German banks are unhappy with the ECB's negative rates / © AFP
A German bank has made headlines with a negative interest rate on savings accounts from the very first euro cent, adding fuel to the fire of European Central Bank criticism in the eurozone's largest economy.
The Raiffeisen cooperative bank in Fuerstenfeldbruck, near Munich, will levy the -0.5 percent rate on even the smallest deposits in its savings accounts, its website said Tuesday when checked by AFP.
That is the same rate as the ECB charges lenders when they park cash above a certain amount in Frankfurt.
Among former ECB chief Mario Draghi's final decisions in September was cutting the deposit rate further into negative territory.
The move earned him the title of "Count Draghila" from mass-market daily Bild, which depicted the Italian economist with vampire fangs "sucking our accounts dry".
In fact, German savings banks had until recently shrunk back from passing on the negative rates to depositors with less than 100,000 euros, price comparison website Verivox said.
But that "psychological barrier" was broken when a bank in Magdeburg began levying the charge on accounts above 75,000 euros, it added.
Customers' current accounts are not affected by the negative rates.
German banks have been among the hardest hit by ECB negative rates, as many savers leave their cash piles in bank accounts, rather than seeking out more profitable investments.
"Our margins are getting smaller all the time," Bavarian Sparkasse savings bank president Ulrich Netzer told news agency DPA Tuesday.
With the economy cooling off -- risking more borrowers falling behind on repayments -- "our room to manoeuvre and make sufficient profits is being hemmed in", he added.
Even though policymakers agreed in September to exempt some of banks' deposits in Frankfurt from the charges, the trend towards passing them on to customers has not slowed.
So far, mostly business clients have been affected.
Major private banks have been less quick to pass on the negative rates to customers than German savings banks.
"We don't plan to pass on negative rates to our millions of customers," a Commerzbank spokeswoman told AFP Tuesday.
But the lender "is in talks with customers with very large deposits to redeploy them into other forms of investment," she added.
On Monday, the Bundesbank (German central bank) said in its monthly report that around 23 percent of all banks were passing on negative rates to at least some depositors.