Beware ‘hidden’ fees when paying Apple, Netflix, Google, Airbnb …

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The fees are not disclosed to customers at the time of purchase and could run from a few rand to a few thousand. PHOTO: iStock

Discovery Bank customers will, from this month, notice additional fees for transactions they had assumed were local ones.

These include subscription payments to NetflixAppleDisney+GoogleSpotifyYouTube, Prime Video, and Microsoft services, as well as purchases made on Airbnb, PayPal, Booking.com, Amazon, Facebook, Bolt, and Alibaba. This is a very, very long list.

Consumers may find this strange as the amounts charged by these global players are typically always in rands. But the reality is that this revenue is being collected outside South Africa.

The challenger bank had previously not charged any fees for these transactions but from 1 June, will – like many other banks – charge a 2% fee. FNB implemented its charge (2%) in July 2022.

“Many international sellers of goods and services bank outside South Africa although they price their products in South African rand for your convenience,” says Discovery.

It lists Apple Music, Booking.com, Google, Netflix, and PayPal as examples and says it now charges this fee if the “seller’s bank is outside South Africa, even if you pay in South African Rand”.

Fees capped
It says in the past it made the exception of covering these costs itself. Discovery caps these at R100 for accounts with bundled fees and at R500 for other accounts.

Generally, the fees – in absolute terms – are relatively low. On a R199 Netflix subscription, the additional charge is R3.98. However, on an accommodation booking (via, say, Airbnb or Booking.com), or a purchase on Amazon.com, the fee can easily add another few hundred rands to the effective price paid.

On a large transaction, the fee could be in the thousands of rands.

Like Discovery, Standard Bank also caps the fee charged (at R800). Bank Zero charges 1% if the transaction is not in rands. Absa only charges this fee (2.75%) if the transaction amount is displayed in foreign currency. Nedbank charges 2% for transactions on this basis.

On transactions over R100, Capitec clients benefit from the lowest fees (by far) among retail banks.

It charges a flat rate of R2 per transaction. On smaller transactions, the fee will be higher than 2%. One can bet Capitec has analysed transactions across its base, and the median is likely around R99.

No up-front disclosure
These fees are opaque in that they not disclosed to customers at the time of purchase – one will only see the fees in an account transaction history or on statements. Crucially, because these transactions occur in rands, most consumers will assume that these are not foreign purchases.

One common international platform where purchases don’t attract this additional charge is Uber/Uber Eats.

This is because it switches its payments locally, versus the other players who switch their payments outside the country. Uber likely made this decision as it has a sizeable in-country presence, and the nature of its business means transaction values can and do change rapidly between when they are initiated and when they are finalised.

There is no real way to avoid these additional fees, aside from moving to a bank that does not charge for these transactions. However, there is no guarantee they will not implement a fee in the future.

For a start, accept that your bill for streaming services is 2% higher. When booking accommodation on an aggregator site, or buying a big-ticket item on Amazon, factor in the additional charge.

This article originally appeared on Moneyweb and was republished with permission.
Read the original article here.

The Citizen