Monday, 16 January 2017

Off-Topic: A Tale of two Banks

Over the last few years I've kept my off-topic posts to a minimum. This is a film blog, and it's meant to be about films. The only time I ever posted a lot of off-topic posts was in November 2013. Two events fell together. It was the murder trial for my friend Brian Farmer and the world chess championship. I gave daily reports on both topics, which led to my film reviews being in the minority. In the following years I haven't reported on the chess world championships. I believe I gave top quality reviews of the games in 2013, ideal reading for chess players with medium playing ability, but my posts went unread. I'm sure they would have been popular if people had discovered them, but a film blog isn't the place people usually look for posts about chess matches. Fortunately, I haven't visited any murder trials since 2013. This means my off-topic posts are few and far between. However, I feel that I deserve to let off an occasional rant.

In July 2016 I came to Germany to live with my family. The bank in the picture above, the Kreissparkasse Ludwigsburg, is opposite the house. All of my family had accounts with the bank. One of the first things I did on arriving was to visit the bank to open an account. I was told that I needed to make an appointment to open an account. No problem. The friendly man at the counter checked his computer, and then he gave me an appointment 10 days later. Ten days? I was already quivering with rage at having to wait so long, but I reacted politely, made a note of the appointment and returned home. The first thing I did was sit at my computer and check other banks. I found a bank which promised immediate acceptance of online applications, the Consors Bank in Nuremberg. As things turned out there was a two-day delay because I wasn't a German, but it was still eight days faster than the Kreissparkasse.

It wasn't until days later that I realised what a lucky escape I'd had. Not only does the Kreissparkasse Ludwigsburg have shitty customer service, it also charges horrendous fees. The Kreissparkasse charges 2 Euros per month standing fee. It charges an additional 25 cents for every transaction. A credit card costs 30 Euros per year. A debit card is free, but each transaction costs 25 cents.

Compare that with the Consors Bank. No monthly fee. No transaction charges. Credit cards and debit cards are both free. Every time I use my debit card I'm paid 10 cents by the bank. 10 cents might not seem much, but I use my card about 40 times a month. I just checked my bank statement for December:

Card used: 48 times
Payments received: 2
Cash withdrawn: 2 times

This resulted in a payment of 4.80 Euros. If I'd been with the Kreissparkasse I would have been charged 15 Euros (52 transactions x 0.25 plus 2 Euros monthly fee). That means I made a profit of 19.80 Euros by using a good bank. If my spending habits don't change I'll save about 240 Euros in a year.

If the Kreissparkasse Ludwigsburg is so bad, why do so many people use it? I asked my family members, and they all gave me the same answer. They didn't know that banks charge differently; they assumed they're all the same. The Kreissparkasse Ludwigsburg profits from the ignorance of its customers. If it hadn't been for their bad customer service I would have fallen into the same trap. But now it's time for a change. My daughter Gillian has already changed banks. She's with the Consors Bank like me. My other family members are considering changing, as soon as they're sure that there won't be any problems with their standing payments.

If you're one of my German readers, I hope you'll sit down and compare your bank with the Consors Bank. If you have a good bank already, congratulations. If not, change banks as quickly as possible. Unless, of course, you're so rich that you don't care about earning an extra 240 Euros a year.

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