The cheapest bank accounts for the middle class in South Africa

 ·7 Apr 2024

A new report found that FNB’s Fusion Aspire is the cheapest value-offing bank account for basic banking needs in South Africa for the middle class among the country’s largest banks.

Solidarity’s banking fee comparison is based on four different transaction profiles split across four groups – including the middle class.

Defining the middle class in South Africa is a challenging task for researchers and economists due to significant disparities.

However, some indicators give an idea of what one would need to earn to be considered middle class.

For example, the University of Cape Town’s Liberty Insitute of Strategic Marketing argues that those earning roughly R22,000 make a household middle class.

If one were to look at the average salary in South Africa across the formal sector as a metric of the middle class, Stats SA data shows that currently, it is R26,894 per month.

Research and analytics firm Eighty20, in its latest Credit Stress Report, defined middle-class workers as those households with an income of nearly R25,000 a month and a personal income of R15,000.

Despite the slight variation, several sources generally regard an income of just above R20,000 as middle class.

Consindering this, the SRI report aims to give consumers in this segment a look at the transaction account options that the largest banks in South Africa offer them.

The 12 and 17 transaction profiles are commonly associated with basic banking, while the 25 and 30 profiles align with middle-market and premium accounts, respectively.

This means that accounts for the youth, students, the elderly, specific religious groups, and private bank accounts are not covered.

It also does not include accounts where minimum or maximum monthly income is specified unless it is the only one in the category offered by a specific bank.

Solidarity added that Discovery Bank had not been included in this year’s report because many of the transactions in its basket are not indicated on its fees page.

To ensure the most cost-effective transaction options are used, messages sent to recipients have been modified to reflect email notifications, where possible, instead of SMSs since the former are generally free.

Additionally, this year, a prepaid electricity purchase has been included in the transaction bundles to keep up with customer preferences.

Although the report doesn’t intend to award any prizes, it does acknowledge Nedbank’s progress in improving the competitiveness and transparency of its fees.

Nedbank has not only changed the names of its accounts but also made significant efforts to become more affordable, which is worth mentioning.

However, FNB and Absa’s fees pages are more challenging to figure out this year than in the past due to a layout that forces one to scroll around between specific fees and included fees, especially in their bundled accounts, the report added.

The cheapest bank account

When it comes to transactional account costs, Capitec stands out as the most affordable option for customers who maintain a balance that is eligible for interest earnings.

However, it is worth noting that Capitec’s loyalty program is not as comprehensive as that of other banks.

On the other hand, when we look at banks with a proper value proposition, FNB is once again the cheapest.

FNB’s monthly fee of R99 includes a comprehensive list of costs, making it the most cost-effective option for customers.

The only extra cost is for purchasing electricity, which is an additional R3. Nedbank comes in second place with a monthly fee of R99 that includes all transactions except for sending cash to a cellphone number.

This is an improvement from last year’s ranking, where Nedbank was previously in last place. This is again owing to the comprehensive list of costs included in the monthly fee of R99.

Only the purchase of electricity brings an extra cost of R3. In second place is Nedbank, which was in last place last year.

At Nedbank, all transactions on the report’s list, apart from sending cash to a cellphone number, are included in the monthly fee of R99, said SRI.

Read: These are the best private banks for ultra-rich South Africans

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