German Banks Charge Negative Interest Rates

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Banks in Germany have been increasingly passing on the burden of negative interest rates to their clients after the European Central Bank (ECB) adopted a negative interest rate policy. After lowering one of its key interest rates into negative territory in June 2014, the ECB then lowered the deposit facility rate incrementally until it reached the current rate of -0.5% in September 2019.

A German financial product comparison portal, Biallo, conducted a study on 1,300 banks and savings banks in Germany. It found that “More than 300 financial institutions charge some of their customers negative interest,” the portal reported last week. Out of these banks, almost 200 of them impose negative interest rates on private customers. The rates and terms vary by bank.

“The wave of negative interest rates that is currently rolling towards savers is growing steadily. Almost 30 banks and savings banks have introduced a so-called custody fee since the beginning of October alone,” Biallo founder Horst Biallo described.

He explained that “Banks and savings banks usually avoid the terms ‘negative interest’ or ‘penalty interest,’” adding that “they prefer to speak of the so-called custody fee.”

While noting that more banks are charging their business and corporate customers negative interest rates than they do private customers, Biallo emphasized that “This year alone, more than 150 banks and savings banks introduced negative interest rates for private customers.” Each bank sets its own terms regarding which accounts are charged negative interest rates, with the most common type of accounts being those with balances above 100,000 euros ($118,353). Most banks also apply negative interest rates to new accounts as German law requires customers’ consent for imposing negative interest rates on existing accounts.

Among global banks on the Biallo’s negative rate list are Comdirect, Commerzbank, DAB BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, DKB, Donner und Reuschel, Ethikbank, Fidor Bank, Flatex Bank, GLS Bank, ING, Norisbank, and Postbank. Most of them apply a -0.5% interest rate on accounts with balances over differing amounts.

Other banks on the Biallo list include Bank 1 Saar, Berliner Sparkasse, Brandenburger Bank, Bremische Volksbank, Eckernförder Bank, Erfurter Bank, Kasseler Sparkasse, Münchner Bank, Raiffeisenbank Eifeltor, Sparkasse Aachen, Sparkasse Landshut and more. Bank 1 Saar charges -0.75% on accounts over 100,000 euros — the highest penalty rate charged by any bank.