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June 9 (Reuters) – Some major Russian banks have started charging fees for dollar and euro accounts after authorities said they may consider imposing negative interest rates on foreign currency deposits, angering customers.
Russia was considering imposing negative rates on deposits held in US and European currencies to stimulate the use of other currencies, the central bank said last month, adding that the measure could target banks’ businesses, not the details.
But on Thursday, Russian online bank Tinkoff announced a 1% monthly fee for some foreign exchange accounts after its counterpart, the Russian unit of Raifeissen Bank International (RBIV.VI), promised negative interest rates on certain foreign currency assets from June 30.
Tinkoff, who offered exchange rate incentives to encourage Russians to transfer their foreign currency holdings into rubles, said the 1% service fee would be deducted monthly from accounts in dollars, euros, pounds and Swiss francs with a balance over $1,000, starting June 23. .
Raiffeisen said on Thursday it would raise foreign currency transfer fees, while Rosbank, which Societe Generale sold to a company linked to Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin in May, said it was considering charging fees on accounts in dollars and euros by the end of June.
After the bank’s statement, customers of Tinkoff, owned by TCS Group Holding (TCSq.L), complained about empty ATMs on a chatroom.
“So let’s get out some money, what are you freaks doing!” one user wrote shortly after the bank announced it would introduce the fee.
Tinkoff’s support responded to a Reuters reporter saying they regularly top up their ATMs but could not say for sure when money would be added to those that had emptied.
Uralsib Bank, one of Russia’s top 25 lenders, has also introduced a fee on euro-denominated accounts.
With their already limited hard currency liquidity, Russian banks have few options for investing in foreign currencies due to capital controls in Russia and the risk of funds being frozen abroad due to Western sanctions.
State Duma representative Yevgeny Fedorov told a Moscow radio station that the prosecutor general should review Tinkoff’s decision, saying the bank had no right to impose charges on the accounts existing without notifying customers.
“According to Russian law… If you own your funds, then no one has the right to take that ownership away from you,” he said. “When people made the deposit, they didn’t expect the bank to start withdrawing funds from them.”
Tinkoff said financial institutions were limited in their ability to hold foreign currency securely “in the current geopolitical situation” and said an insignificant number of customers held amounts over $1,000.
“This is a forced measure. It is due to the unreliability of foreign partners in terms of foreign exchange operations for Russia and is aimed at reducing Tinkoff Bank’s foreign currency positions,” the bank said in a statement. a statement.
“In the near future, we will be offering accounts in alternative currencies.”
Tinkoff said it would only be possible to open ruble savings accounts from June 23, but would waive commission for transfers through the global payment system SWIFT until June 30. .
A similar measure would soon be enacted for foreign currency held in brokerage accounts, Tinkoff said.
Reuters reporting; Editing by Alison Williams
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