How can I go cashless

Payment by card instead of cash can run into money

Cashless payments in the supermarket or restaurant have become more important during the Corona crisis. But that can cost money, as Stiftung Warentest reports in the current “Finanztest”.

In an evaluation of 294 account models from 125 credit institutions in Germany, 55 models were found in which fees are due for each payment with the Girocard (EC card) - sometimes up to 50 cents. “These fees were already in place before the outbreak of the corona pandemic. However, they were hardly noticed because many people paid cash, ”says“ Finanztest ”expert Heike Nicodemus.

According to studies, the corona crisis has given card payments a boost. For example, in a YouGov survey published at the beginning of July, 35 percent of consumers said they had paid less cash in shops since the beginning of the pandemic to protect against possible infection. Because of the pandemic, retail chains, restaurants and shops are increasingly offering card payments instead of cash.

"Basically, we have been seeing a trend towards more and increasingly higher fees for services for years," said Nicodemus of the German Press Agency. “The extra service can be expensive. The banks want customers to do as much as possible themselves. ”The testers evaluated 294 account models from 125 banks in Germany. Including all nationwide finance houses as well as direct and church banks, all Sparda and PSD banks as well as the largest savings banks and Volks- and Raiffeisenbank in each federal state.

Low interest rates and the cost of stricter regulation are putting the finance houses under pressure. If banks park funds at the European Central Bank (ECB), they also have to pay 0.5 percent penalty interest. Even if there are now tax exemptions for certain sums, the industry is complaining of billions. The credit institutions are therefore putting the brakes on costs. The number of branches has been falling for years. According to the Deutsche Bundesbank, their number decreased by 1220 or 4.4 percent to 26,667 branches in the past year alone.

At the same time, the institutes are turning the charge screw. Often it is paper transfers, calls to the telephone service or withdrawing money from an ATM that does not belong to the pool of the customer bank. According to the information, some of the financial institutions evaluated charge up to 5 euros for a paper transfer. Withdrawing money from the ATM of another bank can cost up to 6 euros.

The greatest chances of getting a free checking account are with online versions. The testers currently found 20 online salary accounts that are free of charge without any further conditions. However, for most of them there is an additional annual fee for the credit card. Services such as calls to the telephone service or paper transfers usually cost extra here as well.

Stiftung Warentest defines free as: No basic fee, no fee for the account statement, for bookings, for the Girocard and when withdrawing money from the machine in its own bank pool and no conditions such as regular receipt of money and salary in a certain amount.

"In addition to the 20 free current accounts, we found 71 account models that cost up to 60 euros a year," said Nicodemus. “From our point of view, this sum is okay. It doesn't always have to be free, after all, there is a service behind it. "

Every consumer has to decide which account model is right for him. “Not everyone has access to the Internet and not everyone wants to do online banking.” Consumers should definitely check the annual fee statement carefully. “There you can see what is driving the costs up,” recommends the “financial test” expert.

According to a survey published on Monday by the consulting firm PwC, three quarters of all private banking transactions in Germany are now conducted online. Two years ago the proportion was around 71 percent. PwC attributed the increase to the corona pandemic, among other things. 15 percent of those surveyed said that due to the pandemic, they carried out their banking transactions online more often than before.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200817-99-192158 / 4