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Economy

Back to Big Profits: Fees Now Propelling 60% of Greek Banks Commissions

ATHENS – Propped up by €50 billion ($54.22 billion) in state bailouts during a long economic and austerity crisis, and now rid of a mountain of bad loans sold off to collection agencies, Greece’s banks are rolling in money, aided by fees paid by customers.

These fees encompass loans, payments, card transactions, and the cost of using ATMs, as well as bank-favorable exchange rates on currencies, as tourists and travelers withdraw money from their home banks.

The institutions reported that about 60% of the commissions come from these areas and had increased by 17.5% in the last two years, raking in some €1.8 billion ($1.95 billion), while the Big Four banks gained €477 million ($517.4 million) more just in the first three months of 2024.

After being fined over fees and attempting to limit competition to make even more money, banks in January switched to fixed monthly charges instead of specific charges per transaction, although those are still applied for ATM withdrawals.

The packages now also include transactions that were previously provided for free, such as transferring money via the IRIS service, participating in reward programs using a debit card, or receiving notifications via text message for purchases at stores.

The banks are charging from 60 cents to €10 ($10.85) per month depending on the institution, account usage, and number of transactions, as they seek ways to keep revenue flowing in and prevent customers from becoming even more disgruntled.

They are also experiencing an increase in revenues from asset management and taking a bigger role in wealth management for affluent customers, those who do not conceal their money in secret foreign bank accounts to evade taxes.

Revenue from card transactions is yielding significant profits even though banks have outsourced the business of accepting cards and managing Point-of-Service (POS) terminals to third-party providers.

Commission revenues of Greek banks in 2023 accounted for approximately 16.8% of their revenues, and they anticipate a steady increase toward approaching the European Union average, which reached 28.1% in 2023.

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