Free data should make bank clients 'appy

By Kabelo Khumalo Time of article published Jul 16, 2017

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SOUTH Africa is notorious for having some the highest mobile-data costs in the world, but the country’s major banks have made mobile banking available free of charge to their customers.

A study by research company Tariffic found that, among the BRICS nations, South Africa’s data-only packages were the second most expensive after Brazil’s. Prices in these nations were compared with the average data-contract prices charged by South Africa’s mobile network operators. Once prices were converted to rands and re-based for the cost of living, South Africa consistently emerged as the second most expensive country for one, two and three gigabyte data contracts. Data prices in South Africa were on average 134% more expensive than the cheapest prices in the group. 

The results of the study for 1 GB data bundles, basing South Africa at 100, are: South Africa 100; Brazil 205; Russia 39; India 86] China 94; Australia 78; and Kenya 82.

Key features of the major banks’ mobile apps:


Data is free on all the major networks. The app allows you to:

• Send money via CashSend;

• Transfer money between your accounts;

• Manage card limits; and

• Share account details.


MTN, Vodacom and Cell C subscribers do not pay data charges when they use the app. The app allows you to:

• Make payments;

• Buy airtime, data and SMS bundles for yourself or someone else;

• Buy electricity for yourself or someone else;

• View the electricity tokens you have bought;

• Add beneficiaries; and

• Make credit facility transfers.


The app is free on all the major networks. You can:

• Pay traffic fines;

• Have your licence disc renewed and delivered to you (for a fee);

• View eBucks;

• Watch FNB TV to catch up on new products;

• View your transaction history; and

• Temporarily block or cancel cards, unblock cards and change your PIN.


The app enables you to:

• Calculate repayments on your vehicle finance, home loans and personal loans;

• View foreign exchange rates;

• Trade shares;

• Access your investment portfolio; 

• Obtain quotes for vehicle, household contents and homeowner’s insurance; and

• Submit Nedbank Homeowner Cover claims.


MTN, Vodacom and Cell C subscribers do not pay data charges when they use the app. The app enables you to:

• Open savings and investment accounts;

• Send Instant Money to anyone with a cellphone in South Africa;

• Make international payments;

• View your account balances without signing in;

• Search for ATMs, branches and Caltex outlets;

• Stop a lost or stolen card and have a new card delivered to a branch;

• Submit homeowner’s insurance claims; and

• Manage vehicle loans.

Icasa investigation

Why is data so expensive in South Africa? The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) said this week that the country is still battling in terms of the licensing spectrum and this contributes to pushing up prices. 

Icasa and the National Consumer Commission have launched an investigation into why the country’s data costs are so high. Members of the public will be able to make submissions to the inquiry, and its work was expected to be concluded by March next year.

Capitec is the best digital bank in South Africa, according to Columinate’s recently published sixth annual internet banking SITEisfaction survey.  

Capitec scored 81 out of a possible 100. FNB was second, with a score of 79. Both Nedbank and Standard Bank scored 61 points, while Absa came in last with a score of 55. 

Capitec, with a score of 83, was also top in the mobile category. It was again followed by FNB, with 80 points. Nedbank and Standard Bank occupied third and fourth positions, scoring 71 and 70 points respectively. Absa was last, with 65 points.

According to Brandeye, at the end of the 2015/16 financial year Standard Bank had 11.6 million customers, while Absa had 9.4m. Capitec and FNB had 7.4m and 7.2m respectively. 

Although you can save on data costs by using a banking app, you should check that you are not racking up charges with other apps that chew a lot data.

An Australian company, Bugbean, recently launched its AntiSocial app that monitors data use on your smartphone, including Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, as well as emails and games. 

The app is available from the Google Play store.

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