The search for a free, unconditional checking account is becoming increasingly difficult, according to Stiftung Warentest. In an evaluation of around 380 models from 152 banks and savings banks, the testers found 14 free accounts with no strings attached. A year ago, it was 20 years.
Stiftung Warentest defines current accounts as free for which neither a basic fee is due, nor charges for account statements, reservations, Girocard or cash withdrawals from machines of their own banking pool. Regular receipt of money or salary of a certain amount may not be a requirement for the free account.
Another 90 accounts, which, including girocard and all reservations, cost no more than 60 euros per year, are from experts’ point of view to be classified as cheap. online banking services. However, it can be observed that nowadays, transfers in paper form and credit cards in particular are more and more expensive. The problem is that fee information is often very hidden on institute websites.
The Federal Court of Justice recently set limits on the institute’s fee increases as banks must obtain the consent of their customers to change terms and conditions. The court ruled in April that the clause, whereby financial institutions can assume tacit approval if customers do not object to a change within two months, inappropriately disadvantaged customers.
Credit institutions must now require customers to retrospectively accept current charges. In addition, bank customers can recover fees that institutes have charged without explicit consent – according to the initial assessment of the Stiftung Warentest, retrospectively until at least January 1, 2018.
Many financial institutions have been gradually increasing their fees over the years. Low interest rates put institutes under pressure, and financial institutions must also pay 0.5% negative interest when placing money with the European Central Bank. Even though there are now tax exemptions for certain sums, the industry complains of billions.
In addition, due to the advancement of digitization, more and more bank branches are closed in Germany. Last year, according to the Bundesbank, the number fell 9.6% to 24,100. A total of 2,567 branches were closed, after 1,772 in 2019.
The Stiftung Warentest, which operates a free current account comparison website on behalf of the state, assessed the current account conditions valid until August 31. All national financial companies as well as direct and denominational banks, all Sparda and PSD banks as well as the largest savings banks and Volks and Raiffeisen banks in each federal state were examined. They cover around 70 percent of the market. The assessment was based on a model client who earns a regular salary, maintains her account online, and uses it on average.