My Experience Using ALAT and CowryWise. A Comparison.

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This month I decided to try out CowryWise and ALAT digital banking platforms.




To make it easy for you to get an actionable gist from my experience with the two platforms, I will do a feature by feature comparison.

EASE OF USE
I find CowryWise more user friendly than ALAT. Though ALAT is available as a phone app on both Android and iOS platform, it still didn't come off as very easy to use as CowryWise. 

Registration is a straightforward process of filling a non-tedious form on CowryWise. 

Registering on ALAT requires you to supply your BVN and the phone number linked to your BVN. Took me three days to get part right as I was giving a phone number that wasn't the one I registered with the bank I did my BVN with and the platform doesn't tell you what's wrong so you have to just keep trying to figure out things on your own. Then when you are past that stage, you have to face the unreliability of their SMS verification code delivery. Almost every major task you'll do during the registration process requires an SMS verification code, the problem is that sometimes the code comes hours late and useless by then. Lastly, you need to upload your national identity card and a utility bill. Then they can get rejected for many reasons, so the back and forth can be exhausting. In the end, you can't get an ALAT account set up in one day, unlike CowryWise. It took me two weeks and I'm not sure that all is fully set up as there is still a transaction limit (N30,000/daily outward transfer) on my account.

TRANSACTION FEES
Here CowryWise is like heaven to ALAT's earth. 

With CowryWise you incur no transaction charge, depositing money or withdrawing money. But ALAT charges you in both directions -- depositing and withdrawing. The charges look small, but there can easily add up if you do even just a few transactions a month.

Also, ALAT requires a minimum balance of N500 which they don't make obvious upfront. I also get some unexplained charges. I hate such traditional bank tactics.

ROBUSTNESS (Number and depth of available features)
ALAT is more robust than CowryWise.

ALAT provides you a MasterCard you can use for ATM withdrawals and online payment. Provides you the best online card management platform I have ever seen (better than GTBank, Stanbic, FCMB and Diamond Banks'). You can access your account via their beautiful phone apps. And you can do bills payment and airtime purchase from their platform. ALAT is actually a standard bank account. You can transfer to it from other banks, either via their online platform (just pick Wema bank) or ATM transfer. The account number is the standard NUBAN one.





CowryWise does not have debit card nor phone apps nor bill payment feature.




However, both have savings goal feature and CowryWise even goes as far as allowing you to automate your savings (a neat e-version of direct debit mandate).

REPUTATION
ALAT wins here. It is owned by a well-known bank -- Wema Bank. And they seem more thorough with account opening process -- requesting and verifying standard KYC (Know Your Customer) documents. CowryWise doesn't have such a big heritage and they didn't request KYC documents from me.

INTEREST RATE
CowryWise wins massively here, by a mountain-slide. With the absence of transaction charges you are actually earning the full promised interest rate (between 10% and 15%) than ALAT's advertised 10% which gets hammered by charges and possible interest penalties. Also ALAT gives you that 10% only on money you put in a savings goal you first need to create and isn't directly linked to your primary account (and MasterCard). You have two options when creating the savings goal -- a fixed approach and a flexible approach. In the fixed approach you lose all interests if you withdraw before the goal termination date and in the flexible approach you can only withdraw half of what's in the account within a month without incurring the interest penalty. I see all these as huge red flags for me. I had to even call the customer care before I got these vital details.

WITHDRAWAL
I'll say it's a tie. I initiated withdrawal on both platforms and got the value within the hour. But ALAT's MasterCard gives ALAT more edge over CowryWise just that I don't consider it significant enough to say it's not a tie.




MY DECISION
I am doing both of them but see myself using more of CowryWise than ALAT. My original strategy is to put most of my emergency funds in them and benefit from the way higher interest rate than what the banks pay. But the restrictions around ALAT vis-a-vis the high interest rate part defeats that for me. So I will be using mainly CowryWise for the emergency fund part in addition with my already existing Diamond Bank's High Deposit Account (that is no longer living up to its name). Using ALAT is more of as an adventure for me and to be part of the first to hop onboard the digital banking wave in Nigeria.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks(sir) for this eyes opening post............

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cowrywise actually has a trustee partnership with Meristem though.

    ReplyDelete

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