In Switzerland and France, the charges applied by financial institutions are widely available and transparent. However, you do need to know where to look for the information and how to interpret them. We decided to write this article to help you find your way!
Since 2019, the European Union’s financial bodies are obliged to provide a statement of fees, a document with information on charges for the main services they offer. This document must be transparent, reliable, understandable and publicly available (and not only to clients). This obligation applies not only to the traditional ‘high-street’ banks, but also to neo-banks.
The purpose of this document, which is standardised in terms of presentation and the services it should include, is to make the charges applied by a given bank public and transparent, thereby making it possible to compare the different players in the sector.
The document must be updated every time a change is made to the charges, generally at the beginning of each year. The internet would seem to be an ideal platform. We’ll come back to that, but we can fairly safely say that your bank does publish its service charges on its website. Finding them, though, is another matter.
What fees are generally published?
Brokers are often able to provide a staggering range of services. It would therefore be rather complicated, and probably completely useless, to publish all of the relevant charges. Not to mention a number of services whose cost varies depending on the risk involved, standing with the bank, etc. (mortgage, overdraft limit, etc.)
The charges that can be accessible are therefore for « the most representative services », in other words, those that are deemed to be the most important in the normal activity of the majority of clients. The list varies between banks and countries, but generally it includes:
- accessibility services (e-Banking, smartphone application, telephone banking, etc.),
- account administration/service fees,
- charges for debit accounts, accounts with overdraft facilities
- bank card services, at home or abroad (withdrawals, payments, deferred payments, insurance, etc.),
- transfer management (outgoing, incoming, SEPA, international, etc.),
- management of standing orders or direct debits,
- overdraft charges.
Warning! These are most often generic services. It is not unusual to find specific details in the small print. Always look out for * or (3), which often refer to supplementary information.
It is worth noting that there is no disclosure obligation on currency exchange activities. Consequently, transparency is rarely the order of the day for financial establishments when it comes to this type of transaction. Commissions are often variable.
So? Where do I find these costs?
Financial institutions are obliged to give access to a statement of fees document, to provide it to you on request, even prior to signing any contract whatsoever. Anyone who requests it should be able to receive the statement on a permanent medium. You may ask for it directly at your branch.
In most cases, for practical reasons, the fees are permanently available on your bank’s website. Google is definitely your friend in your quest for information.
If you search for: Fees Year Bank Region (e.g. Fees 2021 RBS UK) you will generally find what you need on the bank’s website, in PDF format for example.
You can also go to your bank’s website and enter « Fees » to see the current charges they apply.
What do I need to watch out for?
First of all, as we said earlier, a statement of fees won’t include all of the services that your bank offers. It’s not unusual to have to ask for more information from your adviser in the case of a more specific operation.
Secondly, in some countries, certain banks are organised by region (Banque Populaire or Crédit Agricole in France, cantonal banks in Switzerland). Each region can set its own charges, so it could be worth comparing different regions.
As we said earlier, the fees statement lists the generic charges applied by your financial establishment. It doesn’t take into account the specific conditions of your contract, or those that you may have negotiated with your adviser. Make sure you keep a record of any ‘special deals’ or exceptional conditions.
Finally, and this is the most sensitive issue, you need to read the small print. These are usually quite technical exceptions to the general conditions, and they can have a significant impact on your use of the different services. They also often provide room for negotiation.
What about b-sharpe?
Our currency exchange service charges are totally transparent and available on our website. Here’s the address: https://www.b-sharpe.com/en/pricing/
For any further information or explanation, feel free to contact our customer service department, who will be happy to explain how these fees are applied.