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Background negative interest on credit balance When saving suddenly costs Up until now, banks have charged negative interest primarily from new customers. It also affects existing customers more and more frequently. Consumer advocates advise to be clear about what you want to do with the money. By Iris Völlnagel.



Negative interest on credit When it suddenly costs you to save

As of: 06/18/2021 8:58 a.m.

Up to now, banks have mainly charged new customers with negative interest rates. It also affects existing customers more and more frequently. Consumer advocates advise to be clear about what you want to do with the money.

From Iris Völlnagel, SWR

Anger and complaints from consumers are part of everyday life for Josephine Holzhäuser, financial expert at the consumer center in Rhineland-Palatinate. But since the beginning of the year, more and more consumers have come to her who have left their financial institutions “betrayed and sold” feel. The reason: More and more banks and savings banks are introducing negative interest rates on current and savings accounts.

More than 345 institutes collect negative interest

Many older people, but also younger ones, now sought advice from consumer advocates. Most of them have been customers for years, have taken out their mortgage lending or insurances with the banks, and now they are being threatened with termination if they are not willing to pay negative interest, says Holzhäuser. “From my point of view, this is a clumsy business practice.” People feel compelled and pressured. Many older people are overwhelmed – especially those who are not so fit online. Since the beginning of the year, more than 170 banks and savings banks in Germany have introduced negative interest rates. This is the result of a study on the www.biallo.de Internet portal. Every third bank only grants an allowance of 25,000 euros. The consumer portal Verivox also regularly researches and publishes the product overviews and price lists of around 1,300 credit institutions that are accessible online. As a result, more than 345 banks have now introduced negative interest rates for private customers. 19 banks charge fees for the call money account, which is usually free of charge. This also creates a de facto negative interest rate. In addition, there are the banks that do not publish any information, according to Verivox. Most recently, Postbank announced that it would lower the exemption limits for savings deposits on June 21 and one for new customers “Custody fee” from 50,000 euros on the current account and 25,000 euros on the daily allowance account. Contributions above this limit are charged with 0.5 percent. So far, the tax exemption has been 100,000 euros.


Current and call money accounts Penalty interest hits many customers

Many banks and savings banks are overtaking the negative interest rates from the ECB “Custody fees” back from customers.

Banks point their fingers at the ECB

As a reason for that “Custody fee” the financial institutions repeatedly claim that they themselves pay negative interest rates to the European Central Bank (ECB). In 2014 it began to charge penalty interest on money that the commercial banks park in their central bank accounts. However, the banks are now granted exemptions. Critics therefore complain that the financial houses are doing business with negative interest rates.

This practice will not change in the foreseeable future, fears consumer advocate Holzhäuser. “If one bank does it, the others follow suit. If the pace continues, one no longer looks to see which bank has no negative interest, but from which tax exemption”, so wooden houses. David Bode from the legal enforcement team of the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations knows whether the introduction of negative interest is generally permissible. The association has filed suits at different courts in several federal states. It concerns both current and overnight money accounts. How long the litigation will take is difficult to estimate, according to Bode. There could possibly be first judgments in the current calendar year. In the end, the Federal Court of Justice may have to decide.


Regional Court of Tübingen Negative interest at “Riester” are allowed

The Tübingen regional court has allowed negative interest rates for the Riester savings plan.

Consumers in a bind

A basic distinction should be made between existing and new customers. The latter advises the financial expert Holzhäuser to look at the small print before signing the contract. In the meantime, it is noted in the general terms and conditions whether negative interest is charged above a certain amount.

This is different with existing customers, where changes require an individual agreement. In the past year, the banks would have allowed existing customers to talk to them. In the meantime, the banks are going to terminate their business relationships. “That has another dimension”, so the consumer advocate. “As a customer, I then have to decide whether to sign or not.” In the meantime, however, she advises signing more and more often, according to Holzhäuser. “If people want to stay with the bank, they have to bite the bullet and watch the further case law.” If you don’t want to sign, you shouldn’t wait for the bank to give notice of termination, advises the consumer advocate. “We cannot yet assess how such a termination will affect Schufa, for example.” Alternatively, consumers could look for a new bank. As a rule, you have some time because the bank contacts its customers one to two months in advance.

interview 08/12/2014

Bundesbank boss in an interview with Phoenix “There have been negative interest rates before”

The criticism of the ECB’s interest rate policy is becoming more and more aggressive by one “Expropriation of savers” is the talk.

Shift money, check investments

Many banks charged negative interest for amounts in excess of 100,000 euros. This corresponds to the amount of the deposit protection; that is, the amount for which the bank guarantees in the event of a total failure. If you have more in your account, you should distribute your money between several accounts at different institutions, according to the advice of the financial expert.

After all, everyone should check why they have so much money in their account at all, according to the consumer advocate. The following also applies: do not accept every offer without review. “In case of doubt, it is better to go with negative interest than to invest the money headlong.” A unit-linked annuity insurance with a term of twelve years is not an adequate offer for people over 70, according to Holzhäuser. You can also deposit the money in a locker or safe at any time. Just leaving it at home is the worst option because of the risk of theft, according to the financial expert