In the first part of this two-part series we discussed the features you should look out for when deciding which bank to choose to open your account. In this second and final part the focus is on the services available and the charges you can expect to pay for them.
Banks offer a variety of products and services, some of which are peculiar to specific banks but the generic ones available at most competitive banks include ATM services, mobile banking, Internet banking, credit cards, debit cards, overdrafts, traveller’s cheques, stop orders, loans, international banking facilities, account statements, safe deposit box rentals and bill payments. Ideally, your bank should offer most of these services.
Nowadays, it’s not unusual to lend the bank some money through a deposit, only for the bank to turn the tables on you, so that after a few months you end up owing the bank due to the pernicious effect of bank charges. High transaction charges are currently therefore a matter of concern to most users of banking services in Zimbabwe and against the background of constrained incomes, every dollar counts, so it is worthwhile to shop for a bank that will give you the most value for your hard earned money. The Reserve Bank has now put the issue on the regulatory agenda and made it mandatory for banks to regularly publish their charges, something that had been killed by the hyper-inflationary era. This should go a long way in helping the banking public to make informed choices about their banking partner.
Some of the common fees you will encounter are as follows:
Maintenance fee: This is meant to enable the bank to recover the cost of maintaining your account; after all they are providing you with a valuable service. It is usually a small fixed fee which is debited to the account even if there is no account activity, while ledger fees cater for the volume and sometimes value of actual transactions.
Withdrawal fees: How much does the bank charge you for making a withdrawal? Currently, just making a withdrawal at some banks can set you back a cool $10.00, wiping away probably half a year’s interest earnings. $10.00 can buy you 10 loaves of bread, and if you think of it in those terms, it is a significant amount.
ATM Charges: How much does the bank charge you for a withdrawal from their (proprietary) ATM and from a third-party (non-proprietary) ATM?
Transfer Fees: How much does the bank charge for an internal or inter-account transfer and for an interbank transfer?
Unpaid Cheques: Some banks will charge you if someone writes you a bad check and you will certainly incur a heavy penalty for “bouncing” a cheque so it is always important to know in advance what the damage will be in order to avoid nasty surprises.
Statement Charges: What are you expected to cough up for interim and monthly statements of account?
As you may very well appreciate, getting a good deal does not come easy, it requires some effort. Using the above criteria, it is possible to come up with some kind of scoring model that will enable you to choose the bank of your dreams, assuming such a thing exists. Coming from an era in which a bank account has been considered as a privilege which the bank can grant or withhold as they see fit, most people are still intimidated by banks and may feel that they have to accept whatever shoddy deal is placed before them. It will therefore be some time before consumers feel confident enough to be selective about whom they do their banking business with. But as the competition heats up in the sector, the realisation that his/her custom is king will strengthen the customer’s hand.