Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Free-Checking Over?

About twenty years ago, I decided that I really needed to have a German D-Mark account.....to be able to readily pay bills and such.  At the top of list of priorities in terms of which bank to use....was the idea that it'd be a no-cost or no-fee account.  After some brief research, I came to realize that more than half the banks around had a monthly fee, or you had to maintain a fairly large amount of cash in a stupid 'checking' account (more than 10,000 D-Marks).

So I eventually settled on the Post-Bank.....they were a free deal.  There were a dozen negatives about them....very few ATM machines at the time....their employees were marginally friendly or helpful.

At some point about four years into this experience....they changed some of their rules, and you had to have a certain amount in the account to enjoy the free status.  So I quit them.

I bring all of this up because yesterday....the chief of Sparkasse (a major German bank) said that more than a million Germans MUST now pay for their bank account.  This.....because of the penalty rate situation that the European Central Bank put into place.

In his own words: "The time of free checking accounts is over."

The amusing side of this is that banks all over Germany since the 1980s.....have been downsizing.  In the old village near K-town that I lived in.....the bank that I ended up using had gone from a seven-person operation to three people (one manager and two clerks).  If you have to walk in and do business....you are talking about a ten to forty minute wait (depending on the day of the week or hour of the day).  I came up to do some very minor business one afternoon (1PM), and there were a dozen people there waiting for the door to open after lunch.

I suspect that some gimmick will be cooked up....if you have a car loan via our bank....then a free account might be possible.  Maybe they will say as long as you agree to pay some amount for each ATM transaction.....then a free account might be possible.  It'll hang around for a while.  But in a decade or two....I just don't think any free checking will exist in Germany.

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