The Cheapest Bank Accounts in South Africa in 2021

Retail banking group FNB has published its updated fees for the 2021/22 financial year, which will come into effect on 1 July 2021.

While many of the big changes are hitting the bank’s middle-market ‘gold’ account – which is rebranding to the Aspire account – there have also been several changes to the fees for the group’s entry-level accounts.

The monthly fees for the FNB Easy Zero and FNB Easy accounts remain the same, but it will now cost slightly less to withdraw cash from these accounts.

The FNB Easy Zero withdrawal fee has reduced from R8 per R1,000 to R7 per R1,000, while the Easy account is adopting a per R100 approach to withdrawals, charging R1.20 per R100 on the pay as you transact package.

However, FNB is not the only bank to have changed fees in the entry-level market. Both Absa and Capitec bank updated their fees in the first quarter of the year, and African Bank, Old Mutual, Finbond and others have also updated their fees.

With so many entry-level accounts to choose from, we’ve broken down a comparison between these accounts using three fundamentals:

  • How much it costs you each month to manage the account;
  • How much the banks charge you to put money into the account;
  • How much the banks charge you to take money out of the account.

Entry-level banking

South Africa’s entry-level bank accounts vary greatly in form and functionality, with several lenders offering more than one entry-level account.

For example, Nedbank has an extremely basic account in its MobiMoney offering, which carries no monthly costs, but has limited transactional capabilities.

These accounts are targeted at minimal transactions – with limits set on how much money can be processed each month.

It should also be noted that many of these accounts also offer rebates and interest on positive cash balances, which can offset many of the monthly transaction costs. These have not been taken into account here.

Other benefits, such as rewards programmes, discount coupons, or sweeteners like airtime or data have also not been taken into account.

Discovery Bank does not have an entry-level transactional account and thus has been excluded.

Monthly fees

Monthly account management fees for entry-level accounts have become a lightning rod for competition in the segment, with banks shaving cents off the monthly charges to undercut competitors.

Given the basic nature of most entry-level accounts, the monthly handling fee is quickly becoming obsolete, with new entrants scrapping the cost altogether.

Among the 16 entry-level accounts we looked at, six carry no monthly admin fee.

Withdrawal fees

While digital banking and card payments are increasingly becoming the norm in South Africa, for much of the population – especially those in the entry-level banking segment – cash is still king. Even among middle and upper-income brackets, having cash on hand is often a necessity.

Thus withdrawal fees – how banks structure the cost of getting physical cash out of your account – has often been a sore point. Traditional banks have long relied on complicated fee structures to slice as much as they can off the top of any transaction, but since Capitec pioneered the fixed-fee withdrawal structure, this has almost become the baseline for most banks.

Banks with native or own-brand ATMs (or retailer partnerships, as with TymeBank) reward customers for sticking to their systems with lower fees. Accessing your cash at a competing or non-partnered outlet incurs a higher cost.

Deposit fees

Deposits are no longer as straightforward as they once were. In place of the more traditional methods of putting money into accounts – like depositing cash at the ATM or in-branch – banking customers can now also deposit funds through retailers and other digital means.

This has led to retailers partnering with new players in the market: Pick n Pay and Boxer store till points are the de facto ATMs for TymeBank, and Spot uses an ETF method of ‘top ups’ for its accounts, where funds are added through digital codes, or directly from other bank accounts.

For more traditional banks, however, ATM and branch deposits are still the mainstay – though retail groups like Pick n Pay and Shoprite have now added till-point deposits to their service offering.

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