Sunday, June 10, 2012

Should I open a Standard Bank account? No you should not.

I have had an account with Standard Bank ever since I was a student, which is close on 20 years now. I still have the very same account. And it is costing me a lot of money - a million bank charges charged if I just sniff in the direction of my account. It no longer serves me or offers me what I need. It is time I upgrade to a grown up account.

Everyone I know, for the past year or so, has been raving about how fabulous FNB is with it's one set fee and all transactions are free, and all the other fabulous benefits that just make your life fantastic when you have an account with Fabulous National Bank. Customer service has always been shit at Standard Bank, so the obvious choice for me now was to move to FNB. Obviously. My dad had a few things to say about this as he has always been a loyal Standard Banker, and he pointed out that they too now offer a set monthly fee that covers all transactions, etc etc, and so I said I would keep an open mind. I started filling out the FNB easy-peasy online applicatio form and got to the part where they work out your personalised interest rate on your proposed overdraft, and then called my dad to see if what they were offering me was any good. He laughed and said it was ridiculously high and that I should go and talk to Standard Bank before I make any decisions. So I stopped filling in the form.

The next day (!) I got a phone call from an FNB consultant who offered to assist me in opening my account as she saw that I had not completed my application. I was impressed. The very next day! Not shabby for a bank. But I declined and told her that the interest rate was too high and off I toddled to Standard Bank  - I wanted to talk to a consultant and have all my questions answered (I don't think you can apply on-line anyway). My consultant - Koovi, at Musgrave Branch, was fantastic, or at least that's what I thought. She was really friendly and full of great advice. We spent about 1.5 hours discussing what I needed, filling in applications, signing papers. The interest rate offered to me was a little lower than FNB, so I was chuffed. And off I went with the promise that everything was sorted and that I would be notified when my new cards arrived in 7-10 days. That was Saturday morning 19 May.

The following Monday I got a phone call from Koovi. "Sorry there was a computer error and your loan application did not go through, so we have to do all that again." What? But the computer spat out papers saying it was confirmed and I signed them and everything. I even have copies. No worries, she says she will sort it all out but I have to come in again to sign the new papers. Shlep. I couldn't get there that week because my life does not revolve around the bank's operating hours, and so I was chuffed when I got the sms the following week to say my cards were ready for collection, thinking I would just sign the papers at the same time that I collect the cards. Easy peasy.

Now here I should mention that in the interim I received a bank statement in the post, for one of my new Standard Bank accounts. That was all fine and dandy except that folded up between the pages of my statement was in fact a page from someone else's statement. Complete with their name, address and account details. Surely this should not happen? Surely this is a huge security breech???! This makes me wonder whether my account details are safe with Standard Bank at all? And does Mrs C A Gallo of 22 Crateford Court, Musgrave, know that I have a page from her own personal bank statement? And who should I report this to?

But back to my account - it took me about another week or two before I managed to get to the branch last Thursday 7 June. During this time I received 4 phone calls from Koovi wanting to check that I was still coming in to sign the loan papers. At this stage I was still quite impressed with her, thinking that she was looking after me really well. In hindsight I suspect it was because she was trying to cover her ass. You see when I finally did get my cards, set up internet banking, transferred beneficiaries, linked accounts etc (another 1.5 hours in the bank with 3 different people) and went home and logged in to my account, I noticed that the first debit order for paying off the loan had already gone through at the end of last month. Seven days before I had even signed the new set of papers and before the money was even made available to me! So I suspect that protocol was not followed correctly there and that Koovi pushed my loan though without my required signature - ostensibly to do me a favour, which I probably could have appreciated had the loan money actually been transferred into my account at the time - or at all! Because after my second visit to Musgrave branch (7 June), my loan money was still not available in my account, even though I had sat in front of Koovi and asked her to check that it was that very day.

So the following morning (last Friday) I got on the phone to try find out what was going on. Koovi was suddenly not so easy to reach. Surprise. I left her one message to call me back. 2 hours passed. Nothing. I tried again and left her an urgent message requesting she call me immediately. She got back to me and seemed surprised that the loan wasn't available. (As was I.) Then said she would call me back as she had to get someone to approve the transfer quickly. WHAT? Surely that should've been done the first two times I was sitting in front of her in the bank?! But never mind. That is now sorted. And she has insisted that this has never happened before. Also, the previous computer error - never happened before. Yeah right. I question her about the loan repayment going off before the loan was available and before I had signed the papers; and she comes back with some story about me having agreed to it that very first day. Yes, but those signed papers were apparently not valid or else why did I have to sign a new set of papers for a new application?  Anyway, so I asked her how I could check what was happening in my loan account (I am now concerned that the first payment that was taken from my account may not have ended up in the right place... since as far as I can see, the loan was not actually active at that time, and since I have now technically signed for 2 loans!?). She says... "you will have to link the loan account to you current account to see it. You will have to come in to the bank to do that." WHAT??! I tell her no, I was there yesterday and I am not coming back into the bank as I do not have the time available to do so and that she should've helped me sort all that out the last two times I was there as she was my consultant and one of my first requests when I met with her was that I have all my accounts linked please. I threw my toys. She insisted I would have to go in to the branch. I continued to be upset. And then suddenly it dawned on her... I can link my accounts by sending a secure message on-line via internet banking. Ok, so all that  rage was for nothing. That evening I send a secure message. The day after (yesterday) I get a phone call from someone at the bank saying they received my message and just wanted to confirm before they acted on it. Fabulous. I am now feeling better about Standard Bank. Sigh of relief.

Then today... I try to purchase something with my brand spanking new debit card. And would you believe it, my pin is rejected. Three times. Great, now I will have to go to the bank to get the card re-activated. I still have to pay for my purchases. I try my new credit card. Same thing. Pin rejected. This, using the same pin that I used for these cards inside the bank 3 days ago! And yes I am 100% sure the pin number is correct. I am also sure that the card machine used was not faulty as I tried 2 different machines. I am furious. Standard Bank is so freaking inefficient! If so many things can go wrong in just three weeks, what am I to expect from them down the line... what if I need vehicle financing, or a home loan? How difficult will that be to get right if they can't even handle a simple debit card??!

So, on Monday, I will probably have to go back into the bank. While I am there, I will probably close my new accounts. The thing is, I plan to have a life-long relationship with whichever bank I choose at this point and I would be stupid to stay with Standard Bank after what they have shown me in the last few weeks. There is no way in hell I would recommend anyone to open an account with them. I have heard of one person who has had some issues with FNB but everyone else is smiling and laughing at me saying "I told you so". On the other hand I have heard endless complaints from others with Standard Bank. So if you are now where I was a few weeks ago, trying to make a decision about which bank to choose - whatever you do, do not choose Standard.

11 June
 After writing this blog post I logged in to my internet banking to check that everything was in order in my newly linked loan account and to my surprise found that a R1140.00 had been charged as an initiation fee. Which I was most certainly not told about. I know I was not told about it because if I had been told I would have decided against taking the loan. That, to me, is way too much to pay to initiate a loan, which you are already going to be paying huge interest on, as well as a monthly service fee of R57.00. To be honest, I feel ripped off. I know I signed the papers. But I signed about 50 papers that day, all the while Koovi 'explaining' to me what I was signing. Which is why I was surprised to suddenly see this initiation fee. When I asked Koovi about this on the phone today - "Koovi what is this extra R1140.00 that has gone off my account for?" She was confused. She said it is the scheduled R1100 that I agreed to pay every month. I told her that that amount had gone off as well. She sounded more confused and said there should not be anything else, and that she would look into it and call me back. Then when she called me back she had the gall to say that she had told me about the initiation fee when I first signed the papers. Really? Then how come she didn't know about it herself 5 minutes ago?

Anyway, today I tried to get my cards sorted out as well and to find out what had gone wrong. I went to the Windermere branch where they swiped my cards, re-entered my pins and was then sent to phone card division. I phoned Koovi and asked her to sort it out please. Anyway, long story short, after Koovi finally phoned card division I was told that I must have entered the wrong pin number, 4 times. Which I am 100% certain I did not do. The same pin number worked in the bank today afterall. Then I was told the card machine must have been faulty. But I tried one at Woolworths as well as at Clicks. So I was told to come in to the branch. Again. Or otherwise if I like, they can order me new cards. 

So tomorrow I am going in to close the accounts. I expect it will not go smoothly. I expect it will chew up a good 2 hours of my day. But please, for crying out loud, can this be the end of it now.

Final update to this story here

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