Bank charges weighing down ordinary Zimbabweans 

Source: Bank charges weighing down ordinary Zimbabweans   | The Financial Gazette November 29, 2016

By Shingie Muringi

THE current economic meltdown coupled with a serious cash crisis has forced every Zimbabwean citizen to adopt the use of electronic payment systems such as card swiping mainly in retail shops. Also, mobile money platforms such Ecocash, Telecash and OneWallet have found their place in the same financial market mix.

However, despite these electronic payment systems ushering in convenience to the bankable public, the regulatory bodies such as ZimSwitch and the regulator Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) have been accused of being reluctant to fairly review the charges because some are still to exorbitant for the consumer.

In June this year, RBZ governor, John Mangudya, announced that charges for electronic payments had been cut after an agreement between the central bank and other service providers. Nevertheless, charges being exerted onto the consumers are still high.

Real-time Gross Settlement System, which is now the most desired way of transferring funds at inter-bank level was once pegged at US$10, later slashed down to US$5 after the June resolutions. This means that most Zimbabweans who are now resorting to paying rentals and other social amenity costs using bank transfers have to fork out a minimum of US$5.

All Point-of-Sale (pos) transactions, which exceed US$10 are now pegged at a minimum cost of US$0,10 from the previous benchmark of US$0,35. The maximum charge on POS transactions using ZimSwitch is now pegged at US$0,45 whereas consumers will be charged a maximum US$0,20 if they are swiping on POS machines from their own banks.

When using mobile money platforms such as Ecocash to pay for groceries, in particular, the consumer is charged a minimum of US$0,12 for every transaction below US$5 while the maximum charges will amount to US$4,95 when transacting for goods worth US$300.

Barclays Bank, in particular, has US$2,50 pegged as minimum fee when swiping using International Debit Cards. Stanbic charges a minimum of US$1 per transaction with other charges varying depending on whether you are using a local debit card or international cards such as Visa or MasterCard.

Steward Bank offers the most convenient electronic payment options to its clients due to an integrated Ecocash platform which allows account holders to access their funds using numbers linked to Ecocash. Steward Bank charges a minimum US$0,10 for every balance inquiry no matter its being done on Ecocash or ZimSwitch. Card charges start at US$0,15 varying on the value you are transacting.

RBZ has been pushing for the adoption of plastic money via the increased use of bank cards and other electronic payment systems as part of its strategy to respond to the deepening cash crisis. However, the most repelling factor has been the high charges being levied by banks on their Debit, Visa and MasterCard, forcing the public to shy away from plastic money, resorting to cash which is now in short supply.

However, on a much positive note, mobile money has been the biggest mover of electronic transactions in the economy, with the latest statistics from RBZ showing that it accounts for 89 percent of all the transactions in the country. To sum up, if you factor in 10 percent for all overhead bank transactions added to the minimum values of US$0,15 being charged by service providers during transactions, you will find out that an ordinary Zimbabwean has to incur a record US$139 in services fees per month.

Shingie Muringi is an engineer and writer for Technomag

COMMENTS

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    Banks have behaved differently in how they have handled the money we entrusted them with, as well as in how they handled us as customers and in their transaction charges during the ongoing crisis.

    Changing to a new bank can be an inconvenience but it is one Is worth seriously considering. I for one am deserting a bank that I have lost faith in after some 15 years as their client.