South Africa’s cheapest bank accounts

Worker union Solidarity has released its latest Bank Charges report, ranking the cheapest bank accounts in South Africa across all income groups.

Solidarity’s banking report looks at accounts from South Africa’s largest retail banks – namely Capitec, First National Bank, Nedbank, Standard Bank and Absa – and how they compare on price across a number of transactional profiles.

The transactional profiles included:

Banking profiles
Banking profiles

Best bank accounts

Over the last few years, Capitec’s Glob One account (the only account the bank offers) has gone from being the cheapest account in the country by some distance, to facing stiff competition from both FNB and Absa.

Specifically, Absa’s Transact account and FNB’s EasyAccount now compete strongly with Capitec.

“Virtually all of the unusual limitations that used to apply to these Absa and FNB accounts, such as restrictions to access at certain branches or restrictions on internet banking services, no longer exist. This means that these accounts now properly compete with Capitec,” Solidarity said.

“A notable feature of Absa’s Transact account is that no fee is charged for unsuccessful debit orders – the only account offering this benefit.”

However, despite fiercer competition, Capitec’s Global One account still tops Solidarity’s rankings in three categories: low-income basic banking; low-income sophisticated banking; and middle-income sophisticated banking.

Capitec takes the crown due to the fact that it’s account pays appreciable interest on positive balances – meaning that a client with a high positive balance in their account could effectively cover all their transactional profile with money to spare.

Low class income accounts - basic transactions
Low class income accounts – basic transactions

Without taking any interest into account, FNB’s EasyAccount – with charges of R22.95 per month – would be the cheapest on this profile, followed by Absa’s Transact account which, at R23.00 per month, is more expensive by only five cents, Solidarity said.

Low class income accounts - basic transactions
Low class income accounts – sophisticated transactions

With low-income groups with more sophisticated transactional profiles, Capitec’s Global One is the cheapest account even without the interest, Solidarity noted.

This gap is widened even further in the middle-income transactional groups, where the other banks offer bundled transaction packages to bring prices down.

Middle class income accounts - sophisticated transactions
Middle class income accounts – sophisticated transactions

“It is noticeable that, with the exception of Capitec, it is only the bundle accounts that end up being the cheapest here,” Solidarity said.

“The fees per transaction on the equivalent pay-as-you-transact accounts are so extremely high that it would not make sense for almost any client to opt for a pay-as-you-transact account rather than a bundle account.”

The report noted that the cost of almost all the big four banks’ PAYT accounts are higher than the cost of their bundle equivalents across all user profiles.

High class income accounts - sophisticated transactions
High class income accounts – sophisticated transactions

When it comes to the medium-high income groups, Capitec’s Global One is no longer considered, with no comparable offering. Across this group, FNB’s Platinum Cheque account with an Unlimited package is the top account.

Standard Bank and Nedbank

According to Solidarity, Standard Bank and Nedbank are the poorest performers in their study, with the former ranked as the most expensive bank in all but one categories.

“The only category in which Standard Bank is not the most expensive is in the category of accounts marketed to people with a low income, where only Nedbank is more expensive,” the union said.

“Standard Bank does not compete at all well as far as bank charges are concerned,” it said, noting that Nedbank shared the same lack of competitive accounts.

The full 2014 bank chargers report can be downloaded from this link.

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South Africa’s cheapest bank accounts