Johannesburg - The cost of banking has fallen in the past year, according to research released on Thursday by trade union Solidarity.
"Four of the five large commercial banks in South Africa have lowered the cost of virtually all their accounts over the past year, with Nedbank as the only exception," Solidarity said in a statement.
Capitec, whose bank charges were already the lowest in 2010 and 2011, lowered its charges even further in 2012, the Solidarity Research Institute found.
It compared charges for personal bank accounts offered by Absa [JSE:AS], FNB, Standard Bank [JSE:SBK], Nedbank and Capitec [JSE:CPI].
"When the cheapest accounts of the five banks are compared, Capitec's Global One account is still the least expensive of them all," said researcher Paul Joubert.
This account's average bank charges across eight different user profiles amounted to R55,50 a month - a 15.9% decrease from R66 in 2011.
By contrast, Nedbank's cheapest option was its Savvy Electronic account, with average monthly charges more than double those of Capitec.
Nedbank had also increased charges by 4.5% on this account, from R107.79 to R112.61, over the past year.
Bank charges on almost all Absa, FNB, Standard Bank and Capitec accounts were lowered during the year.
The effect of Absa and Standard Bank's comprehensive efforts to make their bank charges more competitive was clearly visible, said the Solidarity Research Institute.
But Standard Bank still levied R16 for creating or amending stop orders.
However, many of its clients would not be affected by this fee.
Without it, the Achiever Electronic's average costs would have been only R85.81, rather than R109.81.
Each of the four largest commercial banks was promoting a low-cost account: Absa's Transact, FNB's EasyPlan, Standard Bank's AccessAccount and Nedbank's Ke Yona.
Standard Bank's AccessAccount is the most expensive of these accounts across the board.
"As far as the low-cost accounts are concerned, the choice is really limited to Capitec's Global One account, FNB's EasyPlan account and Absa's Transact account," said Joubert.
The year was characterised by lower costs and stronger competition.
"It appears that consumers are more informed and are putting more pressure on their banks to offer better value for money," he said.