Japan’s long-suffering savers have put up with virtually zero interest for years, but at least their bank accounts have remained free. That may change as speculation for further monetary stimulus mounts.
Lenders could begin imposing maintenance fees for retail deposit account holders if
the Bank of Japan deepens negative interest rates from minus 0.1 percent, according to JPMorgan Chase analyst Rie Nishihara. A central bank board member warned that banks may have to consider such a change.
While such fees are commonly charged in markets such as the US, Japanese banks have long felt obliged to avoid punishing people for parking their money in accounts.
“So far it’s taboo, but if a further rate cut happens, I expect at least a discussion of charging deposit account fees to happen,” Nishihara said.
Since negative rates were introduced in 2016, Japanese bank shares have languished as their lending profitability dwindles. Nishihara estimates another rate reduction could wipe out $4.6 billion of bank profits, though lenders could make up 300 billion yen if they charge 1,000 yen per account annually.