I recently moved to Germany, and I was shocked to discover that almost all of the credit unions (Kreditvereine) and banks here charge a fee just for me to give them my money. Why?
Background: I'm from the US. In my country, there's about 2,000 credit unions that are members of CO-OP Financial Services. Every credit union I've ever joined charges a one-time fee of $5, and the account is free forever (Kostenloses Girokonto) after that.
These credit unions are, by definition, owned by their members. So, of course, the members vote to not have to pay monthly or yearly fees. And why should they? They're non-profits that can easily exceed their expenses by reinvesting their member's fluid assets (usually in micro loans that benefit the local community and bring them revenue).
When I arrived to Germany (which is actually the birth place of the idea of credit unions), I found that almost 100% of the banks here charge a fee just to have an account with them (with few exceptions for students and minors and some fintech banks). Many have fees to use ATMs or just to withdrawl cash from a brick-and-mortar. It's insane!
My understanding is that the most popular credit unions in Germany are
My question is: why do Germans allow their credit unions to charge them these fees? Why wouldn't they just vote to eliminate these fees?