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In 2011 I spent a few months in Berlin and opened an account with Berliner Sparkasse. I left the country (returned to the UK) but neglected to close the account (every interaction with the bank involved stretching my very weak German in person, and I had other things on my mind at the time). I've never heard from them since (but it's possible they tried to contact me at my Berlin flatshare; I'm not sure if I ever gave them my UK address).

The account had some sort of monthly charge, so presumably eventually 'ran dry' of the (fairly small) amount left in it when I left. I don't know if that charge could have put it into overdraft. Should I try to get in contact and find out what happened? Is this likely to cause me any trouble if I ever want to live in Germany again? Could it come back to bite me in the UK?

  • The best bet is to contact the bank and to resolve the problem, especially if you don't want to hurt your credit history in Germany. That's a civil matter, not a criminal one, but still trouble. Seven years. 80 months. The monthly charges would differ on your account type (online-only is cheaper, etc.) and a few years ago they changed their fee structure. It seems they actually tried to suggest the best new account to each customer. You might be charged as little as €2/month now, but even that adds up. If there were standing orders failing month after month, the fees might be much higher. – o.m. Jul 11 '18 at 18:00
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Just call them. They will speak English on the phone - that should be an absolute standard for German bank.

Best case they will waive your open fees and retroactively close the account, and worst case they tell you how much you owe and close the account now.

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You owe money to a bank in Germany (via a presumably unauthorised overdraft). The charges, both the regular banking 'relationship charges' and the penalty charges, will keep growing and if these continue to go unpaid, it will of course have consequences. You agreed to these terms when you opened the account and now, in the eyes of the law, you're stealing from them.

Contact the bank immediately and settle the accounts.

An example consequence, beyond debt collectors being involved, is if you want to lease an apartment in Germany in the future. Any credit check done will reflect badly on you.

Another facet is that many banks have higher non-resident fees for non-resident account holders. If you left Germany some time ago, the amount you rightfully owe may be even higher.

Finally, consider that after Brexit, there is a possibility that a visa will be required to enter Germany as a UK National. These unpaid debts may be considered in such an application.

  • 1
    "Another facet is that many banks have higher non-resident fees for non-resident account holders." I'm not sure this part is true. This would mean a discrimination of EU citizens and I don't think it would be legal in the EU. Also in practical terms, I've been in this situation and didn't have to pay additional fees. – user71455 Jul 11 '18 at 18:33
  • @385703 - Residence still maters within the EU. Consider phone contracts - I coudn't keep my UK phone contract for roaming if I'm defined as resident in Germany. Of course the policy changes by bank and country. – Conrad Jul 12 '18 at 10:01

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