Wednesday, 27 August 2014

FNB, again

I am not a fan of banks. Long queues, lots of red tape, and ridiculous fees for a simple service. They're one of life's unpleasant necessities. But sometimes they are bad enough to be funny, even if the laughter is a bit pained.

It also always amuses me when big corporations (especially bank) try to justify exorbitant fees by claiming that expenses are high.

Below, an email I received from FNB after I ranted on Twitter about the R80 replacement fee for a worn out debit card, followed by my reply. I had to grit my teeth and delete the comments I wanted to make about Mark's (lack of) grammar.

Hi Gareth
I am in receipt of your complaint and have tried to phone you twice today to no avail.
Although I am not included in the costing of a plastic card, I do think I can add some light to the matter with regards to why it is more expensive than you would think.
Plastic as a commodity is very cheap but the extrusion of the plastic is not the only cost that is taken into account.
The card is branded, the card is embossed, the card has a microchip and magstrip on it all of which require certain machinery to produce or manufacture.
The card would then have to be sorted and posted to the collection point where a consultant will be in attendance to serve you all these people are salaried.
All the above processes will have a certain amount of security requirements.
Real savings comes with volume but each card is specific to a person and thus unique.
The Bank is a profit driven organisation but we will not overly profit on items such as this and in most instances cost of this nature are aligned to other Banks to avoid any discrepancies when comparrisons are made.  
I trust that this satisfies your enquiry, if not please feel free to respond accordingly.
We have closed the complaint ref no 522549


Dear Mark,

Thank you so much for taking the time to "close" my complaint.

1) The card was not lost or damaged thorough my negligence. It wore out through normal usage (being kept in a wallet, and swiped up to several times a day in standard POS devices, as well as being inserted as necessary into FNB ATMs). Surely it is not unreasonable to ask that FNB a) give customers better quality cards that last until their due replacement time; or, b) reduce the standard replacement time to the minimum life-span of a card?

2) The card in question was a standard non-embossed, non-chip debit card. These are kept in quantity at each branch and handed out as necessary. I was quite amused by your convoluted explanation of the procedures which justify the R80 fee, as almost all of them (embossing, microchipping, personalized transportation, and consultation) were irrelevant. Of course, if it were indeed an embossed, chip card that was relevant, I would fully understand. Students these days have always more funds at their disposal, while banks struggle more with each blip in our troubled economy. If cards are indeed that expensive to produce, I agree that this cost should be footed by the students of our society, and not the banks. (I had a cursory glance at FNB's financial statements for 2013, and see that profits only just hit R10 000 000 000. With so few zeros, we can see that times are indeed tough.)

3) I was further amused by your acknowledgement that FNB is squeezing further profits from its customers through this fee (Your email states, "we will not overly profit on items such as this" [emphasis added.], which implies that some profit is indeed being eked out). There is absolutely no reason why FNB should be making any profit in this area, as they are not a card manufacturer or a plastic extrusion corporation.

4) You mention that costs are "aligned to other banks". I have received chip, embossed cards, customized with my name, and supposedly carrying all of the expenses you mention in your email, from other banks without being charged a single cent. This made me happy. In my humble opinion, happy customers are something FNB should also aim to obtain (to my knowledge this other bank I speak of has many). My current happiness has been substantially lowered by your attitude in this regard.

5) Thank you for taking the time to call me. I am truly sorry that I was unavailable to listen in person to the fascinating details on how expensive debit cards are to produce. 

Please note that his matter has been resolved. After a lengthy queuing session, followed by another lengthy queuing session, followed by a lengthy discussion with one of the friendly Grahamstown FNB consultants, who in turn disappeared for a quarter of an hour to have further lengthy discussions with a superior, I was given a free replacement card. Banks are pleasant places to spend copious amounts of time, and therefore it will be no big issue should I have to go through the same procedure next time I have an FNB card that wears out before its expiry date. And better still, should I not have the required copious time at my disposal, I have been advised that opening a new account at a different bank is actually a remarkably (or at least relatively) speedy procedure, and even comes with the (highly expensive) bit of plastic needed to use the account, at no extra charge.

Yours faithfully,
Gareth Dwyer