Banks exist to do two things: give you access to your money when you need it, and help you save it when you don't. But it's hard to grow your money when you are accruing hundreds of rands in banking charges in every month. What you need is a way to cut banking costs while also allowing your money to grow - one that takes advantage of the many incentives that banks are giving customers to become less dependent on branches and ATMs.

Maybe you're already making payments online and swiping for the majority of store purchases, but you're now looking for other ways to save on bank fees. Here, in our first instalment in our How to Save series, we give you those money saving tips. Here are five tactics to reduce your bank charges that you should practice if you aren't doing so already.

1) Draw money at the till, not an ATM

This is one of the surest ways to save on banking charges: draw money only at the till. If you don't yet know how much you're paying for withdrawals, ask for a bank statement next time you go into a branch, and then highlight and add up all your withdrawal charges. Some banks charge as much as R11 to draw money from their own ATMs, and even if you are withdrawing from an ATM only a few times a week, it can quickly add up.

Withdrawals made at the till, on the other hand, are many times lower for many banks, and you only have to put a stickie in your wallet to remind yourself to withdraw every time you get to the check out in a Pick n Pay, Spar, or other participating store. You'll quickly learn to anticipate how much you need between grocery runs, and, if you're really diligent, you'll forget that ATMs were once your go-to for cash.

2) Check your balance online or on your app, not at the ATM

Balance enquiries made at an ATM cost in the region of R4 or R5, whereas those made using an app or online banking are usually free. Again, it's these small and innocent charges that can add up at the end of the month if you aren't diligent. Initially, it might take a concerted effort to remember to do everything using your app and online banking, but with time and practice, it will become a habit.

3) Get a low-cost bank account

When people hear 'low-cost', they tend to think of an inferior product or service, but that's not the case with bank accounts. Though originally developed for low income earners, many low-cost bank accounts are also a great way for middle-income earners to save on bank fees. With the general push away from branches and towards digital banking, some low-cost bank accounts perform just as well as a regular account but at a fraction of the price.

Here's a quick look at what you'll get with an Old Mutual Money Account:

• Free swipes

• Free withdrawals at the till

• Free transactions between current and savings account

• Debit orders at R2.00

• Cash deposits at the till at R5.00 per deposit

Now let's imagine that on the average month you still make two ATM withdrawals for R500 each, six withdrawals at the till, six debit orders, one online payment (usually your rent) and one cash deposit, either at the till or at an ATM depending on the options available to you. Here are the bank charges you would incur on two different types of account: the Money Account, which costs you R4,95 a month, and account B, which costs R100 a month. Note that even though account B includes free online payments, free debit orders, and free withdrawals at the till, account A (Money Account) is still more than a hundred rand cheaper.

If you're still paying a hefty admin fee and your bank is recommending that you withdrawal from the till, you'll probably see the sense in a low-cost bank account. To learn how to choose one, see our blog What to look for in a low-cost bank account.

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4) Make payments on time and avoid having your debit orders rejected

Debit order rejection charges are amongst the highest bank fees you can incur - as high as R25 per R100 at some banks. To avoid being slapped with these costly charges, you should make sure that there is always enough money in your account when your debit orders go off. One way to ensure this is to arrange for debit orders to be made soon after pay day, but sticking to a well thought-out budget plan will also prevent the dreaded 'insufficient funds' notification and help you save on bank fees.

5) Be aware of variable withdrawal charges

If you do have to withdraw from an ATM, remember this: the amount charged for a withdrawal sometimes varies according to the amount of the withdrawal. One bank (and we won't mention any names here) charges R5.50 for a R500 withdrawal and R11 for a R600 withdrawal. One of these options appears in the main menu, and the other has to be entered manually. Guess which is which.

At Old Mutual, we haven't developed a low-cost product for people who can't afford more expensive products. We believe that everyone should be able to benefit from an affordable bank account. And, for that reason, we have developed a bank account that can help you both save on bank fees and help you grow your money, regardless of whether you earn R5,000 a month or R50,000 a month. 

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