What banks charge for online purchase of airtime, electricity

Mobile banking comes at a cost

If you use your banking app to buy prepaid airtime, data and electricity, check if you’re being charged because these fees can quickly add up.

Picture: 123RF/ANDRIY POPOV
Picture: 123RF/ANDRIY POPOV

Using your banking app to buy prepaid airtime, data and electricity is easy, safe and convenient, but you should be aware that these transactions cost you at most, but not all, banks.

The newer digital banks don’t charge you for such purchases, but when banks do, they do not include these charges in your fee bundles.

Capitec never used to but in late June the bank introduced a fee of 50c for every prepaid airtime, data, SMS bundle and electricity purchase on internet banking, mobile banking and via the bank’s app (all of which are known as online channels).

Absa charges R1.50 per prepaid transaction (of airtime, data and electricity) made via online channels, says Cowyk Fox, the bank’s managing executive in charge of everyday banking.

African Bank doesn’t charge you for these transactions, says Neil Thompson, the head of product and customer value proposition at African Bank.

All First National Bank customers except for those with Private Wealth accounts are charged R2.70 to buy prepaid electricity, irrespective of the banking channel used. And only those with Easy Zero, PAYU and Easy Smart accounts get to buy airtime and data at no cost when they use the bank’s app, says Elmar Gräter, the head of pricing in FNB’s Consumer Core Banking division.

Nedbank charges customers R1 for buying data and airtime and R2 for buying electricity via online channels, says Tawanda Chatikobo, the head of digital channels at Nedbank 

Chatikobo says Nedbank customers can also buy Uber, Google Play, Showmax and Spotify vouchers, with no additional fees charged. 

Standard Bank charges a fee of R1.50 for electricity purchases and R1.20 for data, SMS and airtime purchases, the bank’s spokesperson Ross Linstrom says.

“A Standard Bank customer can choose from any transactional account including a credit card to purchase data, airtime and prepaid electricity on the Standard Bank app and internet banking,” he says.

TymeBank doesn’t charge customers for buying airtime, data and electricity via the bank’s app. 

As an alternative to using your banking app to make these purchases, consider in-store purchases, some of which are free. 

For example, you can buy prepaid electricity at any one of hundreds of retail outlets including Pick n Pay, Checkers and Spar at no cost.

Watch out when you buy airtime and data from retailers. Checkers, for example, charges you R2 to top up. 

If you’re lucky enough to live close to your mobile phone provider’s store, you can buy airtime and data over the counter, swiping your bank card, and there would be no fee for that, as it would be treated as a point of sale transaction. 

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