When those 'free' cash withdrawals aren't entirely free
Get your cash from a till point at a supermarket with your bread and milk - it's far cheaper
Technology has transformed the way we bank - from posting a cheque to doing an electronic funds transfer via an app - but to get cash, you still need to visit either an ATM or a retailer's till point.
Drawing money at an ATM is costly, unless you are paying a monthly fee on your bank account for a bundled package of transactions that includes a certain number of withdrawals.
An Absa account holder not on such a monthly package, for example, will pay a R10.70 fee to withdraw R500 at an ATM, and R16.70 if they use another bank's ATM.
If you pay fees as you transact, get your cash from a till point at a supermarket with your bread and milk - it's far cheaper.
Capitec, which had ninemillion clients by the end of June, surpassing the number of Absa clients, gives its customers a firm shove towards point-of-sale withdrawals at supermarkets. As a Capitec client you pay R1.50 to withdraw cash at the till, versus R6 at a Capitec ATM, and R8.50 at another bank's ATM.
"There are no limits or complex formulas," says Charl Nel, Capitec's communications head. "It's a fixed fee for a withdrawal depending on which channel the consumer uses, irrespective of the amount or the frequency. So clients don't have to remember if they are near a ceiling or not - they just know the fixed fee for the transaction."
If you pay a monthly fee for a bundle of transactions on your bank account, you can avoid paying a fee to withdraw cash at an ATM by knowing how many "free" withdrawals that fee allows you every month.
Overshoot that number, or use another bank's ATM, and you'll pay - a lot.
FNB shook up that formula last month by changing the ATM withdrawals it allows as part of its bundled fee from a set number of withdrawals to a monetary limit.
"Many of our customers understand their cash needs as opposed to requiring a fixed number of ATM transactions per month," says Ryan Prozesky, CEO of FNB Value Banking Solutions.
"And money is safer in their bank accounts and can be accessed at their convenience, instead of the risk of withdrawing and carrying larger amounts once a week."
FNB offers a Gold Unlimited plan on its current account, for which you pay a monthly fee of R105. Until last month, this fee would give you four "free" ATM withdrawals from FNB ATMs, and if you withdrew a fifth time, it would cost you R1.85 per R100 withdrawn - that's R9.25 for R500.
Now, however, you get to withdraw up to R5000 a month in any amounts or frequency - including at till points - before that withdrawal fee kicks in.
Standard Bank continues to use the traditional limit on withdrawals. Those on the Elite plan on its current account, which costs a fixed service fee of R100 a month, get just four "free" withdrawals a month, after which you pay R1.80 per R100 withdrawn. That's R9 for a R500 withdrawal.
A flat fee of R1.80 applies to till withdrawals.
Standard Bank's Prestige clients pay a fixed fee of R190 a month and get eight withdrawals a month before the withdrawal fee of R1.80 per R100 kicks in.
If you bank with Absa and pay a fixed fee for a "value bundle", you also have limits on your "free" ATM withdrawals. If you have the Premium Banking package, costing R159 a month, you get seven withdrawals a month, while those on the Gold Value plan, at R98 a month, get five.
"It's worth noting that our point-of-sale or till-point cash withdrawals are free - hence unlimited on our bundled offers," says Sibusiso Ngwenya, Absa's head of retail banking pricing.
The bank's out-of-bundle fee for Absa ATM cash withdrawals is R3.95 plus R1.35 per R100, which means that withdrawing R500 costs a massive R19.75.
Overstepping your monthly limit of "free" ATM withdrawal limits is expensive.
Again, the flat fee of R3.95 for a till-point withdrawal makes that by far the best option if you can't get your hands on your Absa cash without incurring a transaction fee.
Nedbank's pay-as-you-use clients pay a flat R6.50 at Nedbank ATMs, irrespective of the amount drawn, and those on the Savvy Bundle account, at a R180 monthly fixed fee, have unlimited ATM withdrawals at Nedbank ATMs.
Nedbank Savvy Plus clients, at a R100 monthly fee, get four free ATM withdrawals, before they must pay R4.50 per R100 plus R1.40 per R100 thereafter - that's just over R10 to withdraw R500.
Cash withdrawals at till points at Nedbank's "partner retailers" cost just R2.
Bottom line: when it comes to withdrawing cash, it pays to know your limits, and if you reach your limit, get your cash from your local supermarket rather than an ATM.