South African banking rewards compared: eBucks vs uCount vs Greenbacks vs Absa Cash

Eighty20 and Tritech Media recently published a report looking at the impact of various rewards programmes in South Africa, including those that have the most active users.

Among the 100+ rewards programmes the group assessed, it found that the schemes offered by the country’s banks were among the most popular, and most active.

FNB’s eBucks was found to be the most popular and most active rewards programme, followed by Investec’s rewards programme, Standard Bank’s uCount, Absa’s Cash Rewards and Nedbank’s Greenbacks.

Rewards programmes can be confusing, often adopting a tiered system that requires clients to make use of certain products, spend at certain limits and shop at certain partnered businesses to extract the most value.

They also impose caps and limits.

To try and make better sense of how these schemes work, BusinessTech delved into the setups and T&C’s of the five most popular reward schemes offered by local banks.


eBucks

FNB’s eBucks are open to all of its qualifying banking customers. Requirements vary depending on the bank account used, but will need customers to either have a certain amount deposited in their account each month, or have a certain balance over time. Accounts also need to be in good standing.

The rewards programme has two main parts – a tiered reward level, which determines your earning rate, and the earning limits, which are restricted by account, and partnered retailers.

As of 1 July 2018, FNB’s eBucks rewards has been operating under new guidelines which have severely truncated the total amount of earnable eBucks in a month. The full breakdown of these changes can be found here – but in general terms, FNB has almost halved the total.

For the 2018/19 banking year, these caps have been reduced. Excluding forex transactions, the spending limits for Gold, Premier and Private banking have been reduced as follows:

  • Gold: from R31,000 in 2017, to R19,500 in 2018 (37% reduction);
  • Premier: from R47,500 in 2017 to R25,500 in 2018 (46% reduction);
  • Private: from R58,750 in 2017 to R35,000 in 2018 (40% reduction).

Using FNB’s broad earning rates, this means that total earnable monthly rewards are:

  • Gold: R195 (tier 1) to R2,925 (tier 5);
  • Premier: R255 (tier 1) to R3,825 (tier 5);
  • Private: R350 (tier 1) to R5,250 (tier 5).

The calculation is a little bit more complicated than that, however. Below is an example of how the rewards are limited and calculated based on rewards tiers on a gold account.


uCount

Standard Bank’s uCount rewards work similarly to FNB’s eBucks, being that it includes rewards tiers, spend limits and partnered stores. However, the scheme charges an annual, or monthly membership fee at R266 and R22, respectively.

The uCount rewards are also a bit clearer on the limits, with one system in place, rather than the eBucks account-based system.

Excluding the per transaction limit from Tiger Wheel and Tyre, the scheme has a point collection cap set at 65,000 points a month or cycle (equal to R6,500) and a point redemption cap set to 200,000 points per cycle – which means the no matter which tier you fall under, you cannot collect more than R6,500 in points each month, or spend more than R20,000.

Like eBucks, you can climb the rewards tiers by earning tiering points through various channels – by transacting, using various financial products, engaging with marketing communications, and even by saying positive (or ‘neutral’) things about the bank on social media.

Earning rates depend on the type of account you use, and which tier you are on. The table below outlines these rates.


Absa Cash Rewards

Like FNB and Standard Bank, Absa’s rewards programme uses a tiered system that works on points – but a key difference is that it allows customers to cash in their points.

However, while other schemes allow customers to earn points with various transactions, Absa Cash Rewards are only earned through point of sale transactions, using an Absa Debit Card, Absa Credit Card or Absa Cheque Card.

The qualifying spend amount is capped at R150,000 over the accrual period (16th of the current month to the 15th of the next month). The table below outlines the rates at which customers can earn, based on their tier:

This means that a tier 1 earner who spends the full qualifying spend could get R375 back in cash, up to a tier 5 earner that can get R3,000 back.

In addition to the cash rewards from Absa outlined above, customers can also earn cash rewards from Rewards Partners. This includes being able to get 1% to 15% back (depending on tier) from fuel spend at Sasol (capped at R3,000 spend – so between R30 and R450 back).

With grocery partners, the spend limit is also R3,000, with the cash back ranking between 0.25% (R7.50) and 20% (R600), depending on reward tier.

Absa also allows customers to convert their cash into points for other rewards schemes, granting a boost in the process. An example would be converting R100 cash reward to Pick n Pay Smart Shopper points, which grants a 15% boost – ie delivering R115 worth of points.

Membership to the programme is R23 a month.


Nedbank Greenbacks

Nedbank’s Greenbacks reward programme allows linked cards – Nedbank credit, cheque or American Express cards – to earn Greenbacks every time they swipe. The programme has a R20 per month linkage fee and a once-off initiation fee of R190.

The scheme is open to individuals and businesses, and carries certain limits.

For credit cards, 2 Greenbacks are earned for every R10 spent. This jumps to 1 Greenback per R10 on cheque card swipes, and 4 Greenbacks per R10 for every swipe using American Express.

The maximum that can be earned this way is R10,000 for individual credit accounts (R50,000 for corporates) and R5,000 for cheque accounts (R10,000 for corporates). There is no earn limit on American Express.

Taking these limits into account means individuals can earn a maximum of 500 Greenbacks on both a Nedbank credit and cheque account per month, while corporates can get 2,500 and 1,000 Greenbacks, respectively.

Greenbacks are loaded onto a free SHOP card, which can be used at 100,000 stores, or can be redeemed as cash from ATMs, or used overseas, Nedbank said.

The conversion rate is tricky, but you can buy a R1,000 PlayStation 4 game for 35,700 Greenbacks, which means roughly 36 Greenbacks equals R1 – but this varies, depending on the products.


Investec Rewards

Investec’s reward scheme is more straightforward compared to the other banks.

Investec clients are automatically registered, don’t pay fees, and don’t have any limits on the points they earn. Clients are rewarded 1 point for every R5 spent on the Investec Visa card, or R10 spent on the Investec Business Visa card.

This applies at any retail store. Rewards points are also valid for three calendar years from the date they’re earned. However, no points are earned from ATM withdrawals.

The one big catch is that Investec is already an exclusive bank, which has high entry requirements to even qualify for an account. The barrier to entry for the rewards scheme would then be the same as the requirements for an account: an annual salary of around R800,000, or R20 million in investable assets.

Spending reward points is also more limited, with the bank offering certain lifestyle (spas, treatments etc) and travel packages in exchange for points. A common example is trading 7,500 points for a R250 voucher of some kind (ostensibly giving you a R250 voucher for spending R37,500).


The table below broadly outlines the differences between each rewards programme and the limits and caps per month or cycle (for individuals, where applicable).

 


Read: New eBucks changes significantly cap how much you can earn each month

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South African banking rewards compared: eBucks vs uCount vs Greenbacks vs Absa Cash