What you have to pay attention to with letters from the bank


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Which bank fees are considered reasonable? How do you change banks quickly and easil?

At the end of April, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) issued a groundbreaking ruling: banks cannot introduce changes to their general terms and conditions and take the silence of their customers as approval.

Up until now, banks had sent their customers modified terms and conditions with a new fee schedule – and if the customer did not object, they simply continued to work on the basis of the new provisions. The BGH ruling makes it clear: The bank must explicitly obtain the customer’s consent.

What German banks have been up to

The result: Now banks are sending masses of letters in which attention is drawn to changes in prices and conditions. Customers are asked to give their consent, with some banks or savings banks even retrospectively. Otherwise the business relationship cannot be continued.

Background: As a result of the BGH ruling, many bank customers could claim back fees that were overpaid in previous years because fee increases were declared ineffective. It is estimated that 50 million customers of banks and savings banks would be affected.

So can customers sign the latest letters from their bank with confidence? “ If the bank only wants to agree new terms and conditions and fees for the future and you agree to the pricing, then you can sign,” says David Riechmann, specialist lawyer for banking and capital market law at the consumer center in North Rhine-Westphalia. “If you want to change banks anyway because of dissatisfaction, then don’t.”

One should be suspicious if the bank also wants to obtain retrospective approval for unlawful price increases. WARNING: If you agree here, then you cannot claim these fees back.


▶ ︎ Can the bank terminate the customer immediately if he does not sign the terms and conditions?

Not really because there is a minimum period of two months for ordinary termination. That is enough time to look for a new institute. There should be no extraordinary reasons for termination without notice.

▶ ︎ If an account fee is to be fixed: what is a reasonable amount?

The Stiftung Warentest considers a fee of around 60 euros per year to be reasonable. But it also depends very much on the customer’s usage behavior. Is the local branch important, among other things, or is the app on the mobile phone enough?

▶ ︎ Are there any other pitfalls besides the account fee?

The price changes also include other fees, such as for individual booking items or cash deposits. The change to the entire account model was also initiated via the ineffective clause.

How do I choose a new bank?

Before you switch, find out from your bank whether there is a cheaper alternative for you at the same bank. Among other things, this could be a purely online account.

At the same time, you should look around for a new credit institution and compare offers.

▶ ︎ You should not only keep an eye on the account management costs, but also other things that are important to you. This could be the cost of a credit card, the overdraft facility interest and the availability of your bank.

How does the bank switch work?

Have you compared everything and want to switch? Then all you have to do is contact your new bank or savings bank.

Important: Ask if the account change will cost anything and, if so, how much.

► When opening the new account, authorize the new bank with the relevant form to help you switch accounts. This is also possible with online banks

Your new bank will then collect the following from your old institution within two business days:

  • a list of all standing orders and the existing direct debit mandates
  • a list of all incoming transfers and direct debits from the past 13 months

When switching, all orders are taken into account, including standing orders and direct debit mandates that are only executed once a year.

► The old bank must then send everything to your new bank and to your home within five business days.

The old bank will then no longer carry out transactions from the date you have specified and will inform everyone who wants to deposit or withdraw from your old account.

Then the old bank will close the account on the date you want and transfer the remaining balance to your new account.

Tip: Even if the banks should have everything done within twelve business days, please allow a little more time to cancel. Because the duration of the mail route cannot always be precisely calculated.

Expaturm aims to help educate Expats in Germany on key issues that they will have to deal with while living in Germany by providing everything you need to know about Banking, Healthcare, Lifestyle, and Housing in Germany


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