As you should probably know by now, as it’s a very newsworthy, major national event, I have taken on 22seven’s GY$T challenge. GY$T entails completing a series of 7 financial challenges to see how much I can save. The first two challenges – hand-drawing pics for my mom’s 60th and making sandwiches instead of buying them for a week – were easy, almost too easy. It was time for a challenge that’s more … um, challenging.

Deep Fried Man's gift to his mom

Photo: Deep Fried Man’s Groovy Gift

Fortunately, ‘Bust your bank fees’ was next. What I have to do is to calculate what I’m actually paying in banking fees and find a way to bring it down. This is not an easy one for someone like me, who isn’t very good at the complicated world of banking. How bad am I? Out of sheer administrative uselessness, I still have the same savings account I’ve had since I was 18. Yes, that’s what I wrote. A savings account.

Delighted that this challenge had come along, mainly because of the embarrassment I experience every time someone swipes my card and says ‘cheque or savings?’, I headed to a mall to find out how much switching accounts would save me.

NOTE: I will refer to the banks I went to as bank 1, 2 and 3, because as a musical comedian I want the people who book corporate gigs to know that I believe all banks are equal and I definitely won’t say no to performing at any bank’s awards ceremony or end-of-year function. Even Bleepbank.

I started my journey at Bank 1, where I have been banking since age 18, when they opened the savings account that I still inexplicably use. Here I was able to work out my current fees. I have been paying R15 per month, and then on top of that R2.65 per swipe and R3.95 per ATM transaction plus R1.30 per R100. When I got home I checked my bank balances (dammit 22seven, you’ve made me so responsible!) and worked out that these fees, plus whatever else counts on my internet banking as ‘transaction charge’, ‘admin fee’ or ‘notification fee’, amounted to whopping R254 in the month of July. The nice man at Bank 1 explained that, with a cheque account, I could do a lot better than that.

Just a note, for those as useless as I was before starting these challenges: The difference between what is sometimes called a ‘savings account’ and what is most often called a ‘cheque account’ is similar to contract vs pay-as-you-go with cellphones. With a cheque account you pay a once-off fee every month and most transactions are free.

I decided to look at the cheaper cheque account option at every bank. What most banks call the Gold option as opposed to the Platinum option. What I found is that most accounts are similar, apart from the occasional added flourish, such as Bank 1 which offers 6 drunken take-homes per year (quite useful for people like me), or Bank 3 which offers a savings pocket (NOTE: My wife banks with these guys. She has one of these and she says they’re amazing, what it does is round off your transactions to the nearest decimal and save the cents for you. She says she saved R6000 one year without noticing it). But here is the much-of-a-muchness stuff:

DFM: GYST - Bank Comparison

The overall similarities of these accounts led me to stick with Bank 1 – mainly because upgrading an account is much easier than starting a new one, and also because of the drunk take-homes. But it was a close one, and I think all those other banks are just great, especially if they want to book me for an awards ceremony or end-of-year function. Call me.

Savings:

R254 – R98 = 156.

Multiply it by 12 and I’m going to save myself R1800 this year. More if you count the drunken pick-ups.