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Ever since I've heard stories of people in the U.S. who (almost) emptied their accounts, I've feared of one day doing that too. I always make sure to have at least 100 EUR in each of my accounts. It goes like this: Someone takes everything but 5 USD out of their account. The bank says it's too low and charges them 20 USD. Their balance is now at -15 USD. The bank charges overdraft fees. After some time, their balance is at -16 USD. It's still too low. The bank charges them another 20 USD for having too low of a balance. Their balance is now at -36 USD. The bank charges overdraft fees again. Their balance is now at -38 USD. Etc. Even though they had a positive balance before this fee cascade started.

Are banks in the EU allowed to charge fees for having too low of a balance? I'm not asking about overdraft fees like 20% annually for how much below zero your balance is. I'm asking about either non-relative charges (like 20 EUR for having a balance below 100 EUR or below -1000 EUR) or charges for a balance that's low but not below zero (like 20 EUR if you hit zero or 20% of how much you are below 100 EUR).

If there is no EU-wide regulation, I'd take comfort in there being a Germany-wide law regarding this because I'm German and for the most part use German banks (one in Luxembourg).

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    Why don't you ask your banks? You haven't even stated which banks you use nor the type of account you hold with them so no one even has a chance at guessing how your bank operates. Read your ToS. – MonkeyZeus Jan 7 at 18:40
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    It seems like you're afraid because of hyped up and potentially inaccurate information on how overdraft fees work in the US. You can't be charged overdraft fees because of overdraft fees. And, you can opt out of overdraft "coverage" which means banks will just reject one time transactions that would have caused you to go negative in the first place. Overdraft is essentially a bank giving you a small, very high risk loan, without any chance to evaluate your creditworthiness first - so it makes sense that it's "expensive." – dwizum Jan 7 at 19:17
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    A quick google search about bank fees in Germany reveals that there are definitely banks in Germany that charge monthly fees if your balance is below a certain amount. This seems like an indirect way to answer your question of are minimum balance fees allowed - the answer seems to be yes, they are allowed (or, conversely, no - there is no EU-wide regulation that completely prevents them). – dwizum Jan 7 at 20:13
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    They would not necessarily put it like that, common language is that there is a (perfectly reasonable and difficult to dispute) fee for maintaining an account, which will be “waived” if your balance is over a certain limit. Same thing for credit card use. – Relaxed Jan 8 at 7:08
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    @dwizum: It doesn't help that "You can't be charged overdraft fees because of overdraft fees" because the name of the fee isn't particularly important. You can be charged other fees, such as a "sustained negative balance" fee, as a result of overdraft fees. – Ben Voigt Jan 8 at 21:33
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You asked,

Are banks in the EU allowed to charge fees for having too low of a balance? I'm not asking about overdraft fees like 20% annually for how much below zero your balance is. I'm asking about either non-relative charges (like 20 EUR for having a balance below 100 EUR or below -1000 EUR) or charges for a balance that's low but not below zero (like 20 EUR if you hit zero or 20% of how much you are below 100 EUR).

Googling reveals evidence that some banks in Germany do in fact charge low balance fees and others do not. These fees work in the way you're describing - a customer is charged a fixed fee if their balance is below a certain amount.

This evidence seems to indirectly answer your question - because these fees do exist, there must not be any EU-wide or German regulation preventing them.

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    Yeah, "9.90€ monthly fee if account balance is below 1200€, free otherwise." is exactly what I meant by "like 20 EUR for having a balance below 100 EUR" in my question. – UTF-8 Jan 7 at 20:40
  • because they do exist? Do you mean "because they do not exist" – MonkeyZeus Jan 7 at 20:46
  • @MonkeyZeus I meant, because the fees exist, there must not be a regulation preventing them. I'll see if I can edit to make that clear. – dwizum Jan 7 at 20:47
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    Oh I see now. English can certainly be confusing at times. Looks good now :) – MonkeyZeus Jan 7 at 20:50
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To complement dwizum's answer, in my experience, totally free accounts are uncommon in Europe. Every account I've had charges some small monthly or quarterly maintenance fee regardless of the balance.

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    Then you are going to the wrong bank(s). Mine is free. – Aganju Jan 8 at 2:02
  • @Aganju People keep asking about “Europe” but it does depend a lot on the country. I have never found an offer like that in the Netherlands. – Relaxed Jan 8 at 7:10
  • @Relaxed You can just use a bank of a different EU country. Remittances within the EU are free anyway and it seems to me that you speak English, so it shouldn't be a problem. – UTF-8 Jan 8 at 11:17
  • @UTF-8 That worked pretty great with Icesave. – Eric Jan 8 at 14:03
  • Can confirm. Also recently a lot of the banks that provided free accounts started adding small fees due to (they claim) the negative interest rates of the BCE; some of these waive those fees under certain conditions (e.g. if you get your salary as direct deposit on your account, or if you trade stocks or similar). – Giacomo Alzetta Jan 8 at 17:21

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