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Things An American Can't Do In Germany: Open An Account with Fidelity

We've had an ongoing problem with our finances the past few years. Our lifestyle just hasn't been keeping pace with our (or, more correctly, her) income. We can't manage to spend the money that comes in during a normal month, much less keep up with the bonuses and stock options that seem to regularly turn up. Our bank has been of some help, but it hasn't been enough. So this summer when yet another bonus arrived, we decided to enlist the services of German branch of Fidelity Investments for help.

We had had an account with Fidelity several years ago. One very handy thing about it was that Fidelity accepted US checks without charging any fee. At the time we still had an American bank account to pay off our last American debts, and had had some bad experiences with wire transfers. One time a thousand dollar transfer to Minnesota was lost for over 6 months; it turned out it had gotten stuck in St. Louis and noone noticed. Our Fidelity account had been closed for awhile, since we had closed all unnecessary accounts in 1999 in preparation for Mama's year-long unpaid maternity leave, so we had to reapply for an account. So we filled out application and had our identities certified by the local post office (which took over half an hour, since we had a novice clerk and I had to explain where to find the necessary data in my foreign passport).

A week later we received a letter rejecting our account. Fidelity Deutschland cannot do business with "US persons", namely me. In fact, they said they should have never opened the original accounts (which they still had on file). Back then they didn't use PostIdent, they just took our money. Sure enough, on the last page of the Terms and Conditions was a clause regarding not opening accounts for "US Persons". They suggested I open an account with Fidelity USA. However, to open an account with Fidelity USA you need an US address. So I guess expats can't do business with Fidelity, period.

So in the end Mama opened an account in her name only. It's her money anyway. The funny thing is, now they had two applications on file for us, and they ended up opening 2 accounts, one for each of us, and each with an automatic monthly investment. That was going a bit too far in solving our financial problem, and we just this week got that straightened out.

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