When BigNews asked South African banks and the Banking Council (the organisation representing SA’s main banks) why our system was so costly and complex, it was met by the usual response that it was unfair and invalid to compare first-world banks with those of developing countries. The newspaper then tried to find some research into comparisons between South African bank charges and that of other developing nations.  There was none.

BigNews then set out to do the research itself. It started e-mailing different banks around the world, asking them for quotations on a simple basket of services.  It asked them how much would it cost a beginner business owner to:
deposit R100,000 in one month
write out 25 cheques of R2,000 each in one month
make 25 electronic payments of R2,000 each in one month.

South African bank charges are so complicated that the only way to structure a proper comparison was through the three scenarios above. If, for example, you were merely to ask the question, "How much does it cost to write out a cheque?" – the answer from a local bank would nearly always be: "It depends".  This is not so in other countries, where standard, predictable, flat rates are nearly always used.


Compared to the quotations from other developing countries, South African prices were shocking. The Malaysian, Thai and Brazilian banks charge nothing for depositing R100,000 in one month.  South African banks charged more than or close to R1,000 at the time of doing the research.
The Malaysian and Thai banks charged nothing for paying by cheque, except for a nominal amount for the cheque book.  Brazilian banks charged just R100 for 25 cheques of R2,000 each.  South African banks charged between R500 and R700.
Only in the category of electronic transfers did one other country – Brazil – turn out to be more expensive: R700 as opposed to between R200 and R300 at South African banks. The Malaysian and Thai banks charged in the region of R100.

 Are our bank charges the highest in the world?
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