Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bank account for everyone

In Germany, you need a checking account to pay rent and other bills, or get your paycheck. Yet homeless people and asylum seekers are not welcome at banks. New legislation is intended to change all that. In future, banks will no longer be able to reject someone who wants to open a basic bank account. When the government passes its new law, all German banks will be obliged to accept the homeless and asylum seekers as customers. A million people affected. According to Germany's Ministry of Finance, more than a million people would benefit from the basic account. Consumer protection groups estimate a significantly higher number and assume that up to three million people do not have access to a basic bank account. In Germany, there has only been a voluntary obligation for banks to set up accounts for everyone. The government was, however, not satisfied with the implementation. Until now, the homeless and asylum seekers have only been accepted by some savings banks and credit unions. According to the bill, bearers of the basic bank account will receive a bank card and will be able withdraw money and transfer funds. But they cannot overdraw the account. Some politicians criticize the fact that a fee exemption, or at least a cap on fees, is not envisaged in the draft law. A basic payment account should be free of charge – there are demands to reach a consensus on this point before the law is adopted. The law is slated to take effect in June, 2016. Deutsche Welle Photo