Last year, the big four Australian-owned banks — ANZ, ASB, BNZ and Westpac — made a combined profit of $4.59 billion in New Zealand. That’s equivalent to $1000 from each of us.

It’s not surprising 82 percent of respondents in our latest bank satisfaction survey agree the profits banks make show they’re charging too much. Just 37 percent felt banks charged customers fairly and rates were competitive.

But despite these negative perceptions, half of respondents (55 percent) were very satisfied with their main bank and a further third (31 percent) were somewhat satisfied.

Satisfaction

As a group, the local banks — Kiwibank, The Co-operative Bank and TSB Bank — outperformed the big four Australian-owned banks. Two-thirds (67 percent) of local bank customers were very satisfied overall, compared with half (52 percent) of the Aussie banks’ customers.

TSB Bank customers were significantly more likely (83 percent) than average to be very satisfied (see Overall satisfaction). Comments about TSB Bank included: “great bank, NZ owned. Exceptional customer service” and “I do recommend TSB Bank to people at every opportunity I get”.

Combined, customers of the local banks were also more likely be very satisfied with their bank’s performance on other measures including competitive interest rates, advice on products and services, timely responses to inquiries, and value for money.

Reasonable fees

Local bank customers were also significantly more likely to feel they were getting a good deal on fees.

The majority of TSB Bank (83 percent) and The Co-operative Bank (65 percent) customers were very satisfied their bank’s fees were reasonable, compared with the average of 34 percent. Forty-five percent of Kiwibank customers were also very satisfied on this measure.

In contrast, only a quarter of Westpac customers and a fifth of BNZ’s were very satisfied their bank had reasonable fees.

Fees are a sore point for many of us.

Sixty percent of respondents said they were paying monthly or transaction fees. The remainder had age- or life stage-related fee exemptions (for example, student or superannuitant accounts), or other account-related exemptions. Twelve percent of respondents felt their bank slugged them with unexpected fees.

Forty-four percent of respondents flagged lower fees and charges as the one thing their bank could provide to increase customer satisfaction.

TSB Bank had the lowest proportion of customers paying monthly fees (16 percent). Among the big four banks, BNZ had a higher-than-average proportion of customers paying monthly fees (74 percent).

Ways to bank

While banks have put a lot of effort into marketing new technology, our survey shows old-fashioned branch banking still has a place for the modern consumer.

Internet banking was used by 95 percent of respondents. Half were using it “about the same as a year ago” and 41 percent “more often”. While six percent of users were using it “less often”, the 18 to 34-year-old age group was twice as likely to have cut back on usage (12 percent).

Just over half of respondents were using a smartphone banking app, with 35 percent doing so “more often” than a year ago. Those aged 18 to 34 had a higher than average incidence of using it “more often”.

Branch banking was used by 89 percent of respondents and remains popular with those 65 and over. Sixty percent of this age group were using it “about the same as a year ago”, compared with 46 percent of customers on average. Four in 10 respondents were using branch banking “less often”. The older age group was also more likely than average to be very satisfied with their branch banking.

Nearly two thirds of respondents had a contactless credit or debit card. Forty-three percent of cardholders were making contactless transactions “regularly – wherever they could”, with males and those aged 25 to 44 having a higher incidence of doing so.

While the use of these cards is rising, there were worries about the safety of this technology. Just over a third (38 percent) of cardholders were “very concerned” about safety. Those who never used their cards for contactless payments were much more likely to be concerned (69 percent) than regular users (22 percent).

Problems

The majority of respondents, 88 percent, hadn’t had any problems with their bank in the previous 12 months. Customers of local banks were less likely to have had problems (93 percent) than those of the big four banks (87 percent).

Although the number of problems was low, when they did happen respondents often weren’t happy with the resolution. Only a quarter of those who’d experienced problems felt the issue had been handled “very well” and 43 percent felt it had been handled “poorly”.

Where problems had arisen, poor customer service was the main issue. Incorrect fees and charges, and mistakes in processing were next.

Switching

In general, respondents weren’t in a rush to leave their bank. Nine percent said they were very likely to do so in the next 12 months and just five percent had changed their bank in the previous 12 months.

Overall, 57 percent of respondents said they were likely to recommend their bank to others. ANZ was the only bank that differed significantly from the average — 47 percent of its customers would recommend it.

As a group, customers of local banks were significantly more likely to recommend their bank than customers of the big four banks — 70 percent compared with 53 percent.