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What have the banks ever done for us?

What have the banks ever done for us?

Gulf banking fees are undeniably high – and, in some cases, extortionate. But what do customers get in return?

February 23, 2010 3:13 by

Apart from the loans, the mortgages, the ATMs, the customer hotlines, the 24-hour internet banking, the worthy CSR initiatives, and the annoying adverts – what have the banks ever done for us?

In response to this question (with apologies to Monty Python), your bank manager would probably say, “we’ve done all of that, and more”.

But many customers counter, “not a lot”.

For while lenders may be introducing more and more services in the region, there is increasing backlash against ever-rising service charges.

According to a recent report by Emirates Business, lenders are sneaking in a number of new charges. The Royal Bank of Scotland has a new AED10 monthly maintenance fees on its ‘free-for-life’ credit cards; Mashreq is tipped to follow suit with a similar charge; HSBC UAE introduced an AED25 fee for over-the-counter credit card payments last December.

This follows a Kipp investigation which found that credit card users in the UAE pay twice as much interest compared with their UK counterparts.

Two-thirds of our readers believe bank interest rates are “too high”, with only 19 percent saying that rates are “about right”, according to a recent poll.

Are banks’ high service charges justified? After all, it’s only recently that we’ve been offered debit cards, which have been around since the 1960s.

Some banks are addressing this. For example, HSBC UAE is about to launch its long-promised debit cards, to replace ATM cards, which can’t be used to make purchases. The new cards include Chip & PIN, and Visa payWave technology – also commonplace in other markets, but new here.

But still, is this too little, too late?

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