What to do if the account gets more expensive. If the bank or savings bank turns the cost screw, you can look for cheaper providers. An objection is also possible – but then the bank may terminate you.
The essentials in brief:
- If your account gets more expensive, you can either accept, cancel, or object to the new fees.
- If you do not react by the deadline, this usually means approval. Then you have to pay the new fees.
- You can often save money by looking for cheaper account models or other providers. With direct banks, in particular, you have a good chance of getting a cheap or free account.
Suddenly the bank wants to have money for the account: After many years with free checking accounts, many financial institutions are rowing back and are rediscovering account fees and charges. Some banks and savings banks increase existing fees by a few euros a month or introduce new ones. This step is justified by the low-interest rates that have been prevalent for years. Many savings banks and other private customer banks claim that they are currently facing the same problem: They can hardly earn any more money with other business areas.
Not Reacting Is Considered Consent
If fees are introduced for previously free accounts or the old fees are increased, the bank must notify you of this – at least two months in advance. The law stipulates that this must be done in writing. Attention: It may even be enough if the note is on the account statement. If you have agreed on an electronic communication channel (e.g. for online banking), the changes can also be communicated by e-mail, for example. However, there is always incorrect information from the banks and savings banks (the market watchdog team at the consumer centre in Saxony, for example, has successfully issued a warning to a savings bank – there was no reference to the free right of termination). If in doubt, have the letter checked legally by the consumer advice centre. Illegal information does not lead to a pay increase! However, the bank can, of course, correct its mistake and send a (then correct) price increase letter for the future.
ATTENTION: If you do not object to the price change by the deadline, this will be considered as approval (so-called approval effect). The new fees will then take effect, and you will have to pay them. In its letter, the bank must indicate the impact of the approval and your right to end the contract free of charge and without notice.
What To Do If The Fee Changes
You can accept the price change. In this case, you don’t need to do anything else. However, it may be worthwhile to switch to a different account model with the same bank. Pure online accounts are cheaper with many providers than traditional checking accounts, which offer full service in the branches. Anyone who can imagine doing their financial transactions over the Internet can save money here. In some cases, price adjustments only affect customers with certain usage behaviour. Anyone who uses an online account, for example, is not affected by a price increase for sending bank statements.
If you disagree with the price increase, you can cancel and switch providers. With direct banks, in particular, you still have a good chance of getting a cheap or free account. You can also object to the adjustment of the fees. The account will then be continued under the previous conditions. Warning: if you object, the bank may terminate your account. Then you would have to look for a new provider. Since the bank has to observe a notice period of at least two months, there is enough time to look for a new account.
Our experience shows that some banks are quite accommodating to certain customer groups (e.g. senior citizens). At least if the customers insist on it. In the past, Postbank, for example – at least for older customers – waived fees for transfers by paper order.
IMPORTANT: As a rule, however, customers have to take action themselves and demand goodwill.
Particular case of advertising promises or special contractual clauses
For example, if banks have advertised their account as “free of charge for life”, the customers acquired do not have to accept a new fee or a price increase. This is all the more true if the contract itself contains such a passage. However, experience shows that these customers have to take action themselves and remind the bank of their promise. The exact wording of the advertising should also be decisive. With a “lifetime free” account, the case is clear. If the language is not so precise, it takes a little more effort to justify a complaint. But it can lead to the institute giving in.
Banks Have To Help With A Change
Incidentally, both the old and the new bank are legally obliged to help you switch (for example, change direct debits and standing orders). Of course, you can also make the change yourself. You can find tips, sample letters and checklists for this in our article. It is still worth to keep an eye on the conditions with other account models and other providers. However, switching is no guarantee of lower fees in the long term. It is to be feared that other (branch) banks will follow suit in terms of fees shortly, as the cost pressure is high for the institutes. It is, therefore, essential that you determine your real needs. You should not be misled by the increasingly offered value-added services, such as various dealer discounts or additional insurance services.