A reader recently wrote to us to find out exactly what steps she should take when it comes to switching banks.  She also needs help deciding what account she should open and wants to save some money each week.

Here’s her question:

“Hi Charne, I recently graduated and started my first job. I still have a student account open at Nedbank, but would like to close it as I am no longer a student and I also no longer care for Nedbank's service. I would like to know, which kind of account I should open now that I have a proper salary (part of which I would also like to save each month) and if you could possibly suggest which institution is best to bank with? Thank you.”

Charne van der Walt, owner of Lemons into Lemonade Financial Planners, had the following tips to share:
•    The bank you choose will be a bank you must be comfortable with and where they have a package that suits your needs. You need to consider which kind of transactions will go through your account and then compare various banks' packages with each other.

•    The difference between a savings and current account is only in that you cannot obtain an overdraft facility on a savings account. The old cheque accounts are not really used anymore because internet banking have taken over cheques, but are in essence what we know as a current account today. Savings accounts are generally less expensive in costs but one or two banks now offer both accounts at very much the same costs.

•    With a current account it's normally easier to obtain a credit card later on but again, some banks issue credit cards even if you only have a savings account but have a good record. Savings accounts do not really give so much better interest than current accounts so for savings I will look at fixed deposit accounts where you have to give notice on the accounts between one to 12 months.

•     If you want to save at a better interest rate but have access to the funds, then you can use a credit card to save on (as opposed to using it for purchases) or even a money market account.

•    The rest of the package they offer will depend on how many debit orders you have that run through the account, how many internet bank transactions you will do each month, how many times you swipe your debit card, how many times you plan to withdraw money at an ATM, etc.

•    The principle is that, what works for me on the amount and type of transactions I have will not necessarily work for you.

•    Start with two banks and compare their basic accounts. One account may offer 10 free debit orders a month where you only have two debit orders but at the same time you know you withdraw cash regularly and they only offer two free withdrawals a month and then charge a high fee from the third one up.

•    If you have just graduated and started your first job and you're not sure what kind (or how many) transactions you will do each month, then perhaps you can stick to your existing account for two or three months until you see what transactions you need the account for and know exactly what to look out for.

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Read Charne van der Walt’s bio here.