11.06 Things I Hate About Sparkasse
Before I learned what Sparkasse really meant, I thought it sounded like a derogatory name used to describe humans’ robot peers in a future where cyborgs live among us. As in, “Hey you, get your rusty sparkasse off my lawn.” Or, “I can’t believe we lost our jobs to sparkasses. What’s the world coming to? Having blood flowing through your veins used to mean something.” Or, “No daughter of mine is dating a sparkasse!” “I hate you Dad! He feels more feelings than you ever have in your life! Let’s get out of here, RTX8834.”
Well, much to my dismay, Sparkasse turned out to be nothing more than the name of one of Germany’s more ubiquitous banks. And a logical name at that, directly translated to mean “savings bank”. As fortune would have it, I was set up with a Sparkasse account, as part of the program I am in, after only seven short weeks of being in Germany. If I had known what “spar” and “Kasse” meant at the time I was issued the account, I might have questioned the logic of opening a savings account in a foreign country in which I only intend to live for one year. Nevertheless, it all started out smoothly enough (aside from the seven weeks of waiting), and I took comfort in knowing that Sparkasse locations and ATMs can be found everywhere in Germany.
My first tiff with Sparkasse was back in the first week of October, when I attempted to pay my matriculation fees at the University Duisburg-Essen. The cost to matriculate was €221.35. I had €220.00 in my Sparkasse account. The only way a student is permitted to matriculate is by paying a bank directly, which then wires the funds to the university’s account. So all I had to do was deposit €1.35 and I’d be good to go. I went straight to my local Sparkasse Duisburg and confidently handed a bank teller my matriculation form, my bank card, and €1.35 of cold, hard cash. She took one look at my bank card and told me I was not permitted to deposit money into my account without paying a €10.00 fee. I asked why, and she explained that because my account is from the Sparkasse Singen-Radolfzell, I am only supposed to deposit money into my account at the physical locations back in my corner of the good old Bodensee. Rather than traveling 544 kilometers to my branch, I paid ten Euros in order to deposit one Euro and thirty-five cents.
For the two months that followed that goofy shortcoming, Sparkasse kept me satisfied with their many ATM locations. This was assisted by the fact that I opened a different bank account across the street from my local Sparkasse at the Deutsche Bank, for the sole purpose of depositing the coins I’d accumulated playing music in the street. On Thursday, however, Sparkasse fell back out of my favor when, upon my requesting an account balance, the machine also printed out this:
That’s €3.00 just for merely having an account, €1.75 for taking money out of Sparkasse ATMs, €2.45 for debits, €1.40 for payments with card (not sure how that differs from debits), €2.10 for, as I understand it, having had my stipend deposited into my account, and €0.36 for having checked my balance, all over the last two months.
€11.06 may not seem like much but, when you consider the fact that that’s about 5% of the maximum balance this account ever sees, you may begin to wonder why I have a German savings account in the first place.