We often operate bank accounts out of necessity, but rarely scrutinise or pay attention to the costs and benefits of our choices.
How quickly one can access their money is usually the motivation for operating an account, especially among the working class.
However, clear and simple information from your financial institution regarding the fees and charges and accessibility should be taken into consideration when choosing an account.
A traditional saving account is one of the most familiar vehicles to mobilise one's savings, while income earners opt for current accounts.
If you opt to operate both accounts, it is advisable to shop around for the best rates and value added services from regulated financial institutions.
Most financial institutions should have information on brochures, information sheets or websites. Take note that some websites do not have comprehensive information to enable you make informed financial decisions, so you may need to follow this up with a visit to the banking hall. Financial institution charges are also published in the media every quarter and can also be accessed on the Bank of Uganda website.
To choose an account that suits you, you need to consider the costs and benefits. Avoid getting blind-sided by the allure of colourful product advertising and promotions.
You will note that financial institutions have segmented their markets. For example, a current account can be accorded different perks depending on your level of income.
Some customers incur an introductory minimum balance, and of course charges for withdrawing or depositing money. Find out from your bank what the monthly service charge is and what cost you incur if you exceed the transaction amount. Once you know the charges, you will know what to expect with every transaction.
You can then judge whether the benefits of operating your current account balance out the costs. Some financial institutions offer perks like a number of free ATM withdrawals per month or free monthly e-statements and flat fee accounts.
Others have taken this a notch higher by giving customers exclusive tellers/ banking areas for the high-end current account holders, including other value-added services.
The uptake for such accounts will depend on the financial status of individual customers. However, before you pay extra for those high-end current accounts, think about whether you need to use those facilities and if they are worth the cost.
The same principles could apply to choosing a suitable savings account. If the bank is promising you the highest interest rate on the market, it would not hurt to do some research to compare the rates in the market.
Another thing to consider is the penalty for earlier than scheduled withdrawal. Keep in mind that just like it costs you money to open an account, there is a charge for closing that account.
Given that several people lack the discipline of saving, they opt for a standing order for the array of savings accounts of their choice. Interestingly, many people wrongly think that the only cost incurred is that of setting it up, probably because some forms do not indicate that there is a processing fee per payment.
It is only when the amount deposited to the savings account is less the processing fee that they realise there is a charge. You also have to remember that it will also cost you money to amend that standing order or stop it all together.
To avoid being taken by surprise, do some research on the product/service before you sign any form. Once you are armed with this financial information, you will have a clear idea about what your commitment is, as well as the costs and benefits. Arming yourself with financial information allows you the benefit of making informed decisions, as well as asking the right questions to avoid unnecessary mistakes. Most importantly, you can be able to spot any errors and have them rectified as soon as possible.
The writer works with Bank of Uganda