SA’s most complained-about banks

Ombud report shows only one major bank has seen a drop in complaints.
A total of R16m was paid back to customers, but more than seven of every 10 cases were closed in favour of the bank. Image: Mike Hutchings, Reuters

The Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS) annual report reveals that it opened 7 717 formal cases in 2020 – a new record.

This is a 19% increase on the prior year, despite the Covid-19 lockdown. It received nearly 40 000 calls to its call centre in the year, a 49% increase on 2019.

Only one of the six large retail banks saw a decline in the number of complaints versus the prior year. The ombud notes that increases need to be seen “in light of the overall increase in number of complaints received” by the OBS.

FNB had 2 197 complaints opened against it, the highest among the five banks.

This is a 22% increase from 2019, which is roughly in line with the overall increase in complaints.

Standard Bank had 1 572 complaints opened against it, a 28% increase from 2019, while complaints against Nedbank increased by 10% to 1 217 in 2020. Absa saw a 36% decline in the number of complaints, from 1 483 in 2019 to 943 last year.

Listen to Nompu Siziba’s SAfm Market Update with Moneyweb interview with Kwanda Vabaza – Adjudicator at the Ombudsman for Banking Services:

Capitec Bank had a similar number of complaints to Nedbank (1 259), but this is a 39% increase on 2019. And while African Bank received fewer complaints (255) than the other five banks, this was a 69% increase on 2019.


Ombud Reana Steyn says the number of files opened against a bank should not necessarily be regarded as an indication of that bank’s overall or complaints-handling performance. She also highlighted that banks vary in size, client profile and product mix.

In addition, fraudsters seem to periodically target certain groups of customers.

Steyn says all these factors impact on the number of complaints made against any given bank.

A clear positive is that the percentage of internet banking complaints out of all those received has “steadily decreased”. In 2020, this is no longer the largest category, which is surprising given the significant structural shift in the market accelerated by lockdown.

The top categories for 2020:

  1. Current accounts (19% of complaints)
  2. Internet banking (13%)
  3. Credit cards (11%)
  4. Personal loans (11%)
  5. ATM (9%)

The OBS says most current account complaints related to “fraud, fees and charges, and the bank not giving notice of account closures in more than 80% of the matters”.

Common thread – scams

Steyn says the “common thread” in the complaints related to the top four categories was that the majority of the consumers unfortunately fell victim to fraudulent scams.

The bulk of these matters were found in favour of the banks.

This was because, after a full investigation, “the OBS was forced to conclude that the fraudsters managed to manipulate the consumers into transferring funds into their account or to give them their confidential banking details which then enabled the fraudulent transactions”.


Covid-19-specific matters accounted for only 2% of all complaints received, although the ombud says other categories contained Covid-19-related complaints, especially the personal loan, mortgage loan and vehicle finance ones.

For and against

Of the 7 230 cases closed in 2020, 28% were closed in favour of the complainant with 72% in favour of the bank.

The OBS says the “72% closure rate in favour of banks shows the fairness with which the banks and their internal resolution departments treat complainants and their complaints”.

It managed to recover a total of R16 million, which was paid back to customers. Most of these were direct monetary losses in cases where the ombud had found in favour of the complainant.

The ombud closed 98% of cases (“files’) within six months.

This was less than 2019 (and its resolution times were slightly longer), but this is to be expected given the impact of the hard lockdown.

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Mainly because Absa clients like me voted with our feet to get out of that hapless entity.

That is exactly what I was going to say as well. Their decline is because of the number of clients they have lost. So if you now look at the complaints against the current number of clients there is probably an INCREASE in the number of complaints. I know I complained about 20 times for really bad service.
Definitely lost its edge with the Barclays/Ramos era

“valued added services” ….not even the bank itself can tell you what exactly the charges are for each month, just random small amounts they charge you for who knows what. It’s pathetic to say the least,

Trying to find out their pricing schedule is a complete joke. Now is the time for newer, smarter and more agile banks to take over. Discovery, Thyme, Capitec have the edge.

does not matter how one look at the banks, especially the big 4, one is promised the world in services, investment returns, low loan rates etc etc but at the end of the day for the banks it only revolves around one thing: “how much can we make out of the client?” from either side as lender or borrower of the money

bank-charges is a book entry milking machine with no related work actually done by the bank – the public was originally encourage to rather use atm’s -now one is charged for using it – my attitude towards is: do not make your problems and overheads my problem whilst you can pay your ceo a fat “pension” for what? had to collect my new credit card – but the employee was very much concerned about my health, medical expenses, funeral coverage and life & home insurance – asked what the hell has this to do with collecting a new credit card – answer was: as employees we have set targets to reach every month – please do not waste my time with unwanted smooth talk. if the bank wants to sponsor some sport, do not milk the client for it and then call it advertising

last week 82 year old mother-in-law (not computer literate) waited 2+ hours in a row at the bank to transfer money into father-in-law’s bank account which is literally just over the street, they just do not want to walk around with a large amount of cash

Banks, financial advisors, stock brokers in fact any one who has access to your money will promise you the earth and then rip you off.

They invented to call center to block complaints and enquiries. I have sat for hours waiting to be answered, transferred to another hapless consultant then cut off and on calling again, sat listening to music for hours. A clever/devious way of discouraging callers. Same goes for licensing depts., home affairs, UIF, WCF etc.

I am in the middle of enquiring about fees deducted from an off shore account and am getting the merry run around, either clever staff or idiots given the task of blowing me off.

I had accounts with all of the big banks

Over the past 10 years, Capitec has consistently had the quickest turnaround and best call centre.

Standard Bank has been paranoid about fraud and regularly locked by account for no reason.

Nedbank is archaic.

Absa might as well not exist.

FNB is probably the best of the big 4 old banks.

Capitec still wins for now.

Excellent summary of the status quo – my experience exactly!

After many years at FNB, left because of increasingly convoluted reward structures and expensive fees at every turn.

Joined Capitec because of the magic trifecta of much lower fees, very efficient service, and great simplicity and convenience in usage.

Absa and Standard have long been on my “avoid these anti-client kludges at every opportunity” list, for very good reason.

capitec also plays dirty tricks if you dont read the fine print. fortunately you can report it on hellopeter and magically the opportunistic abuse stops (and probably moves to the next victim). I cant help the feeling that the contracts are specifically written with the intent of exploiting human blind spots wherever possible. I can only imagine the poor and uneducated get taken for victims by default whereas the affluent can call bullshit immediately.

I still am with capitec despite having to watch them, because despite that opportunistic hidden mindset, they lay the prettiest trap.

Fully concur !!
When Capitec starts building a swanky new head office then you know it is time to move to the next one without those frills.

LOL, when I see that FNB office on Beyers I know whose bank fees paid for it.

and Capitec is a leading flame for entrepreneurship – started well post-’94 by those unwanted old white men from Stellenbosch. you deliver the goods the people will come!

Would like to compare the ration between ‘drop in complaints’, vs. ‘drop in clients doing active business with absa’.

I suspect those numbers will explain all.

Recently settled my debt to absa – I will NEVER do business with them Ever again.

In the same boat. Am close to calling it a day at ABSA as we have been a client for 30 years and I suspect that the longer you are a client there is a manual 101 showing how NOT to deal with us. Pathetic service and assistance.

1) Capitec needs to take a long, hard look at these complaints – no use accepting 1000s of customers every month if you can’t service them.

2) Banks are the only businesses in the position where they simply deduct their fees from the customer’s account – no matter what the bank balance of the customer’s account is. No sending out of bills and hoping the customer pays – just deduct it from his account. If it is another company’s debit order for services rendered and there is no funds- they return the debit order (with an added fee of course). But if it is their own bank fees they just add it to the customer’s outstanding bank balance – no matter how far it is over the limit. Nice né?

Capitec has more than 17 million customers and there were 1260 complaints.
Their service levels are light years ahead of other banks.

Most of these complainants need lessons in spelling, grammar and sentence construction.

I’ve been banking with FNB for decades and have an Easy Account costing me R4.95 pm with nominal charges for sms. I can do anything I want in banking online securely. I get notifications instantly. Even when I win R5.00 on the Lotto.

Our Home Owners Ass uses Nebank – awful website, just been upgraded but not the best. A friend hated Standard, went to Capitec and got such bad service she’s now back at Standard. We used to ABSA as a business a/c years ago and they had nothing to recommend them really.

You do the homework and make your choices, there’s enough variety and maybe even tymebank will shake things up, but what I do know is that if you’re not tech savvy, it could be a mission with any of these.

The banks facilitated their own destruction during the Covid pandemic. Half of the branches closed without notification and you had to queue for ours outside in the cold at those which were open.
Last year I tried to open an account for a trust. No business consultants were available at FNB, ABSA or Standard bank. All were “working” from home but were not able to provide any service. I was referred to the call center with the usual catastrophic results. I wonder if managers ever go to the trouble to phone their own call centers to see if they actually function.
I eventually got assistance from Nedbank, Brooklyn. They provided excellent service and their business consultants apparently never isolated at home.

FNB is the MOST expensive BANK in the country… (their staff told me this)

Amazing how they pull the WOOL over their customers eyes

They hold my home bond. But the trick is to use the cheapest options required ie pay as you go and not use any services. Then they’re great!

Try and speak to a human at Standard.

These surveys are such a bunch of rubbish. Small section of the population surveyed that now represents the nation. Yes the fundis will tell me that it was a sample done in a certain way to cover the nation.

I once gave a negative answer to a survey. I was called by the company being surveyed and asked why did I give a negative answer, it reflects badly and then he let slip that the parent company only use the top 75% positive answers in their adverts. So it is all rubbish. As is this survey.

This article is not about a survey at all?

No surprise about FNB. Possibly the most arrogant bank in the entire world. They are constantly shocked and surprised when customers lodge queries. So shocked and surprised that they can’t EVER respond with any kind of real response. Shame. Poor things. Let them live in their fairytale world, until it all comes crashing down and they all end up unemployed. Again.

SA banks are slow, sneaky and are doing their clients in.
For instance, international banks do transfers the same day. Why does it take SA banks so long to do transfers, or to clear money. Makes you think…do they actually have money?
I use Standbank online for trading, yet it takes the bank 5days to give me my money. Incredible. So i guess…i will also do my voting with my feet out.

End of comments.



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