Your money is always much safer in a bank

IF YOU are going home for the Christmas holidays and are planning to take the money you saved during the year, you no longer need to strap it around your waist or stitch it into pantyhose.

There are now safer alternatives to carrying several thousands of rands tucked away in your clothes or in a wallet or a handbag, where it can be stolen or lost.

Opening a bank account these days is much easier than it used to be.

Audrey Mothupi, head of inclusive banking at Standard Bank, says one of the best ways to keep your money safe is to put it into a bank account and then use bank facilities to transfer your money.

Banks now allow consumers to open accounts for as little as R20 and charge no monthly service fee, Mothupi says.

She says from then on you can do all your basic banking, including withdrawing or depositing cash, by going to any of the Standard Bank outlets in the 7,000 spaza shops all around South Africa.

"The beauty of banking services such as AccessAccount is that you do not have to spend money or time travelling to a bank to send money to family and friends, pay for airtime or electricity or pay accounts," Mothupi says.

She says you can do all that using your cellphone.

This removes the need for you to carry large amounts of cash and removes the risk of losing it, she says.

This is how it works:

- When opening an account, you are given a debit card that you can also use at an ATM and in most shops.

- This means that when you are home for the holidays, you can shop in the town nearest to your home using the card instead of cash.

- If you do need cash you can draw at an ATM or AccessPoint closer to the place you are travelling to.

- With cellphone banking, you can check the balance on your account at any time, for free, without going to an ATM or a branch.

- You will also get an SMS every time money enters or leaves your account. So you will always know how much money you have - and where what you have spent has gone. With cash, it can be much more difficult to control how and what you spend.

- If you need to leave cash with your family when you return to work after the holiday, then you can transfer money from one account to another.

Always do whatever you can to avoid having to carry cash.

It is both cheaper and safer if you can do so.