Banks collect up to 70 cents for cashless payments

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Girocard with NFC symbol.

Photo: Imago Images / Mario Hösel

BerlinIt is a side effect of the corona crisis. For some weeks now, more customers have been paying at the checkout with cards or smartphones and less frequently with cash than usual. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that many supermarket chains ask their customers to pay without cash in order to minimize the transmission of Covid 19 infections. But the demand for contactless payment options is also increasing among customers themselves.

According to a recent survey by the digital association Bitkom among 1003 people aged 16 and over, three quarters of those surveyed are currently trying to avoid cash payments as often as possible. Seven out of ten respondents (71 percent) also want more options to be able to make contactless payments – that is, they don’t even have to give up their Girocard or credit card and be able to pay by radio.

“It is kept secret that cashless payments can become really expensive and a cost trap for many customers that becomes visible only when the pay is settled,” explains Harald Olschok, managing director of the Federal Association of German Money and Valuable Services (BDGW).

A survey carried out by the financial portal Biallo in May showed that almost half of all savings banks and Volksbanks in Germany charge fees for paying with Girocard. On average, the institutes charge 34 cents per payment transaction. The Berliner Sparkasse, for example, charges 30 cents, whereas at the Berliner Volksbank, payment transactions are free, unlike many other regional Volksbanks. The Niederrheinische Sparkasse Rhein-Lippe charges the highest fees at 70 cents per use of the card.

Extrapolated over a year can already amount to a decent amount. Assuming that the Girocard is used only once a day for a contactless payment process, this makes almost 110 euros per year for an average of 34 cents per item.

This is how contactless payment works

Via radio connection: Contactless payment is possible with all Girocards and credit cards that have an NFC chip. You can also make contactless payments with a smartphone. This then only has to be held a few centimeters in front of the payment terminal. The transfer is then carried out automatically via the NFC radio link.

Via interface: Retailers must integrate this technology so that customers can make contactless payments. According to the German Trade Association, around 85 percent of dealers in Germany have integrated this interface. Customers can recognize whether the supermarket or the clothing store offers the process by a small wave symbol at the payment terminal.

Whether fees of this type are charged depends on the account model. These are often estimated in otherwise free basic accounts. For accounts with a higher monthly account management fee, these costs are at least not incurred.

“It is fatal that in most cases this fee is not shown anywhere,” says the Biallo evaluation. The information on this is not explicitly listed, concrete answers can only be obtained by asking. “Bank customers should always be suspicious if prices for” paperless bookings “are shown somewhere on the website,” advises the finance portal. This could also include payment transactions.

“The approach of these institutes is not understandable,” emphasizes Olschok from the BDGW and criticizes the pricing policy as “untrustworthy”. Niels Nauhauser from the Baden-Württemberg Consumer Advice Center told Biallo: “When the banks in Corona times generally call for more cashless payments to protect themselves and others, the call is of course not as unselfish as it comes across.” While banks do not earn anything from cash payments, they can earn money with every card payment.

But there are also institutes that handle the fees transparently. For example, prices at the Berliner Sparkasse are listed individually. Under the “Bookings” item, customers will find the item “Credit notes and direct debits including card payments”, which has been awarded 30 cents.

Direct banks still offer accounts with no basic fee

For consumers, this still means that if you want to pay more contactlessly in the future, you should take this into account when choosing your account and possibly consider switching accounts if the house bank charges fees.

Free current accounts, which do not incur any fees for card payments, are still available. Most direct banks offer accounts without a basic fee because the purely online banks do not offer a branch service and therefore do not have to finance it. If you value a branch and personal advice, you have to pay for it.

But be careful: if low cost is important, you should definitely take a look at the price list for the free current account. Because even if the institute does not charge any basic fees, fees may apply. And the banks are taking more opportunities to collect them than is the case with contactless payment. Other items can include transfer fees, above average high interest rates or fees for cash withdrawals abroad. Most accounts also stay free only if a certain amount of salary is received monthly.

When choosing an account, personal usage is always important. Are you often traveling abroad? Then an account would be cheap, which charges little money when withdrawing money abroad. Will it be necessary to temporarily overdraw the account more often? Then the preference should be a low overdraft facility. And if you want to use cash at the supermarket checkout less in the future, it can be worthwhile to go to a bank that does not charge any fees for individual payment processes.

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