By Ines Schumacher
Undoubtedly, the biggest banks in Grahamstown are First National Bank, Standard Bank and Absa. Activate conducted a survey of 100 students, which shows that 92% are happy with their banks. Is this because students utilise all available resources or because they don’t know any better? At this crucial stage in your life, it’s important that you have made the right choice regarding your bank, because at this very moment you are building a relationship with that bank. When you realise you’ve made the wrong choice, it might be too late to attempt this with a new one.
“We prepare students for the future. Good conduct with us now will open doors for you later in life,” says Estelle Speckman, a consultant at Standard Bank. Banks are businesses and they are interested in making a profit. This means that if you have been with a specific bank since your student days and you have been a reliable client, your bank will make a favourable decision regarding that loan you’ve been wanting to buy a new car. If you’ve jumped in off the street, banks are far less inclined to support your ambitions. “We have a Gold Graduate Package that we offer to our students when they’ve graduated. It provides you with everything you need to get your career up and running,” says Vuyo Nohamba, retail consultant at Absa and a recent graduate himself. Let’s face it: You’re not going to be a student forever. “You’re not always going to have someone to bail you out of situations you’ve gotten yourself into. Our bank helps students to mature and learn to appreciate the things in life that they might take for granted,” says Cornel Goliath, relationship manager at First National Bank. FNB also offers more tangible benefits to students. With the Life Start Student Bank Account, FNB offers free subscription to Internet, telephone and cellphone banking. Added perks are 20% discounts on Ster Kinekor movies, 15% off music and 10% off prepaid airtime. “The difference between any business is service and that’s what we have to offer, better service,” says Goliath.
For all their talk about caring for students, FNB does not seem to trust them much. Student loans are not in your name, but in your legal guardian’s or your surety’s. Absa and Standard Bank are more forthcoming in their trust, although Standard Bank admits to keeping a scoring system on student accounts. “It’s our way of encouraging good conduct,” says Speckman. On the topic of loans, the institutions do not differ significantly. They all require a utility bill (proof of residence), a South African ID book, proof of admission to a South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) accredited tertiary education institution and three months’ worth of bank statements of your parents’ account.
Foreign students only have one option. Out of the three, FNB is the only bank that grants loans to non-South African citizens, but they do require the surety to be South African. Absa seems to be the least flexible in regard to rates. “Our interest rates are fixed. No exceptions are made,” says Nohamba. The survey showed that 22 percent of students have a student loan. In the information age, being aware of your financial options is important. As a student, you must take advantage of the services that banks offer, because knowing your finances are in good order will have you worrying about one thing less in life.