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Big Banks Bogus Fees

Australia’s big banks are a law unto themselves. Our retail banking sector is dominated by the Big Four, which is hardly great competition.

Banks siphon our money off in ways that we can do little about. One of my beefs is the notorious lag-time between the Reserve Bank lowering interest rates and the banks passing it on by trimming their retail interest rates.

Another is cheque clearance. In the electronic age when processing cheques must be pretty well instantaneous, they take several days to credit the money to our accounts. Now that online banking is common, they do something similar with online transactions.

On some payments, it takes two days for the money to be transferred – even though it disappears from my account as soon as I press the keys. Would I be too cynical to suggest they are using our money in the intervening time to make money for themselves?

The amounts being relatively small and the term being short, this would go unremarked or even unnoticed by a lot of people. But when you multiply it by the enormous number of transactions, it probably adds up to quite a sizeable sum, which the banks are pocketing for doing nothing but sitting on their hands. It’s a form of theft.

My latest bank theft involved a payment by Decanter magazine in English pounds. For many years, when Decanter sent me a cheque, I would have to make a special visit to a bank and stand in line for ages and then wait another 15 minutes while a teller filled out countless slips of paper which I had to be there in person to sign. Five or six days later the money would eventually surface in my account, minus a fee about of about $5 for processing.

Now, to save us all time and hassle, I get Decanter to pay me electronically, and guess what – the bank slugs me for obediently using its preferred (people-less) method of transacting business? $20. No explanation; no please or thank-you. The first I knew of it, was when I compared the sum that went into my account with the sum Decanter had paid. So the bank now charges me four times the fee to do less work. It’s the Commonwealth Bank, by the way, but I suspect they’re all much the same. 

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