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Checking account fees have risen above average

Now it is official what many customers have already noticed: The fees for the current account have increased significantly in recent years. There is no end in sight to the rise in costs.

The Current account fees have increased at an above-average rate over the past few years, according to the Federal Statistical Office. From 2015 to 2019, the price increases totaled 25 percent, as the Wiesbaden authority announced on Tuesday. In the past year alone, bank customers had to pay 4.7 percent more than a year earlier. In contrast, the overall inflation rate only increased by 1.4 percent in 2019.

According to the information, the increase in costs continued this year. In October, consumers had to pay 6.4 percent more for their private checking accounts than a year earlier. The inflation rate, however, was also due to the reduction in VAT that month at minus 0.2 percent.

Interest rates have been low for years

One reason for the fees, which have been rising steadily on average since 2015, is likely to be a lack of income for banks from deposits, investment products and loans, the authority suspected. For a long time, banks and savings banks earned well by collecting more interest on loans than they were paying savings customers.

But the difference between the two, the net interest income, shrinks in the slack interest rate. If banks park funds at the European Central Bank (ECB), they also have to pay penalty interest, currently 0.5 percent. Even if there are now tax exemptions for certain sums, the industry is complaining about billions – and for its part introduces penalty interest for some customers. The Leipzig Regional Court is currently clarifying whether these negative interest rates on current accounts are legal.

While banks and some savings banks used to use the free account specifically to acquire customers, higher costs and expensive branches are forcing the institutes to rethink.

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