[h=2][/h] Many African customers still don't care to know what their banks offer as solutions before choosing to open an account. They are mostly obliged by necessity and not services While researching for this article, I asked 25 people based in more than 12 African countries why they own a bank account. The first thing each of them said was to save their money. Only four said they were mulling over how the relationship with their banks could change their lives for good, as is often seen in advertising slogans by banks. Banking is more than just dumping one's money in a glass house and returning some time later for periodical withdrawals. Banking is meant to ease, secure and improve the living condition of a client through diverse financial services which a potential accountholder ought to be fully acquainted with before deciding where to bank. Besides the traditional checking and savings accounts, loans, mortgage, credit and debit cards services, most modern banks have broadened their channels to include mobile and online banking to facilitate transactions, with each of these institutions churning out one product or the other every time to lure customers. However, many still fail to understand or care to understand the hidden charges, minor or major inconveniences, and whether there are safer alternatives. I recently signed up to an online service of a pan-African bank, to be able to check my balance and make transfers and payments. I was glad to be able to do my transactions quietly from my room without having to go and queue up in a cramped hall for hours. A month later I requested for its deletion after I discovered the bank was deducting charges even while my platform was yet to be activated. And when I complained, I was told the deduction was preset and automated, which continued for another two months before it ceased. I was never refunded, because according to them, I duly subscribed to the service. I had to shop around three other banks to get a suitable deal that billed three times lesser than the first for the same service and beginning deduction after 90 days. When you walk into a bank's reception don't get overwhelmed by chats from those knowledgeable and product-savvy young men and women. Of course listen to them, ask questions, take their booklets, flyers and walk out like you came in. After studying their new solutions, get elsewhere to find out what others are offering or charging for same services before deciding to adhere. "More than half of African accountholders don't know or care about what they pay for and never compare the offers from different banks to choose what suits them best, and banks know and exploit this ignorance to their favour," Ahmed Toure, an expert with Ivory Coast's Conseil et Ecominique Social, which counsels the government, financial institutions and individuals on finance and social issues, told Technology Banker in an interview. "Rushing to open a bank account is not financial wisdom. What needs to be done is to think of what you'll gain from a bank as someone bringing money to them," he said. Before ordering an ATM card ask to know cash withdrawal fees or whether it is free of charge. Secondly, verify the card's level of security, certainly based on the security history of the issuer's products. I have made research on four banks issuing the same ATM card at different prices, and with varying duration of delivery. Picking the cheapest and quickest is best. There is a plethora of choices of banking products today across the continent, as the rivalry intensifies between the different groups, but a few things have to be borne in mind to stay safe. 1) What do I get for free? Always ask yourself this question before subscribing to any banking service. It is financial wisdom and helps you understand the system better. 2) How can I use their money? Banking should be a two-way traffic. The institutions need you and you need them. They work with your money, you should be given some advantages too, where you'd not necessarily deep into your funds all the time to resolve issues. 3) How fast are the services and products delivered and how fast they work for you? A bank card I once ordered took more than a month to be issued, hardly did I know another bank nearby issues it within seven days. 4) Shop around Check with other banks to compare the value of products and security before making decisions. 5) Ask questions Ask questions constantly and sometimes childishly to know what are hidden in the services. Ask existing customers as well. I accompanied a young lady to a bank to make enquiries about a new product. After an inspiring chat with a manager I whispered to my friend to ask what would happened if she suddenly cancelled her subscription, she was told a deduction would be made on her balance for administrative feels. "Let's get out of here," I said loudly and pulled her away.