Banks use ATMs to punish poor

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

Drawing money from an ATM is a real gamble for most of us in the run-up to payday. You think that you have enough left in your account to draw R100. But if you guess wrong, then not only won't the machine dispense cash, but the bank also pockets a "denied ATM transaction due to client error" fee.

Standard Bank charges R2 for denied transactions at its machines, jumping to R3,65 if the transaction is denied via another bank's ATM. Nedbank charges R2,75 at its own ATMs, rising to R4,90 at other banks' ATMs. FNB charges R2,65, and R4,20 for denied transactions at non-FNB machines. Absa also charges R2,65 and R4,20 respectively.

"It is very difficult, actually highly improbable for consumers to make the correct service choices as they do not know the associated costs," said National Consumers Union chairman Ina Wilken.

"Consumers are not knowledgeable because of minimal disclosure by banks of transaction fees."

One way for Absa account holders to avoid paying heavy charges to find out that they have insufficient funds is to use the bank's free cellphone banking service to check their balance, Absa general manager of group products Keith McIvor said.

"We encourage people not to make withdrawals when they don't have funds," said FNB head of communications Xolisa Vapi.

"We announce increases on banking charges each year," said Standard Bank spokesman Erik Larsen, "The fee is charged in order to recover the costs associated with the processing of the attempted transaction."

Absa complained that ATM fees published in Sowetan on Tuesday made it appear as if a rival bank had "across the board fees", whereas this bank also increases ATM fees by 90c for R100. The corrected comparison table as supplied by Absa will be published tomorrow.