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Bank Zero is open for business

Mutual bank finally launches after lockdown-disrupted rollout.
The trendsetter finally enters the market it disrupted: many of the country’s banks have introduced entry-level accounts with no monthly fees in an effort to counter Bank Zero’s proposition. Image: Twitter

South Africa’s newest bank, Bank Zero, is now accepting new customers following a closed rollout phase. Executives say applications will be “throttled” to ensure that the bank’s seamless onboarding experience is not overwhelmed.

The mutual bank, founded by a number of former FNB executives, has had a difficult start due to a challenging work-from-home environment over the last roughly 18 months. It had originally planned to launch before the end of 2019. This was shifted to before the end of last year, then moved out again to mid-2021.


Its premise is that it will not charge any monthly account fees – but it enters a crowded market, with TymeBank, Discovery Bank, and African Bank’s transactional account all having launched in recent years. Most of the country’s largest banks (as well as TymeBank and African Bank’s MyWorld transactional account) have introduced entry-level accounts with no monthly fees in an effort to counter Bank Zero’s proposition.

One of its biggest focuses, however, is the business banking market where monthly account and transactional fees can often be punitive.

It offers only a single account type with the same fee structure for individuals and business banking, and offers seamless integration with Xero accounting software. This led challenger TymeBank to launch a low-fee business account last year, with FNB launching a Business Zero account in 2019 to pre-empt Bank Zero’s then-imminent rollout.

Bank Zero unveiled its account pricing in October last year and has stated that these prices will remain the same this year.

To ensure customers actually use the no-fee ‘check’ account, a fee of R5 per month will be charged if there are no transactions in six months.

Many transaction fees are zero, and where costs are charged, the bank has shrewdly positioned this as “third party costs which are passed on to you”.

Monthly account fee Free
Transfer between accounts Free
Pay recipient Free
Pay by card Free
Prepaid airtime, data, electricity Free
Withdraw cash at ATM R9 per R1 000
Withdraw cash at point of sale (PnP/Boxer, Spar, Checkers, Shoprite) R2
SendMoney (to self or non-Bank Zero customer) R8.50
Proof of payment via SMS (e-mail is free) R1.50

Read: Bank Zero reveals account pricing

The card personalisation process through its mobile app is slick – and cards can be delivered to Clicks stores for R79, or to your door in major centres for R139 (R179 for outlying areas). The app uses tiles to denote different accounts, and accounts can be shared with friends (friends can see accounts and add funds but never remove funds).

Interest rates are roughly on par with what can be expected at other major banks.

Source: Bank Zero; rates as at August 2, 2021

Bank Zero’s app also separates any subscription payments into a dedicated area which gives customers unrivalled control.

It also requires app authorisation for all online transactions regardless of whether the site uses 3D Secure or similar (it claims this is a “world first”). Similarly, it offers control over any new debit order loaded onto your account. These are flagged in the app and can be rejected immediately.

Its patented card does not require the 16-digit number to be changed every time a new card is issued, unless the customer requests it.

The app also enables multiple people, be they staff or family members, to control or access accounts. Their mobile numbers are loaded against the accounts and/or recipients they are able to access. For individual accounts, the account owner will be able to authorise or reject transactions, while for business accounts, transactions will follow an authorisation chain that can be set up. The chain can be up to three levels with up to three authorisers per level.

The app allows customers to pay any other Bank Zero account holder (think businesses) via QR code at no cost. For the receiver, the charge will only be 0.5% of the amount received.

This offers significant relief to small businesses in the micro-payments space as they typically pay three to five times this amount.

Business customers can simply add their unique QR code to an invoice, online checkout screen or physical store. However, this payment system is not agnostic (like Zapper or SnapScan) and requires the paying customer to have a Bank Zero account. This will help the bank to try grow its base.

Importantly, Bank Zero has not launched with any credit offering. Its website says “there is an oversupply of credit in South Africa … we believe that through innovation we can start a process of reducing the credit burden of our customers”. It may offer credit through a partner, in time.


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Only problem is it’s app only… I actually like doing my banking on a full desktop browser.

They can’t blame COVID for failing to launch end of 2019.

Wonder how they will throttle new applications? Will the Apply button not be available after a certain amount of new applications a day?

You’ll have to add your name to the waiting list (via the website). Invites will be sent out in batches of ±1000 at a time…

I don’t see why the app only thing is a problem… FNB (for e.g.) is busy forcing you to go online by throttling eBucks and forcing certain behaviours.
As long as it’s secure I’m happy.

Compared to the ridiculous bank fees I pay, this is super attractive and a rough calc of their fees shows me I’d be paying a ton less for pretty much the same transactions I normally do.

You are spot on.

FNB is making it difficult for you to interact with them.

They pushing all customers on the digital platform.

You are effectively doing the ‘WORK’ … at a premium when you pay them a hefty fee.

Makes sense to move to Bankzero

I think this is the bank for me as my balance is zero after COVID!!

…thanks for making my day! *lol*

I’m really sceptical, but hope they prove me wrong.

With everything happening in the banks and financial landscape I hope they do disrupt and shake up.

Like a rolling stone. The mesmerizing presentation that only a newly created degree in “Marketing” (previously known as con artistry) could so professionally deliver. My awe is only exceeded by my disgust, but I suppose my old-fashioned, previously healthy values are going to my demise in this not-so-brave ‘new’ world.

While I welcome & encourage new FinTech startups (myself an Easy Equities fan), why is there a “Zero” in the name?

Puts me off. Just odd.

Sounds too close to “ground zero”.

Even worse, I don’t want the word “Zero” and my funds named within the same line.

Just thinking loadly….. who needs Bank Zero (or any other bank)…. when there is certain Crypto that can do the job!

Care to name it?
It’s definitely not BTC, the average TX fee is ~2.6USD per transaction. (And that’s a massive relief from the 20+ earlier this year)

I received my invitation to join BankZero yesterday. I’m definitely giving it a skip. The app is extremely ugly and still in testing. So all the time they spent in building this bank, and they expect me to use something that doesn’t have a decent looking UI. I’m happy with Discovery Bank.

I got my invitation this morning. I am hoping to be able to move all the ‘government regulations enforced’ business accounts to this platform to be able to save in excess of R500 a month for very few transactions.

To open a business account you have to open a personal account first. It is zero fees so not a big problem to put a few rand in. (Cant save here because of the same low interest rates though)
They also do not accept trust accounts at this time but they hope to soon.

So I started the process of getting the personal account and seeing if this actually delivers and if I can build confidence in them to entrust my accounts to them.

However, the process to open an account is complicated and feels very invasive. Be sure that you really really want to give them any and every detail and number about your life. The opening process also requires you to take a selfie of yourself that they will then use everywhere. You need to be flexible enough to turn your head 90 degrees in both directions all the while trying to hold your phone far enough away from your face so that the auto capture can actually work. I did hurt my neck muscles in this process but perhaps I am an exception.

I opened an account with the other 2 online bank new comers this year and the process was vastly quicker and simpler than this one. I was up and running much faster and their minimum requirements were a lot less. I do have to provide more info as I do more but starting was way easier.

I am unfortunately now stuck awaiting guidance on how to overcome the need to have 2 cellphone numbers in my name which wasn’t mentioned as a requirement, but without which it is currently not possible to complete the application.
A separate number is required for the purposes of the recovery of an account. You can use email but only as an addition to a second cellphone number.
I dont have a second one and if I go and get a prepaid one, I know that it will expire in a few months because I only have one handset.

I hope they can deliver on their proposition after all this.
I will certainly not be comfortable recommending this to anybody I know with the current account opening process. (I almost threw in the towel 3 times during the 48min process to that point)
Currently extremely uncomfortable.

End of comments.





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