Banking and Open Source in South Africa

Now that I’m finally moved off the Windows2000 machine I’d been using at work (all of the developers have been using Linux a while, either Gentoo, Mandrake or Fedora, as have most of the editorial staff, so it was disgraceful that the IT Manager who got everyone to run on Open Source hasn’t been doing so himself!), and am running Mandrake on my laptop, it’s time to look at that ‘hall of shame’ I’ve been meaning to put together a while. How do South African banks shape up when it comes to Open Source.

Sadly, pretty badly.

The obvious 2 are the ‘online’ banks, 20Twenty and Icanonline. They offer better interest rates, lower charges – surely they would support open standards? I currently use Icanonline, and have been very happy, but plan to retire all Windows machines from my life. I’ll keep this discussion simple: do the sites work on Linux (or anything besides IE), and what interest rates do they pay with a R10 000 positive balance, and with a R100 000 positive balance (perhaps I’m being a tad optimistic here). Bank charges are another story altogether. I’d suggest looking at the Bankmonitor site for more on this.

Great interest rate of 6.05% for anything above R10 000, but the menus don’t work, making the site unusable. Interest of R50.41/R504.16 per month if you have a R10 000/R100 000 balance.

Not quite so good interest rate: 3% at R10 000, 6% at >R20 000. I’ve been assured by a Wired Warrior that the site works on Mozilla, but I can’t even complete the application form successfully (don’t oops me, I assure you that radio button was checked!). Interest works out to R25/R500 per month at R10 000/R100 000.

Works on Linux and a fairly wide variety of platforms. I was going to write ‘impressive tech’, but I’m feeling churlish today – just since most of the banks don’t do it, doesn’t mean it’s impressive. This should be standard! So FNB meet the minimum standards. However, dismal interest rate of 1.25% at R10 000, moving up to 4% at R100 000. That’s R10.41/R333.33 interest per month at R10 000/R100 000.

Standard Bank:
Dismal interest of 1.5% and 3.8%. Site doesn’t fill one with hope, talking only about IE 5 or higher, but menus seem to work with Mozilla, and I’ve heard the site does work. If anyone knows more, please let me know. R12.50 and R316.66 interest respectively.


It gets worse! Interest of 1% and 3.5%, and the site seems up the pole. I can’t find a page mentioning browser requirements, the site map has one page on it, and the interactive demo is a tiny window that I can’t click on. So I can only assume this site isn’t working on Linux. If the interest rates don’t chase you away, the tech will! You’d earn a whopping R8.33/R291.66. Don’t fool yourself that with bank charges you’ll come close to a profit!

1.2% and 3.8%. After Icanonline and 20Twenty I would have called this dismal, but it doesn’t seem so bad after the other misnamed ‘Big Four’. Can’t find specific information about the browsers, but the demo seems to work, although some of the rendering is a little off. Does anyone know more? R10/R316.66 interest earned.

So, what am I to do? Icanonline and 20Twenty both offer tempting packages, but the tech doesn’t work. Do I have to effectively pay hundreds of rands more (with bank charges) to be able to bank on Linux? These banks happily chase away the 1 in 25 people who can’t use their sites (based upon the September IOL figures, probably a good overview of general South African readership). Perhaps I should apply for a 20Twenty account on IE, and then test whether the actual banking works on Mozilla. How many customers would go to this much trouble 🙂 I’ll keep you posted.

1 comment

  1. Nice write-up. I have both a 20twenty account and an icanonline account, so I feel qualified to comment on these two.

    First up, you were quite correct in your comments on both 20twenty and icanonline. icanonline is unusable with anything but IE5.5 and above. This is a royal pain in the neck for me, and I use IE for that and WindowsUpdate. Period.

    20twenty has two major failings in the browser arena. First off, the application, as you mentioned. Secondly, the 20sense area, which is basically a “members-only” section of the site that allows members, client or not, to suggest improvements, products, and so on.

    The banking section is obviously the most crucial part of the site, and it is here that they have come clean. Clients have been lobbying for open standards for many moons, and 20twenty is listening. Banking with Firefox results in 99% functionality, with the remaining 1% being mouseovers bearing information that is available elsewhere in any case.

    My opinion then? Apply for 20twenty using IE (and a good firewall), then move over to Mozilla, and breathe easy.

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