Schufa in Germany: What to know
When it comes to organizing your move to Germany, there are plenty of things to get your head around. From finding your new home away from home and securing your dream job to meeting a new community of friends and learning a new language. But what about this Schufa thing you’ve heard about? What’s that, and is it completely necessary to have one to move to Germany? Here we’ll tell you all about how to get Schufa in Germany, what you might need it for, and if you can get an apartment without one.
1. What is Schufa?
Simply put, a Schufa in Germany loosely translates as your credit score. It’s actually an acronym that stands for Schutzgemeinschaft für Allgemeine Kreditsicherung, which loosely translates as the General Credit Protection Agency. It’s a simple way for people, businesses, and institutions to check out how trustworthy you are when it comes to your finances. Will you be able to pay your rent on time each month? Can you be trusted to pay that loan in regular monthly payments? Is it a good idea to add an overdraft to your bank account? All of these questions, and more, can be answered once you have your Schufa score.
2. How is your Schufa score calculated?
Your Schufa in Germany is calculated by a private company known as Schufa Holding AG. Without making it too complicated, this company looks into all of your financial history, whether you’ve been deemed reliable with money or not in the past, and translates it into a credit score. They’ll do this by collecting data from companies you’ve lent money from before, whether it’s part of a credit, mobile phone provider, or car financing program.
However, your Schufa will only start being calculated once you have registered at your address in Germany. Any credit score history or ratings from your previous country of residence will not count towards your Shufa in Germany. This can be good and bad news. If you’ve got a stellar credit rating in your home country, you can’t use this to create a good Shufa score in Germany; likewise, if your credit score isn’t so great, you’ll be able to start fresh once you’ve moved.
Your basic Schufa score is calculated on a percentage basis and updated quarterly depending on the previous three months of financial data. A score of 100% is considered to be very good; anything below 50%, and you’ll struggle to lend any money from most institutions. Here’s a quick look at the Schufa score brackets and what they mean for you:
- Anything above 97.5% – risk of lending is very low
- 95-97.5% – risk of lending is low to very low
- 90-95% – risk of lending is satisfactory to medium.
- 80-90% – risk of lending is fairly high to high.
- 50-80% – risk is very high.
- Anything below 50% = risk of lending is considered very critical
By default, your Schufa score starts at 100%, this is also known as a basic score or basisscore in German. It’s not common for anyone to keep a perfect score, and it’s more likely to decrease to 97.5% even if you’re on time with paying all of your bills. If, after three months, you have failed to pay bills on time, you’ll find your score will very quickly decrease.
3. Why do you need Schufa, and who will ask for it?
Think of it like this. If you’re required to make regular payments to a company or person, they will most likely ask to see your Schufa before you are trusted as a customer. This is because your Schufa gives those who don’t know you an insight into your financial responsibilities and if you can be trusted to make regular payments, whether it be towards monthly utility bills or regular loan repayments.
Most commonly, you’ll need to show your Schufa in Germany when you start a mobile phone contract, open a bank account, buy a car on finance, set up utilities in your new apartment, and most importantly, you’ll need to show your Sshufa to your future landlords. We’ll get into the possibilities of renting apartments with Schufa in Germany a little later on.
4. How to get your Shufa score
German residents are entitled to a free insight into their Schufa score once a year via detailed reports. You can access this in a few easy steps:
- Head to the Schufa Holding AG website.
- Gather copies of your passport and registration certificate (otherwise known as Meldebescheinigung)
- Fill in the online form with your personal details and attach your documents.
Generally, it will take around three weeks until you receive your Schufa report via email or in the post. If you need your report quicker, or you’d like to access the information more than once a year, you’ll need to pay a one-time fee of €29.95.
5.What is the validity of my Schufa?
Technically speaking, your Schufa report never expires. However, your score is updated every three months, so the number can become outdated. Your landlord, bank, or another provider can specify how up-to-date they want your Schufa report to be; most often, they will ask for it to be within the last three months.
6. How do you improve your Schufa score?
If your Schufa score starts to decline, there are several simple ways to try and improve it. It’s worth noting that this won’t happen overnight, and it can take several months for you to see an active improvement in your score.
Here are some ways to make sure you’re always in the green:
- Check the Schufa report. Sometimes, the Schufa report can be generated incorrectly. While this isn’t common, it’s always worth double-checking your report just incase some data has been collected incorrectly. If you do notice something that is unusual, you can contact Schufa and request changes to be made.
- Pay your bills on time. By far, the easiest way to ensure a higher than-average Schufa score is always to pay your bills on time and around the same time each month. Regular payments prove to Schufa that you can be trusted to take responsibility for bills and other direct debits.
- Stay in the green. If you can avoid using your overdraft, your Schufa will thank you for it. If you do need to borrow money, it’s generally better to use a credit card which you can then pay off before the end of the next month.
- Cancel unnecessary credit cards. Schufa in Germany takes into account how many credit cards you own, and this can work negatively against your score. Try to get rid of any credit card accounts that you don’t need.
- Consolidate your loans. If you can, consolidating small loans into one larger loan can help to improve your Schufa score. Having too many small payments leaving the bank can get difficult to manage and eventually lead to a mispayment.
7. How to find apartments without Schufa?
For many foreigners moving to Germany for the first time, renting a flat in the traditional sense becomes impossible. Without a Schufa, you generally won’t be able to rent long term because your landlord will need to see this before you sign a lease. However, without a rental, you’ll struggle to even begin to build up your Schufa score, and without a registered address, you won’t be able to open a bank account. It’s a vicious cycle that many find themselves in, so don’t be alarmed – there are ways to make the system work.
Generally, most people moving to Germany choose to either rent a furnished apartment via a website like Homelike. Considered to be closer to holiday-type accommodation, furnished apartments in Germany don’t require a Schufa at all. After a few months at a registered address, your Schufa will begin to build up, and not long after, you can start looking for long-term rentals.
Here’s a quick guide to finding apartments without Schufa in Germany’s major cities.
With a reputation of being one of Germany’s coolest and most eccentric cities, there’s no surprise that hundreds of ex-pats fight to find a corner of Berlin to call their own each year. With the difficulty of obtaining a Schufa on arrival, it begs the question – how do you find apartments without a Schufa in Berlin? If you’re looking for your own space, furnished apartments are the quick answer. The monthly rental price will also include your utility bills, so there is no need to worry about setting up new accounts for these either.
A laid-back city in the Western realms of Germany, Cologne has become known for its stunning architectural gems, liberal community, breathtaking cathedral, and ample outdoor spaces. Despite many thinking, it is small in stature, over one million people call the city home, and finding an apartment with a Schufa in Cologne is relatively simple. Furnished apartments come in all shapes and sizes and can be rented for anywhere between 3-24 months. What’s more, you can organize everything before you fly, so everything will be ready and waiting for you when you touch down.
Nestled into the heart of Germany’s Rhineland, Dusseldorf is considered to be the country’s financial center, offering up a haven for anyone looking for a modern city to explore. With plenty of jobs in the finance, tech, and IT sectors, it’s not unusual for ex-pats and travelers to use Dusseldorf as their home. Even better, with a rise of young professionals in the area, modern apartments within walkable distance to the city center are easy to come by. To find apartments without a Sschufa in Dusseldorf, it’s best to look for furnished short-term lets.
Another of Germany’s business districts, Hamburg offers up a sought-after mixture of career opportunities, awesome outdoor spots – including the picturesque port area – and a bustling nightlife. With its popularity comes a high demand for accommodation, which is why finding an apartment without a Schufa in Hamburg is notoriously difficult. Opting for a furnished rental is a great choice, as these generally include most utility bills (gas, electricity & Wi-Fi), and you’re unlikely to have to show a Shufa to sign the contract.
One of the most popular of Germany’s cities for an ex-pat to settle, Frankfurt knows a thing or two about catering to the international demographic. Famous for its business hub but loved for its charming architecture, Frankfurt is a great place to start a new life. Whether you’re looking for a modern apartment in the city center, or something a little quieter in the suburbs, choosing a furnished apartment in Frankfurt is an easy way to avoid the difficulty of not yet having a Schufa.
Germany’s third largest city, Munich, is also a popular choice when it comes to settling down in one of Europe’s most popular countries. Its smaller size, and fantastic networks of bike lanes make it a great choice for those looking for city amenities in a place with a small-town feel. Known for its unique Bavarian architecture, modern high-rises aren’t common here; instead, you’ll find apartments full of character. Finding an apartment without a Schufa here is most easily done through furnished rentals. Your monthly rental fee will include the cost of utilities, such as electricity and gas, and Wi-Fi.
8. Final Thoughts on Schufa in Germany
Broadly speaking, once you understand how to get Schufa in Germany, the whole process becomes a lot easier to digest. Unfortunately, you will need to compromise a little when you first move to the country, as renting long-term accommodation is near impossible without a Schufa to hand over to your landlord. However, after a few months of renting short-term flats or otherwise and making regular and reliable payments, it won’t take long for your Schufa score to start working to your advantage.