Standard Bank. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Standard Bank. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

A new fee Standard Bank is collecting from clients who use its credit card only may be beyond the list of regulated charges and the National Credit Regulator has undertaken to investigate.

Standard Bank is levying the monthly "card fee" on clients who use their credit card on a standalone basis without it being part of a bundled transaction fee on a linked bank account.

The card fee is between R10 and R210 a month, depending on the type of credit card you have. This fee is charged on top of your monthly service fee of R40.

The card fee came into effect at the beginning of the year and covers the costs of providing administration and maintenance "of all the value-added services and features associated with the card", according to Standard Bank's 2018 pricing guide.

The regulator will investigate the issue and take appropriate action if an illegal fee is being charged

The cost of credit is regulated by the National Credit Act, which specifies what charges a credit provider can levy in respect of any credit agreement. These charges are limited to the following: an initiation fee, an administration/service fee; interest; credit insurance; default administration charges; and collection costs.

Nthupang Magolego, a senior legal adviser at the NCR, says the act has a "closed list" of allowed fees that a credit provider can charge under a credit agreement, "and a card fee is not one such fee".

The regulator will investigate the issue and take appropriate action if an illegal fee is being charged to consumers, Magolego says.

Standard Bank turned down a request for an interview and ignored e-mailed questions relating to compliance with the act.

Attorney Stephen Logan says the bank is undermining the credit act by levying such a charge.

The fee has nothing to do with the provision of credit, and a bank can't add additional services that aren't optional, he says.

"It's inherently wrong. The NCA is trying to make credit more accessible. If you do that, you're saying you can't access credit unless you agree to additional 'value-added services and features'."

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