Picture: Bloomberg

FIRST National Bank (FNB) this week announced the launch of eWallet eXtra, a bank account aimed at unbanked and underbanked consumers, which will be available by June.

The bank said eWallet eXtra would not have a monthly fee, but there would be transaction fees.

The account can be opened using a cellphone and all transactions are conducted via phone. 

FNB said it would verify the names and identity numbers of potential account holders using the bank’s link to the Department of Home Affairs’ database. 

Gugu Zikhali, FNB’s head of transaction products for the mass market, said the account was a 
simple, accessible and cost-
effective solution for unbanked 
consumers. 

“If you are above the age of 16 and own a cellphone, 
you’ll be able to get a mobile bank account with a unique account number in less than three minutes, and you don’t need a bank card to transact,” he said.

The bank believes that, based on the analysis of its customer base and research into financial inclusion, this largely untapped market comprises more than 11 million people.

The latest FinScope South Africa Survey found that there has been a slight increase in financial inclusion, driven by non-bank financial services. The banked population has remained at 77%. However, about 6% of these accounts are dormant.

The head of financial inclusion at Finmark Trust, Farai Muronda, said South Africa was doing fairly well in terms of financial inclusion. However, he said there was a worrying increase in the number of people with dormant bank accounts.

“More and more people who have bank accounts don’t usually use them. The number of dormant accounts is increasing yearly and 40% of people predominantly use their accounts to receive their monthly salaries and prefer to use cash to conduct transactions,” 
he said.

“A lot of people live in areas where there are no digital payment infrastructures for them to use – for example, people who use taxis and buy at spaza shops pay cash.”

Pieter Woodhatch, the chief executive of FNB Easy, said traditional bank accounts, which have monthly fees, accept debit orders and restrict clients to using cards do not meet the needs of irregular income earners, such as seasonal workers. 

After assessing eWallet use patterns, FNB found that more than a million users had effectively been using eWallet as a bank account, although it was designed as a remittance service, said Woodhatch.

eWallet eXtra is a combination of FNB’s existing eWallet remittance service and a pay-as-you-use transactional account.

The features are:

• You can send money to, or receive money from, individuals and other banks and store funds for an unlimited period;

• You can pay accounts and buy prepaid products, such as airtime, data and electricity;

• You can send money to other recipients and withdraw at any FNB ATM or at tills at Spar that allow over-the-counter purchases; 

• The spending limit is R3 000 a day and R24 000 a month; and

• You cannot create debit orders.

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