Immediate transfers at the Sparkasse: from account to account in seconds. The new service is not available everywhere – and it is sometimes quite expensive.

So far, it has been common in the banking industry to collect transfers and then process them in batches.  Since November, transfers from account to account within seconds have been technically possible in Europe.

Dhe savings banks in Germany have been offering a new service since Tuesday. If you want, you can use a so-called real-time transfer instead of the conventional transfer, the execution of which may take up to one working day according to EU regulations, where money arrives within a few seconds. The savings banks have given themselves a time window of 20 seconds by which the recipient should have received the money. Once an order has been placed, it can no longer be canceled. The maximum amount for these “instant payments”, the technical term, is 15,000 euros. Many, but not all, savings banks charge a higher fee for the new service, which they market as real-time transfers, than for conventional ones.

The German Savings Banks and Giro Association (DSGV) reported that on the first day of the new offer there had been around 10,000 real-time transfers by noon, mainly within Germany, but also, for example, to Spain, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands. The first real-time transfers have also arrived at German savings banks.

Offer does not start everywhere at the same time

Sparkasse Leipzig, for example, reported 77 real-time transfers by the afternoon of the first day, Nassauische Sparkasse in Wiesbaden 150, and Sparkasse Pforzheim Calw about 60 customers who “ticked the real-time transfer field” in their transfer order. A spokeswoman for the Sparkasse in Nuremberg said she did believe that many customers would look at the new offer and possibly use it when the next transfer is due: “It doesn’t have to be on the first day from 11 a.m.”

Apparently, the savings banks have not succeeded in actually starting the offer at the same time. A number of savings banks such as the Stadtsparkasse in Düsseldorf or the Kreissparkasse München Starnberg Ebersberg announced on request that they were not yet able to send real-time transfers. According to the DSGV, receiving such transfers is now possible at 384 of 385 savings banks in Germany, the only exception being Hamburger Sparkasse (Haspa).

Between 50 cents and 5 euros

Sparkasse customers can fall into a cost trap. Because the fees charged by the savings banks for real-time transfers are very different and in some cases are also different depending on the account model. A random comparison of around 40 institutes by FMH-Finanzberatung in Frankfurt comes to the conclusion that many savings banks charge around 50 cents per real-time transfer. But there are also institutes that do not charge any fees. Others resort to the formulation that there are at least no additional costs beyond the normal account management fees and transfer fees. Frankfurter Sparkasse announced: “The real-time transfer is a completely normal online payment order and free of charge in online banking or in the Sparkasse app for private accounts.” At Sparkasse Nürnberg it was said: “Additional costs arise for our customers not here. ”The Landessparkasse zu Oldenburg also stated:“ There are no additional costs for LzO customers when using real-time transfers compared to standard transfers. ”

On the other hand, Ostseesparkasse Rostock attracted attention on the news service Twitter because the institute had announced a fee of 5 euros per real-time transfer on its price notice on the Internet. The Sparkasse confirmed this fee on request. The Sparkasse Hannover takes at least 2 euros per real-time transfer. But these seem to be more of an exception, otherwise fees of up to one euro seem to be common. In any case, customers should be cautious here: their institutes have informed them of future costs in the past few months. Some institutes only offer free instant transfers for special account models.

Credit cards could become obsolete

Instant payments are not entirely new. Such solutions already exist in the Sepa area, which is significantly larger than the euro area – a look at the Scandinavian countries such as Denmark and Norway shows corresponding national solutions there. PayPal also offers this, but PayPal also bears the business risk if a transaction goes wrong.

But that also bodes well for banks: They could use it to regain market shares that were once lost if they compete with fintechs. It is doubtful whether this will work with this fee model. On the other hand, credit cards could disappear completely from the market since they are no longer necessary. On the other hand, Mastercard, Visa and Co. could offer other securities and services like instant electronic bills.