Do you think you pay the bank a lot on your bill? See the comparator of the Bank of Portugal

Comparing commissions charged by bank accounts is now simpler. The Bank of Portugal will make available a commission comparator available from this month that is available online via the website of the regulator or the Banking Client Portal.

This tool "compares the costs associated with the most relevant services that institutions offer and are linked to a payment account," says Maria Lúcia Leitão, director of the Bank of Portugal's Behavioral Supervision department, in comments to journalists.

Here you will find information about 93 committees, which ensure an "exhaustive comparison of the various services", says the responsible person. Even because the logic is universal: "All institutions that make these services available are obliged to report information to this comparator," says Banco de Portugal (BdP) in a statement. That means almost 200 institutions, including banks, economic and agricultural savings banks and specialized consumer credit institutions.

The information was already available in the prices of the banks. But now it becomes accessible to the public in a "processed, simple and harmonized" way, says Maria Lúcia Leitão. This allows you to compare prices very easily and quickly. In order to allow a comparison, the BdP has carried out a work to identify the names used by each bank or institution to designate each service and to harmonize the associated costs, which are the definitions set out in the Directive for each country. So far, the diversity was very large, which made the task of every consumer who wanted to compare prices on a mission (almost) impossible.

Which prices can you compare? Firstly, the maintenance committee of a payment account with simple features (for example a blocked account that is not linked to other products or services); or the account maintenance committee (accounts registered with other products and / or services, where the account maintenance committee pays the relevant package).

But also commissions for offering credit or debit cards (including private credit cards, that is, they can only be used in certain commercial spaces or in a range of goods and services); the costs of collecting cash; the amount charged for prepayment; claim and delivery of checks; transfers; and permanent orders (ie regular transfers of a lump sum).

Select the lowest prices

This instrument, which receives information from all institutions subject to supervision by the Bank of Portugal, makes it possible to compare the annual maximum commissions required as compensation for the provision of services per institution or per service. That is, the highest costs that the customer can be charged (final price, all inclusive of tax). And it distinguishes the available marketing channels. Even because "there are many services where the price per channel is different," says Maria Lúcia Leitão. For example, transfers or checks.

When a customer selects a number of services to compare (up to a maximum of three at a time), the comparator returns the available information per institution. And the consumer can order on a commission basis, from the lowest to the highest and vice versa. This allows an immediate reading of the cheaper and more expensive options.

Then it is possible to create, print or save a version in a PDF document. Or export the information to an Excel document that needs to be worked on.

In addition to the comparator, BOP offers a self-study on the use of this tool, a glossary for people who are less familiar with the terminology used by financial institutions and a series of frequently asked questions.

The information is constantly updated and the indication of the BOP is zero tolerance for institutions that do not adhere to the information disclosure.

Bank customers strengthen rights

This comparator is part of the work to transpose the European directive on payment accounts, in a context of a very significant expansion of the rights of bank customers in recent years, says Maria Lúcia Leitão. It broadens the information that the BOP has already provided on commissions related to maintaining the minimum bank service account and maintaining the basic account (since May 2017) on a much broader range of services.

The BOP went beyond what was provided in the guideline, "including more extensive information" in the comparator, says Maria Lúcia Leitão. This is the case, for example, for the parcel accounts that are most often provided by the institutions, or bank cards that "may have separate associated services", which consumers must check in the price lists. But with these exceptions: "the criteria were set for direct comparison."

"As far as I know, the first comparator is available at the European level", says Maria Lúcia Leitão. And it does not exclude that this tool can be extended to other types of banking services, in addition to those for payment accounts. But "now we are consolidating this initiative, which is the result of years of collaboration with the institutions," he concludes.

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