Something unconventional: Bank Review

Something a bit strange, I’m going to write a review of the banks that exist in New Zealand since I’ve had accents with pretty much all the major banks (BNZ, ASB, ANZ, Westpac and Kiwibank) but I’ve never written a review about my experience regarding each of them – so now I thought it would be the best time given that I’ve got a few days up my sleeve and I want to keep myself occupied. One thing to keep in mind that for someone like me I’m all about self service – if I need to go into a ‘store front’ to get something resolved that could possibly be done via the internet but the bank is too lazy to invest money into making it possible then it is a sure fire way of losing me as a customer.

Internet banking (which includes mobile banking) is the corner stone of that experience and when it comes to the best experience I’ve had it is with ASB Bank – everything you could imagine that can be done online such as order a replacement credit card or debit card, the payees for billers are synchronised between the mobile version and what is available on the website, activate a new card and choose a new PIN number, a system where your financial situation is monitored and you are offered an overdraft of credit limit increase on your credit card (saving time, rather than going through the process of applying for something and being declined – if you’re eligible for it then you’d know about it).

The website itself isn’t as modern/sleek as say Westpac’s and BNZ’s banking platform – the BNZ has a lay out view that one can choose between a more spreadsheet style lay out (columns and rows) but those wanting something more colourful and icon driven to act as reminders as to what each particular account is setup for – maybe have a long term savings account for your son or daughter with a photo of your son or daughter for the icon as a reminder of who it is for (might work as a good incentive not the spend the money in there). Westpac’s own website makes great uses of layering and slide out draws/menus resulting in a less disjointed experience where you’re not hopping between different parts of the service. With all that being said the slick design cannot make up for the lack of features such as the ability to activate and set a pin over the internet as both Westpac and BNZ required me to go into a branch to do something that Kiwibank, ANZ and ASB seem to be capable of delivering.

When it comes to ANZ’s own online banking, although it hits the mark in many of the same places where ASB and Kiwibank did, the problem I found was that the payees I set up on the website wouldn’t propagate over to the mobile application meaning that when I’m at work on my break and I see that my pay had gone through I couldn’t pay all my bills. What makes the situation even more bizarre is the process of updating personal information – you cannot see what they’ve got on file and when you’ve submitted an update to the details you never get to see the final version – oh, then there is the delay between submitting and it becoming active. Reminds me of State Insurance and how with Southern Cross Health Society I can update my direct debit but in State Insurance infinite wisdom I am unable to update that online.

In terms of the costing the best value I found was with ASB Bank – the ASB Visa Lite credit card has no account fees, interest free for 6 months for purchases over $1000 but that being said Westpac do have the best value when it comes to balance transfers by having the option of either 12months at 0% or 5.95% until the balance transfer has been paid off. When it comes to the running costs of having an account the most expensive was BNZ which charges a flat $5 per month where as the cheapest being Kiwibank, ASB and ANZ but keeping in mind that the fee free accounts at the  three of those banks are purely electronic transactions so if you do want to have manual transactions rather than using the smart ATM or one of the automated services then there will be a service fee. That being said, the flat fee at BNZ doesn’t cover everything – there are service charges such as if you want to print out a statement at the bank which kind of makes me wonder what the $5 is paying for.

When it comes to Kiwisaver ASB once again is the best value for money and best performing (for the balanced fund) with ANZ being the most expensive, BNZ sitting around the middle of the pack along side Westpac’s BT Fund with Kiwibank being more expensive than ASB but cheaper than BNZ, ANZ and Westpac.

Over all if I was going to draw a conclusion I’d say that ASB is the best value for money and best technology except when it comes to Apple Pay which is where ANZ and BNZ have the edge but that being said if you’re into balance transfers with the best rate then Westpac seem to be a lot more aggressive in terms of competitive pricing than what others offer. When it comes to Apple Pay, as much as I love Apple I have to admit that it is a technology that is solving what is a uniquely American problem of an antiquated banking system with Apple Pay and Android Pay being a patch over a gaping wound. When it comes to Apple Pay in New Zealand my experience at least working in the banking sector is that it is a gimmick used by banks in lieu of fixing critically fundamental flaws in their banking experience – “don’t look at our short comings…check this out…we’ve got Apple Pay!”.For someone like me the idea of Apple Pay is very much something that is ‘neat’ but it is more the icing on the cake and most certainly not something that can be some how used as a replacement for getting the basic banking fundamentals sorted out.

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