Imagine my shock when I discovered that a R50 ATM withdrawal from a non-FNB ATM incurs a transaction fee of R32. I can only imagine what that fee escalates to when the withdrawal is in the region of R1000 or R2000.
By contrast a withdrawal from the same bank in Europe costs a mere R25 from any ATM for any amount!
Bank charges in South Africa have long been a matter of concern. They are believed to be amongst the highest in the world.
Most of the banks are busy with cutting staff to increase their profitability. It isn't that they are not profitable - they produce some of the highest profits of any industry sector in the country. It is just that their profits were less than was promised to the shareholders.
That was the reason for Standard Bank's dramatic retrenchments just over a year ago and the expected retrenchments by the other banks.
The problem is that the banks have become extremely risk averse. Following the sub-prime crisis in the US and the subsequent collapse of many banks, South African banks followed the world banking trend and stopped lending money to all but a select few.
In stark contrast to the pre-credit Act flurry of issuing credit to all and sundry, the banks have now become ultra conservative. Getting finance for a car, a home or anything else has become one of the most difficult tasks in the world.
Of course the main way that banks make money is by providing credit. The Credit Act did place limits on who banks could lend to, but the banks have gone far beyond this making finance very difficult to obtain. If the banks do not make money from credit, then there are only banking fees to bring in the profits.
South African banks have traditionally charged more simply because they could. There is little competition and if one bank puts up its fees, then the others are bound to follow.
Even with the credit crunch, UK banks still manage to provide transactions for free. I wonder how they manage?