Whose Banks are Better?

Published 2012-02-21 11:16:41

Trying to open a bank account is difficult. Trying to open one in a foreign country is extremely difficult. Trying to open an account when you don't speak the language can be outright crazy.

We tried to pick the best German bank for us and think we did... ok. Understanding the terms is no easy feat and now that we've succeeded in opening one, I see both positives and negatives compared to our American bank. 

 The Good:

  •  No checks! That outmoded way of payment is unheard of in Germany.
  • Wide range of options like banking online.
  • Low risk. You can trust that the terms are just as stated in the contract with few hidden charges.

The Bad:

  •  With the many options, banks may charge a price. Online banking, debit cards, etc may be an additional fee.
  • Transfers can be SLOWWWWWW. Waiting days for transfers between accounts is infuriating.
  • Typical German customer support leaves a lot to be desired from an American perspective. In addition, you pay per minute for any customer support. 

One of the most difficult things is to know if what you're experiencing is unusual or not. A recent article from NPR confirms that I am not the only one hankering for some American bank features.

"I'm an American expat living in Argentina for the last six years and I can assure you, the American banking system is wonderful! Here are just a few anecdotes of what ordinary people have to put up with when they bank here in Argentina:

  • Think your credit card interest rate is too high? Mine is 66.29%.
  • Does your bank close early or doesn't open on Saturdays? Banks in Argentina are open just five hours daily from 10 AM to 3 PM. And forget about Saturdays. Monday through Friday only.
  • To open an account you have to bring in your photo ID, proof of address (a utility bill), and a copy of your salary receipt. Then they photocopy everything, send it to the central office, and within 1-2 weeks they'll let you know if you've been approved for an account. When I open an account in the US, I go with my drivers license and within 15 minutes I'm out of there and with a free toaster to boot.
  • There is a 0.6% tax on all bank movements! When my company pays my $1000 salary into my bank account and then I pay my rent for $1000, I get taxed twice for $6 each time. Every single transaction generates a 0.6% tax.
  • The government can take funds from your account at any time, and without a court order. What's worse is that people here don't seem to think that is weird."

Whew! Makes me feel better about my situation. Anyone else have some horror stories out there? Or does anyone have an adopted country with banking practices far superior to the good 'ole US of A?



Author: texkourgan
Expat Content Editor

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