Do you bank on service?

2012-04-21 13:48

We sent our new intern, Liziwe Ndalana, to do some field research on opening a bank account. Ndalana’s experience highlights how important service is to us as customers.

She was so impressed with Absa’s service she was nearly convinced to switch. However, price does matter in the end. We sent Ndalana to investigate which was the best bank for her needs.

Her mission was to ask as many questions as possible in order to fully understand the product and how much it would actually cost her.

We wanted to understand how easy or difficult it is for someone to get the information they need to make an informed decision. After going into Cape Town branches of Absa, Capitec, FNB, Nedbank and Standard Bank, these were her conclusions:

Absa Bank

Good service, expensive offering

The Absa consultant was friendly, patient and explained the products in detail, pausing to listen when I asked questions. It was an eye-opener to learn how much I was paying on my banking fees.

She also explained ways to prevent penalty fees and told me about fees that were not included in the brochure.

Even though I had waited nearly an hour to see a consultant, it was worth it.

Absa options based on my needs:
Transactor Account has no monthly fee but you pay per transaction. ATM withdrawals will cost you R3.85 per transaction; irrespective of the amount you withdraw. At till points you pay only R1.

Cheque account:
Absa offers a cheque account to people who earn R7 000 or more. You can choose to “pay as you use” or select a fixed fee of R89 that includes five Absa ATM transactions, five debit card purchases (swiping your card at a retail store), 10 electronic payments such as debit orders and money transfers.

ATM, cellphone and internet balance enquires are free. Internet transactions are free, but you are charged to register and maintain the account online.

Capitec Bank

The bank has a limited offering

The consultant was friendly and very knowledgeable of the product.

However, the bank didn’t have documentation such as brochures or online print-outs that would help me in case I needed more clarity when I was at home.

Capitec has a single bank offering for all its customers irrespective of their income. You “pay as you use” so there is no fixed fee offering.

This account pays a very high interest rate of 6% on balances under R10 000 and you can add four more savings accounts; so it is great for saving.

Capitec only offers personal loans, no home loans or car finance.

The global account does not provide any value-add services like rewards programme or funeral cover.

Capitec Global One Account fees:
R4.50 monthly fee
R3 per debit order
R3 per electronic transfer
R4 to withdraw from a Capitec account
R7 to withdraw from another bank’s ATM
R1 to do a “cash back” at Pick n Pay or Checkers

First National Bank

Unsatisfactory service, but a good offering

The consultant was unfriendly and showed little interest in explaining anything to me. I started out by asking questions and she reluctantly answered me. I asked her to make me printouts. She told me she was unable to and opened the website to show me the details. After pleading with her to print out the information for me, she eventually did.

But she was the only consultant who advised me to opt for a transactional account, which was cheaper than a cheque account.
She made it clear that, regardless of whether I had a cheque or smart account, I would still be able to apply for a home loan or car finance, provided I had a good credit record.

FNB options for my needs:
The Smart Transact Account is for people who earn R5 000 or more but who do not want a cheque account. You can opt for the pay-as-you-use option, but for people who make frequent transactions the fixed rate at R69 a month is the best as it covers all electronic transactions, including FNB ATM withdrawals.

The Gold Cheque Account is for people who earn more than R5 500 a month. The consultant says that the fixed-fee option on the cheque account tends to be the most cost effective for people who make regular transactions.

Customers must ensure that they are registered with eBucks to earn points.

Standard Bank

Reduced costs, but not an ideal offering

Before I was able to speak to a consultant, Standard Bank insisted on scanning my ID book. Then the consultant refused to recognise a bank statement as proof of residence as they “do not accept bank statements from other banks” and would only recognise a posted letter or municipal account. This was not a requirement at the other banks.

Standard Bank options for my needs:
Elite Banking is a cheque account suitable for people who earn a minimum of R8 500, but if you earn a minimum of R7 000 and have a degree or diploma then they can open the account for you. This account has a monthly fee of R99 which has been decreased from R179 since April 2.

The fee covers eight ATM withdrawals, three branch withdrawals, three ATM deposits, two money transfers and all internet and cellphone banking as well as free card swipes at till points. The account also provides an overdraft facility.

Achiever Electronic is a transactional account with a fixed monthly fee of R69 making it the same price as FNB Smart.

However, unlike FNB the transactions are limited to five ATM withdrawals, three ATM deposits and two money transfers. You also get free internet and cellphone banking and there is no charge for swiping your card at a till point.


Consultant was not informed

The consultant was friendly, welcomed me warmly and explained the product in detail. However, when I asked more detailed questions on investment accounts, he stumbled.

I got confused while he was explaining and if I wasn’t more enlightened on the subject, I would have been persuaded to take the product that was not suitable to my needs and would have ended up paying more.

He recommended a cheque account for me. I left the bank knowing exactly what my monthly “flat fee” would cover and what additional fees I might incur.

Nedbank options based on my needs:
The Savvy Electronic Account has a monthly maintenance fee of R79. This amount includes all electronic transactions such as debit orders and transfers, four Nedbank ATM transactions, one emailed statement, eight text notifications and free cellphone banking.

The Transactor Account is a pay-as-you-use deal.

You pay a monthly maintenance fee of R9.50 and then for each transaction. If you are making frequent transactions this can be more expensive.

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