Money Matters

Unmasking the tricks that haunt your finances 👻

We take a light-hearted look into the darker side of retail banking and how you can avoid the tricks and treat yourself.
A field of friendly jack-o-lanterns.
Oct 17, 2023

You’ve had your suspicions for a while now. You tell yourself you’re just being paranoid. You gingerly dab your brow then you check your bank balance. The hairs stand up on your neck as you come to the sudden realisation that, little by little, you’ve been bleeding money.

We take a light-hearted look into some of the many ways that banks charge customers and some of the ways you can avoid them. Avoid the tricks and treat yourself.

Account fees: the phantom drain 🧛‍♂️

Ever notice your checking account balance slowly disappearing like a ghostly apparition? 👻 It might be due to those sneaky account fees. 🎩 Banks love to charge you for simply having an account with them. What's their excuse? Well, they've got to keep the lights on at their lavish branches, right? But don't let them trick you; shop around for banks with low or no monthly fees.

Get an account that doesn’t suck 

Debut is building smarter banking that doesn’t rely on leeching account fees from unsuspecting Kiwis. 🧄 Save the garlic for your pasta sauce and sign up for Debut.

Card fees: the mysterious charges 🧙‍♀️

Credit and debit cards are like magic wands, but banks can turn them into spells that drain your wallet. Annual fees, foreign transaction fees, and even fees for using your own money at ATMs not owned by your bank are all ways banks play their tricks. Keep an eye on your statements to catch these hidden goblins. 👹

Keep transaction fees from bubbling over 🫧

👁️ Eye of newt, 🐸 toe of frog, whatever foreign ingredients you’re into, Debut helps you keep costs low. 💳 Card providers charge a small fee to convert you money into foreign currencies when you buy from businesses overseas, like Netflix or Amazon for example. Most banks charge on top of this, but not Debut. You’ll pay only the transaction fee from the card provider and no additional fee from us. You’ll have to work out the free shipping on your own. 📦

Penalties for interest: the interest phantasm 👻

Ever seen your credit card interest rate suddenly shoot up like a zombie in a horror movie? 🧟 Banks love to pull this trick when you make a late payment or miss one altogether. It's like a horror flick with jump scares, but it's your finances on the line. Pay your bills on time to avoid these interest rate monsters.

Save your credit card. Save the debt. Save the stress.

Perhaps your city has been taken over by zombie sheep 🐑 and you need a getaway. 🛫 Maybe you’ve found a shop 🏪 that just so happens to sell exactly the needful things you desire, run by a strange man with a peculiar moustache 😈. In these cases, it can be tempting to reach for your credit card, but good money practices encourage delayed gratification by saving up for the things you want. You would have to fight off that zombie credit card debt plus the scary interest in any case. Might as well save for what you want instead.

Debut is particularly good at helping you to set up and track your savings. Plus, it’s just loaded up with extra features to help you reach your savings goals faster. Gotta outrun the zombies. 🏃‍♀️

Overdraft: the money-eating monster 🧌

Overdraft fees are the trick that just keeps on taking. One small mistake, and suddenly your account is in the red, and the bank charges you for the privilege of being broke. Don't fall for this spooky scheme. Set up alerts to avoid overdrafts or opt-out of overdraft protection.

Could overdraft protection be improved? 👩‍🔬

The only (cute) monsters in your life should be the small furry ones that occasionally chew your shoes or forget to potty outside. As for that "overdraft monster," I hear it’s been doing some soul-searching and doesn’t want to hurt others anymore. After all, the whole point of an overdraft is that it acts as a sort of quick loan when you’re short on cash. In theory, the bank trusts you will pay it back automatically the next time you make a deposit. 

What if you weren’t charged any late fees for your overdraft? If you regularly make deposits, surely that should earn you at least some credibility. We’re still exploring the ins and outs of overdraft protection, so tell us what you think. Vote on your favourite upcoming features on our Live Public Roadmap.

Sneaky contracts: fine print fiends 🤡

Have you ever read your bank's terms and conditions? 🔍 They're more terrifying than any horror novel. Banks hide all sorts of surprises in the fine print, like the ability to change your account terms at any time. Yikes! Keep an eye out for any clause that could come back to haunt your wallet.

Debut is built by you.

🎪 Just because it’s a circus, doesn’t mean you have to be a clown. Debut is rolling out simple language in our policies, agreements and terms of service, so everyone can understand. 👥 We’re building Debut together with Kiwis like you. We want to know what creeps you out about banks and what you’d like to see change.

Join the conversation and help us shape better banking.

Trick or treat: banking edition 🎃

So, how can you fight back against these banking ghouls? Educate yourself on the tricks they use. Read the fine print before signing up for any financial product. Shop around for banks and credit unions with fewer fees and better terms. And finally, don't be afraid to switch banks if your current one is giving you more tricks than treats.

Next-gen banking is here

Debut is building New Zealand’s smartest bank ever, and together with folks like you, we’re reimagining what modern banking could look like. Debut will be available soon. Join the waiting list and invite your friends to try it faster.

This October, while you're picking out costumes and carving pumpkins (you’re never too old, btw), take some time to unmask the tricks banks use to spook your finances. With a little knowledge and some vigilance, you can turn the tables on the banking boogeyman and keep more of your hard-earned cash in your pocket. Happy Halloween, and happy banking, my fellow financial ghostbusters!

Derrick Olivier is Head of Community and Growth at Debut
Debut is the best way to save, track, budget and understand your money.
We’re doing something that’s never been done in New Zealand. We’re building a bank carefully, thoughtfully and with feedback from our customers. This is only the beginning.
Please note, Debut is not a registered bank under the Banking (Prudential Supervision) Act. This is about our future intentions. Investments with us are not supervised currently by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.