have your IBAN ready. One more thing—if you order through your existing ImmobilienScout24 account, it will automatically subscribe you to their premium membership, so you’ll want to cancel that right away. The ordering process is pretty much the same for all three of these so it’s a matter of personal preference, and whether you’re using one primarily over the others in your flat search. You’ll receive a confirmation email from whichever one you choose, from which you can download a PDF with a unique verification code.
If you prefer a more human touch, you can order your Schufa Bonitätsauskunft by phone, or by paper mail after completing the official English language form here. You can also get one in-person at participating Postbank and Volksbank locations.
All of the options mentioned above cost €29,95. You may have heard that you can get a free Schufa report, but this is only partially true. You’re entitled to a free Schufa Datenkopie by completing the form at this link, which requires copies of your passport and registration certificate (Meldebescheinigung). However, this paper-only document is only meant for your reference so you can see your exact score out of 100, and may not be accepted by landlords. For better or worse, the certified report that you must purchase is the safest bet to include in your flat application (Wohnungsbewerbung).
All your credit information is governed by the German Data Protection Act, otherwise known as Bundesdatenschutzgesetz, so you can rest assured that it won’t be shared or sold illicitly.
Getting your Schufa is an essential step in managing your personal finance in Germany, and it can be easy to both know your score and keep it high as long as you take care of your bills.
Moving to Germany means navigating a lot of bureaucratic red tape, but opening a bank account doesn’t have to be so complicated. With N26, you can open a German bank account in minutes, right from your smartphone. All you need is a German address—no Anmeldung necessary. You’ll get a local German IBAN, which means no worrying about inconvenient T&C’s that sometimes come with foreign IBANs. There are no hidden fees and you’ll always have access to English-speaking customer service, so the only thing left to worry about is settling in to your new home.
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