07/06/2018 14:33 SAST | Updated 07/06/2018 14:33 SAST

5 Ways To Stop Bank Charges Eating Away At Your Money

Back charges can be a stealthy drain on your finances – so apply these tips.

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A couple of hundred rand can seemingly disappear from your bank account every month without you exactly knowing how — thanks to bank charges. And considering repeated petrol hikes and the general rise in the cost of living, a couple of hundred rand could go a long way...

Bank charges are often overlooked by consumers — despite being easy to manage, so that rands can stretch a little further.

"Small and gradual changes in banking behaviour have proven to help consumers cut back on costs in the long-term," said Ryan Prozesky, FNB's consumer core banking CEO.

He gave us five tips on how customers can reduce banking charges through digital and electronic channels.

1. Go through your bank statement

Checking your statements regularly is the main way to check if there are additional charges on your account. This can help you trace where your few hundreds "disappear" to, and help identify if you have a banking behaviour that is costing you more through additional charges . For example, some customers still prefer going into a branch to get bank statements, which is costly compared to collecting them through ATMs with Automated Deposit Terminals (ADT), email or online banking.

2. Pay attention to annual price changes

Pay attention to communication on annual pricing changes. Banks often review their account fees annually offering you a breakdown of changes and adjustments. It's important to thoroughly go through and understand these fee changes and how they impact the way you transact, and if you're not sure, to ask.

Also pay attention to price changes other than annual ones, — for example, banking fees that were hiked due to the VAT increase in April — and how these have influenced how much you pay in fees.

3. Don't choose a bank account on its monthly administration cost alone

Rather base the decision on your transacting needs to avoid incurring additional charges. For example, on a pay-as-you-use structured account — best suited for those with a low number of monthly transactions — you may be charged extra every time you make a transaction, while on a bundle offering — best suited for those who transact a lot — you are able to perform multiple or unlimited transactions without incurring additional charges.

4. Use self-service channels

Whenever possible, before going into a bank branch or approaching a consultant, first check if the activity cannot be performed on digital or electronic channels. Transactions performed via these channels are often free of charge, or attract lower costs that transacting inside a bank.

5. Swipe more than you withdraw

Check whether your bank offers unlimited card swipes at no additional charge regardless of the amount, as this may be cheaper than withdrawing from an ATM machine every time you need cash. In addition, most banks' loyalty programmes give customers rewards for swiping their card, and a card is safer than carrying cash around.

Withdrawing from selected retailer till points is also cheaper than withdrawing from an ATM.

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All of this can be done only if you take time to find out what your bank offers. This information is easily accessible through bank websites and various marketing material, such as newsletters — so be sure to investigate every option your bank offers.