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FAQs - Personal finance


These questions were put to and answered by a European consumer advice service. Do you have questions of your own? Contact your local European Consumer Centre.

Opening a bank account

  • While surfing on the web, I found an offer for current accounts with a bank in France. What are the advantages of opening a current account in another EU country? What are the risks?

    As an EU resident, you can buy products and services from anywhere in the EU. However, banks are free to decide if they will give you a bank account.

    You should pay close attention to what having a bank account abroad will mean for you in practice. For example, some employers may insist that you have a local bank account into which they can pay your salary. Or the French bank you are interested in may insist that you have a local address.

    You may need to come to the bank in person to open a bank account, in order to prove your identity. Some common bank transactions may take longer if your account is based abroad, and it may be more difficult for you to file a complaint.

Day-to-day banking

  • How much will I be charged if I transfer money from my account to an account in another EU country?

    You cannot be charged more for transferring money to an account in another EU country than you would be for a transfer between two accounts in your own country.

    Charges for different payments do vary between institutions. The only legal requirement is that the charge for a transfer to another EU country must not be more than the domestic charge for the same type of transfer (provided the amount transferred is less than 50 000 euros).

  • I live in Belgium and want to buy a washing machine from a German seller. Will I have to pay bank charges if I pay by bank transfer?

    For an amount less than 50 000 euros, an international bank transfer in euros within the EU will not cost you more than a transfer between two bank accounts in the same country.

    Your bank transfer to the German seller will therefore not cost you any more than if you were making the payment to a bank account in Belgium. Make sure you give your bank the BIC and IBAN codes for the seller's bank account. You might have to pay extra charges if you do not.

  • I withdrew 100 pounds from an ATM in the United Kingdom while on holiday there. My latest bank statement shows that I was charged for that withdrawal. Is that legal?

    YES - If you withdraw a currency other than euros, the banks involved in the transaction may charge you.

    When you withdraw euros in another EU country, the bank cannot charge more than it would if you were making these transactions in your own country.

  • My company's private pension scheme is operated by a pension fund in another EU country. Will my retirement benefits be protected?

    YES - Companies can use the advantages of the EU single market to set up pension funds in another EU country. This could lead to cost savings for your company and potentially higher retirement benefits for you.

    Pension funds, whether located in your country or in another EU country, have to follow strict prudential rules to ensure a high degree of security. EU investment rules, for example, require pension funds to invest your money in your best interest.

  • What charges will I pay when I use an ATM abroad?

    If you have a bank account denominated in euros and use an ATM to take out euros in another EU country, you will not pay any more than you would to take out money in your home country.

    If you take out non-euro currency (Danish kroner, British pounds, etc.) from an ATM, you will have to pay extra charges.

Credits, loans and mortgages

  • My wife and I want to buy a house in Belgium, where her work is based.  However, her bank won't consider my salary in assessing our mortgage application (my job is based in France).  Isn't that a case of illegal discrimination?

    Banks in the EU will make a commercial decision on whether or not to accept your mortgage application, on the basis of the risk profile of the proposed loan.

    Banks may not discriminate against any EU citizens on grounds of nationality.  However, your country of residence, source or income or the location of the property to be mortgaged can often make it difficult to obtain a mortgage if they are not all in the same country.

Insurance

  • I bought title insurance when I bought a house abroad. In my home country, title insurance covers legal costs in the event of problems with recognition of ownership. The insurance contract of my new house does not contain any specific terms on legal expenses – are they included?

    NOT NECESSARILY - In many EU countries, title insurance and legal-expenses insurance are considered separate. You may need to take out separate insurance to cover legal expenses.

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