Opening a German bank account is hard for low-income earners, study finds

Opening a German bank account is hard for low-income earners, study finds

According to consumer organisation Stiftung Warentest, banks and building societies in Germany have considerably increased their customer fees, meaning that it is harder for low-income or irregular earners to open an account in the country.

German banks increase customer fees for basic bank accounts

The German customer organisation Stiftung Warentest has found that banks and building societies are implementing significant fee increases for basic payment accounts (Basiskontos). In an assessment of 24 different options, they found that keeping an account open costs, on average, more than 200 euros a year. The most expensive fee for using a basic bank account in Germany is 334,30 euros per year. The change means that it is getting more difficult for low-income or irregular earners to open a bank account in Germany.

Compared to an assessment done five years ago, fees for the 222 different basic payment account models offered by 141 of Germany’s banking institutions are much higher. Many companies have raised the monthly price of maintaining a basic payment account, as well as fees for bank transfers processed on paper and debit cards.

What’s more - there are no longer any free accounts included in the 222 models considered. And only 22 institutions charge less than 100 euros per year, the cheapest of which is still 60 euros per year.

Why are basic payment accounts an important part of society?

For six years, EU laws have been in place to make sure that people with little to no income are still entitled to open a bank account. According to EU law, if you are legally resident in an EU country you are entitled to open a basic payment account. Banks cannot refuse your application for a basic payment account on the grounds that you don't live in the country where the bank is established.

The law is designed to help refugees, people who are on a low income and people who do not have a fixed or registered address. However, given that banks in Germany have now raised their fees, many people with little or irregular income will find that they cannot open a basic bank account at an affordable rate.

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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