Mary Oxford (Guest Writer) @ Lucid Living
Nobody likes bank fees but, like death and taxes, they’re inevitable. Each month we whinge and moan about the amount that gets deducted, but it’s easier to complain about bank fees than to do something about it. So what should you know, and what could you do?
The trick is to know what you’re being charged for, how the charges are being calculated and how you can reduce them. Most banks offer a bundled option, with lower bank fees, but the banks say that many of their customers don’t know about this option.
However, consumers should be aware that while the bank fees might be lower, there might also be restrictions and if you make more transactions than you’re allowed to, it will cost you more.
There is no doubt that times are tough and even though we might not spend as much this December, the January blues may still hit. When you spring clean your finances, take the time to compare bank fees and choose the one that best suits you, but be careful of the small print.
Who you are
Everyone is different, so you have to pick the package that suits your needs. Ask yourself: do you prefer to have less cash on you and just swipe your card everywhere you go? Or perhaps you don’t have access to the internet and online banking and prefer going in to the bank to transact with the tellers? Or maybe you qualify for a high-interest account with limited transactions?
Your age is also important and most banks offer lower fees and exemptions if you are under 18, over 55 or a social grant beneficiary.
Only use your own bank’s ATM. When you withdraw cash from another bank’s ATM, you’re effectively using two banks to perform one transaction. That means you’re billed twice and the Saswitch fees add up.
But, some banks will pay for your extra fees if they are responsible for their ATM not working.
Most bank’s now offer a supersized ATM where you can make transfers into other accounts, check your balance, print a statement and deposit money for a fee that may already be part of your bundle (or at least much cheaper than going in to a branch and transacting over the counter).
Most of these transactions are also available to online-, cellphone- and sms-banking users. Electronic banking has saved many a trip to the bank during a lunch hour or a long queue on a Saturday morning.
Doing it yourself makes sense – a R1 000 debit card transaction will cost R10.80, while a cash withdrawal from an issuer’s ATM will cost you R3 more and withdrawing the same amount from a branch will cost you three times more.
Check your cheques and stop the stop orders
Few people use cheques today so think carefully before you ask for a cheque book. In a recent FinWeek survey on bank charges using Standard Bank’s pricing schedule, their sample family used three cheques in a month which cost R43.50. Had they done these transactions electronically, it would have saved the family R13.75 in fees.
By opting for a debit order to make payments rather than a stop order, the family could have saved R65,30. Bundled options offer a certain number of stop orders and debit orders that are included in the monthly fee.
To cut your banking fees, just follow three simple steps:
• don’t write cheques;
• use only your bank’s ATM; and
• don’t walk into a branch.