The Swiss postal bank Postfinance has complained about the ongoing negative interest rate environment for some time. The fact that Swiss laws governing competition in the marketplace have so far prevented the state-backed postal bank from entering the lucrative mortgage and personal loan markets has also been a point of complaint.
Now Postfinance is introducing a number of new fees which will take effect on January 1, 2019. These are the most important changes:
- Private accounts were previously provided without basic account fees to customers who held 7500 Swiss francs or more in assets at Postfinance. From 2019 these customers will have to pay the standard account fee of 5 francs per month (60 francs per year).
- The Private Account Plus was previously available with no basic account fee for customers who held assets worth 25,000 francs or more at Postfinance. From 2019, these customers will have to pay 5 francs per month (60 francs per year) for a Private Account Plus. The fee for customers which do not hold 25,000 francs at Postfinance will remain unchanged at 12 francs per month (144 francs per year).
- Exception: No basic account fees for both regular private accounts and Private Account Plus accounts will apply to customers who have purchased life insurance or a mortgage through Postfinance. Customers who have invested at least 25,000 francs through Postfinance investment products are also exempted from basic private account fees. Retirement funds and securities purchased through the Postfinance online trading platform also qualify as investment products.
- Paper account statements will cost 1 franc per monthly statement (including postage), or a total of 12 francs per year. This fee will apply to youth accounts and student accounts as well. Online statements will continue to be provided free of charge.
- Balance inquiries by telephone or at the till (with the exception of Postfinance card inquiries) will cost 4 francs per inquiry. Online statements will continue to be provided free of charge.
- Postfinance business account and association account holders will pay 30 francs per year for their first two Postfinance debit cards. Up until now, the first two debit cards were provided on a complimentary basis.
- Postfinance vested benefit accounts will have an account fee of 9 francs per quarter (36 francs per year). Up until now, Postfinance vested benefits accounts did not have account fees.
- A 200-franc fee will apply to early withdrawal of 3a retirement account assets for the purpose of purchasing a home.
How many customers are affected?
According to Postfinance, around 1 million customers will be affected by the new implementation of basic account fees for Postfinance private accounts. Of these, approximately 250,000 are holders of Private Account Plus accounts and around 700,000 are holders of regular private accounts. Around 700,000 Postfinance customers will be affected by the fee for paper account statements. Around 220,000 business customers will be affected by the new debit card fees.
How Postfinance compares to other banks
The new Postfinance fee schedules which will apply from January 1, 2019, have already been integrated into the moneyland.ch bank account comparisons. The comparisons show that Postfinance private accounts are no longer always the most affordable option for adults. That was the case in the past. However, for many types of customers, Postfinance private accounts are still amount the more affordable options. You can find out how Postfinance compares based on your specific needs using the private account comparison and the banking package comparison on moneyland.ch.
Postfinance services for business customers have also lost in competitiveness somewhat. The fact that Postfinance has tightened interest rates for business customers in recent years also plays a role. Less active Postfinance business customers – including those who hold relatively low amounts of assets in their accounts – have to deal with negative interest rates of -1% per annum.
Postfinance is even less competitive in other categories, including 3a accounts, savings accounts, vested benefits accounts and securities brokerage. Comparing these categories of services individually is important.
Verdict by moneyland.ch bank expert Benjamin Manz
The new fee increases will hit customer wallets hard. The move by Postfinance to introduce new fees is likely as much about sending a political signal as it is about generating additional revenue. For several years now, the postal bank’s stated goal has been to obtain permission to begin offering mortgages. Up until now, Postfinance has simply brokered mortgages from other banks.
The new fees also indicate that Postfinance is trying to motivate its customers to actively invest their assets. The fact that Postfinance will now waive private account fees for customers who invest 25,000 francs a year in its investment products makes that point fairly clear. The motivation behind this move is obvious: Postfinance earns more on investment products. But investing in stocks, mutual funds and other investment vehicles also poses risks for customers. Coming from a parastatal bank, this motivation is somewhat questionable. Another problem is that the costs of Postfinance securities brokerage services are average compared to other Swiss brokers.