FNB has defended a reduction in complimentary visits to SLOW lounges at the country’s largest airports, stating that banking customers can earn more visits to these lounges than ever before.

The bank said that as part of its new eBucks rules for 2020, banking clients will need to book flights and travel plans through the eBucks platform, to enjoy better rewards.

The bank this week updated its banking fees and rewards programme rules for the 2020/21 financial year, which are set to come into effect from 1 July 2020.

Among a price freeze on monthly bank account charges, and a hike in other transaction fees, the group also said it was changing earn rules for its popular eBucks rewards programme, to make it easier for customers to earn rewards.

Some of the bigger rule changes include:

  • eBucks level 1 will now start at zero points and customers will get new once-off booster points to help them move up reward levels quicker within a month;
  • Customers could earn up to 40% back in eBucks on Netflix and Spotify monthly subscriptions when they use family banking or qualifying spousal accounts;
  • Customers could earn additional eBucks through Smart Spend on their qualifying FNB and RMB Private Bank cards or when using FNB Pay;
  • Customers who hold FNB investment accounts could bank for free by earning up to 100% of their monthly Fusion or Cheque account fees back in eBucks, depending on their reward level and minimum balance;
  • Customers who take up an FNB Connect SIM after 1 July 2020 will get up to 1GB, 30 voice minutes and 30 SMS for the first 3 months, thereafter, the free FNB Connect allocation will depend on their eBucks Reward level.

As is typical with these annual reviews, some rewards and benefits have been negatively impacted. In the latest review, it was the complimentary access to SLOW lounges, which is only available to the upper-tier accounts holders (Premier, Private and Private Wealth).

In 2019, at bare minimum, a Premier account holder at an eBucks reward level of 1 could still get two complimentary visits to the SLOW lounge each year while travelling. At the upper-end, a Private Wealth client at eBucks level 5 would get unlimited access.

In 2020, these complimentary visits have been reduced across the board, with a level 1 Premier client now getting zero visits a year, and a level 5 Private Wealth client only having access to 36 visits.

These changes are detailed in the table below:

However, FNB stated that while this appears to be a reduction at face value, it is possible for level 1 Premier clients to get as many as 12 complimentary visits to SLOW lounges a year – provided they meet the criteria.

In 2019, FNB allowed customers of Premier, Private and Private Wealth to earn two, six and eight complimentary visits on top of their reward level limits, by booking their flights and trips through the eBucks platform.

In 2020, this has been increased to 12 additional complimentary visits across the board. This, the bank said, means that most clients can get more complimentary visits to SLOW lounges than before.

“We have over 1 million SLOW Domestic and SLOW International FNB customer Lounge visits every year,” the bank said.

“Most customers on reward level 1 and 2 were able to get enough complimentary visits to last for one or two return trips, but can get up to 12 visits per year when they book through eBucks travel on the FNB App.”

The table below outlines the maximum number of visits possible in 2019 and 2020.

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