You can’t compare bank charges

2012-02-11 10:14

As we researched this article, both Absa and FNB competed to have the cheapest bank account.

Absa gave us figures showing that, based on 17 transactions, they were the cheapest at R29.15 a month compared with the same set of transactions for which an FNB EasyPay customer would pay R34.15.

FNB responded by showing us their basket of transactions in which an EasyPay customer would pay R29.25, while an Absa Transact client would pay R39.60. No wonder it is difficult for a customer to fully compare bank charges!

It comes down to what each bank selected as their 17 transactions and as a customer you need to decide what transactions you typically use.
For example, Absa included a monthly mobile banking fee, which is free to Absa Transact customers but for which FNB EasyPay customers will pay R8. Airtime top-ups are free at Absa, while FNB charges R1 a top-up.

So if you want to use mobile banking and buy airtime frequently, then Absa Transact is the better option.
FNB’s transaction basket includes a once-a-month cash withdrawal from another bank’s ATM, for which FNB EasyPlan charges R7.70 for R500 while Absa Transact clients pay R14.45. FNB also included obtaining a statement at a branch and making a cash deposit, both of which are more expensive at Absa.

So if you know you will make a withdrawal from another bank’s ATM, and like to go into a branch to get a statement and make a cash deposit, then FNB EasyPlan could be the better option.
However, Absa has the largest ATM network in South Africa and on average their customers only make two non-Absa ATM withdrawals a year. An Absa client can also deposit cash at their cash accepter machine, which is lower than the cost of the branch deposit.

Personally, I believe both banks understate the amount of ATM withdrawals. FNB assumes you will only withdraw money three times a month, twice from a till point and once from another bank’s ATM.

It would probably be more realistic for a customer to withdraw once a month from a till point and twice a month from an FNB ATM. That pushes the monthly cost up by R5 a month.
Absa assumes two Absa ATM withdrawals, so realistically you could double that and add R7.70 to your monthly fees.

At FNB, if one of those withdrawals is at a till point, then you would only add R4.85 a month.

The real challenge was in finding all the fees. Absa, for example, cross-referenced to the Absa Flexi account for fees left out of the Absa Transact list like non-Absa ATM withdrawals. This made trying to work out the real cost difficult.

As a customer you should write down your typical monthly transactions and then ask the bank to tell you how much you are likely to pay each month.
Also find out how you can cut bank fees by changing your banking behaviour, like withdrawing cash from a till point and not depositing cash at a branch.

While trying to work out fees still remains a quagmire for clients, the fact that both banks are trying so hard to be the cheapest and to deliver banking for under R30 a month is at least a step in
the right direction.

We are looking forward to Capitec’s fee announcement next month as well as the imminent launch of Standard Bank’s inclusive banking product.

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