Why is there a fee

Fees and Charges: How to Escape the Money Trap

Not at your expense

Bank customers often have the feeling that the bank is not managing their money, but is collecting unauthorized payments. Unclear bills, charges that seem too high and a lack of credit interest are just a few of the points that annoy customers.

The consumer advice center can have the legitimacy of certain fees for banking services checked in court - and not infrequently with success.

We want to show you the way through the cost jungle and give you suggestions for dealing with your bank:

Checking account - price confusion included

Different banks - different pricing. Sometimes differentiation is made even within a bank depending on the offer. Sometimes there is a flat rate for the account management, in which all services are included. At other banks, on the other hand, in addition to the basic fee, each individual account movement is posted - or they settle solely on the basis of the number of postings. Free accounts are also advertised. In this case, however, you have to check carefully whether there is a horse's foot in the small print of the price list or behind an asterisk.

  • Take a critical look at your account and your personal usage behavior over a longer period of time.
  • Add up all costs and compare them with other offers.
  • Also take into account that some banks will pay interest on your account.
  • Take your time with your account selection.
  • In the case of a free account offer, ask exactly whether the price list does not contain fees for certain services.


Debit entries - please understandable

Checking the charges the bank charges your account is sometimes easier said than done. Because if the costs are only listed in the "package" in the account statement, it is not always possible to understand which individual items are hidden behind them.

As a customer, you have the right to request a detailed breakdown of the costs from your bank, for example interest and fee rates, if the total amount appears doubtful to you. At least once a year, your bank must provide you with a fee schedule free of charge.

  • You don't just have to accept flat-rate bookings of the charges.
  • In any case, you should check yourself - at least randomly - whether the amount of the flat rates is correct. If not, report your objection immediately!


Prices - visible to everyone

What is usually taken for granted at concerts is often in vain at banks: the free encores. In plain language: For many services that are actually taken for granted, money is required. For example, for the execution of standing orders or the sending of check forms. This is rarely mentioned in the advertising leaflets.

Only the detailed price lists provide information about these costs. These must be kept ready for inspection at the counter. In any case, ask for this directory to be handed over when opening an account. If price information for certain standard services is missing, the bank may not charge any fee for these.

  • From time to time, ask your bank to hand over the current price list and check the bank's homepage to see if you can find it there.
  • If the bank increases its prices, you can object and, as a rule, cancel your account free of charge and without notice, within one month if a separate agreement is made - and pay the old fees until the account is closed.


As always - no rule without exception

Although the banks are generally obliged to "display prices", there are some services that are chargeable and yet do not have to be in the price list. This includes services that are not part of day-to-day business and that are provided on your behalf or presumed interest: for example, sending the account documents again at the customer's request or submitting an individual certificate of capital gains for the tax office.

However, fees for this must not move in a vacuum; they must not be unreasonably high, must be individually determined and be comprehensible. Also for the court. Because there the credit company must disclose its calculation in the event of a dispute.

  • It is definitely advisable to keep a critical eye on such special payments.
  • If the fee is excessive or if the bank fails to meet its obligation to provide evidence and provide evidence, the court can reduce the amount. An example: the bank asks EUR 30 for a copy of a specific account statement. Since the bank employee has barely spent half an hour retrieving this copy from the EDP, the costs are too high.
  • If the costs seem Spanish to you and the bank does not give in, you can call the bank's arbitration board free of charge. However, you should only go to a lawyer if you have legal protection insurance. A simpler - and sometimes cheaper - solution to the conflict is to change banks if the institution is particularly stubborn.


Service - not always free

The bank not only has rights, but also obligations. And generally they shouldn't cost anything. This includes services that are simply part of the giro contract - such as the closure of the account or the creation of an account statement, unless it is sent by post if the customer expressly requests it.

Since "modern bank assistants" such as ATMs or bank statement printers reduce waiting times and free up staff, these modern banking services should not actually incur any additional costs for the customer, but rather the customer should have a cost advantage.

  • The main services of a bank must be free of charge. If the banks are increasingly relying on self-service, this must not result in additional costs for the customer.
  • If there are no longer any free bank statements at the counter, they have to be issued free of charge at the machine - with a free and risk-free customer card if required.


Additional costs - caused by the customer

Of course, it can happen that you as a customer of a bank incur additional costs - for example when reminders have to be sent. So it is justified that the customer pays these costs out of pocket - but only these. The bank is entitled to compensation, but cannot set the price arbitrarily. In some cases, the courts even considered 2.50 euros to be excessive for a reminder. The first reminder must be free of charge. If a direct debit is not redeemed, your own bank can demand a fee for the rejection, which must be appropriate and based on actual costs.

The provider to whom the direct debit authorization is granted is obliged to have sufficient funds in his account and, in the event of a breach of this, an obligation to pay compensation.

  • If you are charged excessive dunning costs, you should complain to your bank and request a reduction. You only need to be liable if you can be shown to be responsible for any damage - but not if the bank is acting in its own business interests.


Home banking - by PC

Doing banking on the PC from your desk at home - this is a tempting alternative to going to the bank (which is often not possible in terms of time), especially for working people. This "home banking" allows transfers to be made around the clock, standing orders to be set up or account statements to be printed out. That saves time. Because the customers of the bank relieve the work, "home bankers" are often rewarded with lower account costs - and those who refuse home banking are punished with higher costs.

The transfer of data ensures security: it is transmitted in encrypted form. However, home banking is not entirely risk-free. Because crooks can store spying programs on the bank customer's PC in order to get the data required for transfers. Or they use the so-called "phishing", derived from "password" and "fishing": A link to a deceptively real-life replica of the bank's website is sent by email - with the request to enter PIN and TAN for a security check .

  • If you already have a PC, why shouldn't you use it for "home banking" too? In your own interest, make sure that you use effective anti-virus programs that are automatically updated. This does not create absolute protection, but it may make it difficult for perpetrators to gain access.
  • Do not respond to requests to provide a PIN or - several - TANs by telephone or email in connection with alleged security checks. No bank will approach you in this way on its own.


Bank draft - good for the competition

There is no official price control of the state or the consumer associations over the banks. The banks represent a perfectly normal economic market; the prices are determined by competition. As a customer, you are the only price regulator. Your decision to switch banks can put pressure on the pricing of the credit institutions. And it is up to you to choose the bank with the best conditions.

It is always worthwhile to compare the fees of the individual banks. Especially if the prices of your credit institute seem too high to you, you should get the tariffs of the competition and change the institute if necessary.

The bank account can be canceled at any time, without justification and without observing a deadline. Don't be afraid of annoying paperwork! With a little luck, the new bank will take it from you.

Sometimes it also pays off to work with several banks - depending on which service you want to use and what you are offered for it. If the house bank does not offer credit interest, you should, for example, park your credit with a direct bank that will reward you with good overnight interest.