Digital savings products gain traction
Online deposit options offer convenience and higher interest rates, but be sure to read the conditions
Saving for a rainy day is an ideal approach in times of great uncertainty. Although the prolonged low interest rate environment tends to make people hesitate about embarking on a traditional savings plan, digital savings products are a secure and wise choice to make your money work in a low-interest world.
A digital savings account is an alternative financial product allowing depositors to save money with greater convenience and safety on a digital platform.
Depositors do not need to visit bank branches to open digital savings deposit accounts, a boon for consumers' health and safety amid the prolonged coronavirus outbreak.
This innovative deposit product also offers higher interest rates compared with traditional savings deposit accounts.
Banks allow customers to open digital savings deposit accounts and conduct financial transactions via mobile banking.
The process does not require any documents nor a passbook to carry out savings transactions.
Services cover fund transfers, money top-ups, bill payment, debit card application, mutual fund and insurance purchases.
Some services also offer e-statements for free.
The features and conditions of digital savings products vary according to each bank.
A 15% withholding tax and account maintenance fee are required for e-savings products, and depositors can open only one digital savings deposit account per institution.
Stiffer competition among financial products has encouraged financial service providers to lure depositors with different features and conditions in addition to attractive interest rates. Hence, consumers have more choice in finding an e-savings account.
CIMB Thai Bank (CIMBT) offers the highest interest rate among its peers for digital savings deposits.
CIMB Chill D, the bank's e-savings programme, offers an annual interest of 2% for depositors with savings of more than 10,000 baht but not exceeding 50,000 baht.
For savings deposits of more than 50,000 baht but less than 100,000 baht, the annual interest rate is 1%.
Kept by Krungsri is another digital savings product offered by Bank of Ayudhya (BAY), although its conditions warrant a thorough assessment.
The product offers attractive interest rates ranging from 1.6% to 1.8%, but its features and conditions are complicated compared with savings products of other banks.
Kept requires deposit management on an e-savings app, separating money into three pots for transactions and savings purposes based on each depositor's customised settings.
Kept offers an interest rate of 1.6% for the first year of deposits, rising to 1.8% from the second year. This product requires a minimum deposit of 5,000 baht and a maximum of 5 million baht.
In addition to Kept, BAY provides an attractive annual interest rate of 1.5% for Mee Tae Dai Savings, its traditional savings deposit account, for transactions via the digital platform.
Other major banks such as Kasikornbank (KBank), Krungthai Bank and Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) offer special interest rates of 1.5% for their digital savings accounts only.
Details of the conditions for these digital savings products differ in terms of minimum deposit requirements and amount that is eligible for special interest rates.
K-eSavings of KBank offers an annual interest rate of 1.5% for a deposit amount of no more than 100,000 baht. For savings deposits that exceed 100,000 baht, 0.5% is applied.
Krungthai NEXT Savings offers a 1.5% interest rate per year for a deposit not exceeding 1 million baht, while 0.5% interest is applied for higher deposits.
SCB EZ Savings sets a deposit amount of no more than 5 million baht to qualify for an annual interest rate of 1.5%. A 0.5% rate is applied for higher deposit amounts.
Kiatnakin Phatra Bank (KKP) also offers an attractive interest rate for digital savings deposits of 1.55%, applicable for deposits of no more than 1 million baht. The rate is 0.5% for amounts exceeding 1 million baht.
However, depositors need to open a TrueMoney wallet account in order to apply for KKP's e-savings product.
Meanwhile, Line BK, a new fintech platform that is a collaboration between KBank and Line Corporation, introduced Line Special Rate Account to compete in the e-savings market.
Embedded with simple features and conditions, the Line account aims to attract the under-banked and unbanked customers.
Depositors can select their desired savings amount from 100 baht to 500,000 baht, but any amount that exceeds 500,000 baht offers zero interest.
Depositors can choose savings terms of either six months or 12 months, offering interest rates of 1% and 1.5%, respectively. Each Line BK depositor can open up to three special rate accounts.
People inquire about financial products at the Money Expo 2020 event held at Bitec in Bangkok. Digital savings products offer higher interest rates than traditional deposit accounts. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
DIGITAL STEPPING STONE
Weerapon Bordeerat, first vice-president of customer advisory development at KBank, said several local banks have introduced digital savings accounts to provide more convenience to depositors.
Although attractive interest rates are just one facet of these products, they could attract depositors and support savings on a digital platform, in line with higher digital adoption among Thais, he said.
Social distancing measures to safeguard against Covid-19 and the government's financial relief measures disbursed through a digital platform have encouraged people to open deposit accounts via digital banking.
The government's nationwide lockdown policy implemented in the middle of 2020 and the first round of financial relief led to deposit account openings via mobile banking apps doubling during that time.
Though there is an upward trend, digital deposits still represent a small portion compared with traditional deposits.
The majority of depositors still keep their money in physical deposit accounts rather than switching to digital deposits to obtain a better return.
This could be attributed to limited awareness and risk concerns about cybersecurity, said Mr Weerapon.
Financial literacy, especially risk management on digital banking platforms, is necessary to propel the country to the next stepping stone in the digital era, he said.
Setting notifications or alerts to monitor money movements is an instrument to secure digital banking services, said Mr Weerapon.
Digital savings features can be customised for each depositor, encouraging more digital deposits.
In other countries, financial institutions design digital saving features to align with the lifestyle of depositors.
"An example of this is a credit card-related digital savings product. A product feature is cardholders need to save an equal amount when they spend via credit cards," he said.
"In Thailand, this could be similarly applied to develop digital deposits and digital savings platforms."
Depositors who want to start saving on a digital platform for convenience and greater returns can start with a small deposit and learn the pros and cons of these innovative products, said Mr Weerapon.
Depositors should set a clear objective for their savings plan to build inspiration and to reach the target within a specific time frame.