In January of 2023 I began my journey with Discovery Bank. I’d first used Discovery Health back in 2007, added Discovery Vitality in 2008, and much like getting everything in the Apple ecosystem for easy integration, I finally took the plunge and started migrating to Discovery Bank. Here below I aim to answer the cost-benefit question many have: “Is it worth the hassle of moving banks for Discovery Bank’s benefits and rewards?” The answer, like with so many things in life is: it depends…

The Discovery App, and moving away from physical branches

If you’re born before 1990, you may be forgiven for thinking: I’d like to go into a physical bank, look the banker in the eye, and feel safe. With just one physical branch in Sandton (I’ve never even been, so not sure how true this is) in the entire country, you need to overcome that desire for the tangible. This bank, like so many others now, are saving millions by not having both a physical branch/es, or ATM’s. It’s such an obvious way of the future, that I am sure it’s just a matter of time till every bank follows suit (Bank Zero, Tyme, Discovery – any others?) are the forerunners in South Africa. And, while we’re here, South Africa is a world-leader in fintech, and most people have no idea the level of absolute excellence, and innovation coming out of just the greater city of Cape Town, never mind the whole country.

All that to say, be prepared to do everything on the Discovery Bank App, and when in need of a human from customer service, it will be via your phone: either a call or a click. I have only experienced one level of help (based on my account/card type – more on that below) but apparently the higher it is (ie. the more you pay) the better it gets.

Discovery Bank Account types, Card types, and Fees

There are a few options to choose from, and when I write, I am always quick to mention that if there is a better resource or explanation elsewhere, it’s quickest and best to point you to it. In this case, take a look at their very own website, and its various products. Much like I wrote in the opening “it depends”, in this case of choosing which account to go for, it’s a case of “you get what you pay for”. You aren’t going to sneakily win with Discovery Bank and Vitality by paying nothing and getting a small fortune, quite the opposite, you will pay quite a sum for both, and if you diligently follow their advice, you will be rewarded.

I decided to trial the Platinum Suite for 2023, and considered the Blank Suite, but my thought was that typically with any subscription, on anything, worldwide, it’s always far, far easier to upgrade than downgrade. I mean, I am not going to go there, but please go and google it and research it, and I’ve personally seen some convincing literature around that; the normal phrase to search is around “how many clicks to cancel a service”, and the like. Anyway, the Platinum Suite for me so far is a deal – it’s October right now, and I had a very slow start to this all in January, and just took time to improve my standing with Discovery when I had capacity workwise – and all I can really say is that this is what the numbers looked like, in a crude summary:

  • Platinum Suite cost per month: R269
  • Vitality cost per month: R465
  • Jan to May cash earnings average: R500
  • June to September cash earnings average: R2,000

The above is an approximation, but I plan to screengrab and publish here the whole year’s costs and earnings, in early January 2024. All that to say, the above is a good segue into the next section: rewards etc.

The benefits of discovery bank: From an apple watch to travel insurance

As I started this section I realised it’s incredibly hard to outline the ginormous complexity of how the rewards work, and I do think it’s deliberate of Discovery as a whole (the entire ecosystem, not just the Bank or Vitality in isolation). What is probably best is to make up one metaphor, and then read one or two practical examples and get the gist of it, and so let’s do that.

Imagine your health right now, and today, is based on five things:

  1. How you slept last night
  2. What you ate in the past 24hrs
  3. How physically fit you currently are
  4. How stressed you are at school/work or with life in general
  5. Your genetics (inherited, but also age, and gender etc)

If you can think for a bit about each, it’s not hard to see that they are all intertwined. If you eat horribly, it will likely affect your sleep and fitness. If you never exercise, it will probably affect your sleep and stress levels. If you’re working super hard and stressed, you probably make bad eating decisions, and have little time to exercise. In a nutshell: we’re going to look at things holistically, and if you can sort out four of the factors, the fifth will probably follow. Or, if you fail miserably at all five, maybe if you start doing one right, perhaps the second and third will follow suit. We can hope.

Example One:

So Discovery (in my mind) is incentivised to keep their customers healthy, as they will then have lower medical claims; also, it’s the right thing to do, so kudos to them. If they can help you eat well (behavioural change incentive: they will give points back for buying healthy food), sleep well (buy a wearable device, like the Apple Watch), spend well (sign up for Discovery Bank, and spend according to their algorithm), and exercise regularly (with the watch, Apple or otherwise) then they have a pretty good read on the situation. There are ways to cheat the system, for sure, but by and large, I think 20% of people are both pretty happy to do the right thing, and the other 80% of people really couldn’t be bothered to go out of their way just to buy an unhealthy BarOne from a 7/11 when they’re in the aisle at Woolies.

So if you do “the things” in the example above, then you get rewarded at each point, which gives you rewards back. Again, this is totally in my mind, but the reason I’d say Discovery can’t bring your premium down if you exercise three times a week is I think they’d risk giant, impossible-to-beat lawsuits around the ethics of that. So, how to get around that: reward good behaviour, rather than punish bad behaviour. Again, I am certain there is great academic literature around this, and has been for centuries – no one likes negativity 🙂

Example Two:

I’ll give a good example that literally happens with me. In a given week, if I spend about R2,000 or R3,000 I get a reward which looks like a “play on the gameboard” (cue: gamification article/industry and its power!), and I look forward to it every Wednesday. It takes one minute on the app, and then if I achieve my spend goal, I get some Discovery Miles, and the general value is worth about a Kauai smoothie. However, if I keep it, and combine it with the three others in the month (we’re now talking about R80-100 in a month) and then also combine it with my exercise goals (again, about R80-100 in a month) I have, for argument’s sake, a R200 voucher. But! Here is the big thing. If I have achieved my goals, and I have all the products with Discovery (Health, Vitality, Bank) I can use the voucher to buy things at 30% off, in other words, a R200 voucher, is now costing me R140.

The above illustrates the concept and process quite poorly but they are more about getting weekly rewards, and helping motivate folk each week with “nudges”. The far bigger savings are really the ones that are built in up front and barely fluctuate – perhaps changing once a year.

Some good examples of some of the benefits include:

  • A very cheap (free if you’re over 65) Apple Watch – catch is you must achieve your exercise goals.
  • Very discounted flights – no real catches here, but I currently get 45% off local flights.
  • Money back on healthy food purchases – I am on 50% back in Miles (but Miles convert directly into cash, so there is no real catch), and this is by far the biggest incentive in Vitality.
  • Huge discount on Virgin Active – I get 75% off each month, and must commit to a year to make it worth it. Worth it for me because I am an avid swimmer.
  • Free iPhone – From what I can tell this isn’t an option anymore, but I do still see it mentioned here and there. It will probably change each year, but I am also sure that like the Apple Watch, it probably has some heavy fine print about exercise goals.
  • Discounts when you buy from a host of partners – I often buy things from Yuppiechef, Le Creuset, or Takealot but they’re not the typical daily retailers like PnP or WW or Checkers – but it is still a decent offering. Next time you buy something from Sportsmans Warehouse for R2,000 think to yourself: “Eish, I wish I could have had R600 off this for zero work.”

And plenty more – look at their website for all the ins and outs, especially because things do change at a moment’s notice.

Discovery’s Rewards, Interest rates, and other cool features

One of the best things about Discovery Bank is that my cheque account earns interest; at FNB I would have to move money out of my cheque/transmission account into a savings account, and then move it back when I need the money – and obviously didn’t like just having money sitting in it not earning interest, but also because of crime risks. I love that I earn more in my “sitting there cheque account” with Discovery than I did with the pathetic 3% FNB savings account.

I also have a fixed deposit account with something like 8.5% interest (as it’s a step towards earning Diamond status on the Bank), and then the usual credit card, and virtual credit card set up, linked to my phone, so I can “tap and fingerprint-ID” my way around a mall like a boss. One double-click on my home button and I am sorted – woo-hoo.

However, the next benefit may surprise you: I absolutely love that I get an email every time there is a purchase, transfer, debit order or other activity on my bank accounts! Why? It’s just so much easier to keep track of things, and work with, but also: I have big plans to develop some tech that filters the mails, and scrapes the info off of it, into a budgeting system of sorts. Budgeting apps never quite work, so being able to manually alter everything in a very workable spreadsheet is never going to be beat, and having said that, Discovery Bank boasts an “AI budgeting feature” and to be honest, the number of comapnies boasting their AI capabilities is just making us all nauseous. I do think it has machine learning, and is getting better, but I literally will type in an expense – let’s say it is “coffee” from the same transaction value and client each month and it never learns… but it will one day, so just wait it out 🙂

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that if you hate doing everything on mobile and you just want to see everything on a big laptop or desktop screen, you can log in to the web app. I find for booking flights and doing a big account statement csv download, it’s much easier to know what you’re up to.

Flight discounts and airport lounge access

If you travel a lot for work (or play) then the Airport Lounge is a big one. I really loved it at FNB, and the R250 or R500 it costs (ie. saves) each time is well worth it once you’ve showered in the business lounge at OR Tambo, and filled yourself up on coffees, cokes, and vietnamese bao-bao buns – I think my record is eight, and I only weigh about eight stone! This is a good time to mention the Purple tier of the banking suite options. If you travel overseas two or more times a year, and want those flights savings (they are huge for a big trip!) then it is well worth this card/suite option. Otherwise, I do believe the best value is the Black Card/Suite.

If you never travel at all, then the access isn’t a clincher, and it’s also worth saying that some people hate the gym, or don’t care to exercise, and loathe wearing a fitness tracker – and I totally get you – then ignore this whole thing, it’s really not for you. While we’re on travel though, you also qualify for car discounts, and a few other travel related things, like hotel bookings, and such.

My move from FNB to Discovery Bank

So as I mentioned at the start, I’m slowly moving away from FNB and to Discovery. As I had the “Health” set up (and FNB has nothing in comparison) it was the logical way to go. Since then I have moved my Gap Cover to Discovery, and Life Cover. Vitality was obviously only on offer with them anyway, and by far the biggest change has acutally been the “Bank”. Car and Home Insurance is in progress, and probably the biggest pain, but I will get there in due course. The last thing to move is my business banking, but Discovery is yet to offer anything in that space, and based on their target market, likely never will. One thing I wish cling on to, and might have to give up on, is FNB Connect – which is basically a free cellular contract – and I do wish there was an easy “3-clicks-and-you-are-sorted” offering from them, because then Discovery would have my whole life.

Two things I may also engage in down the line is their a) speedy-quick solar finance/installation option (having it ringfenced all by them is appealing, and I trust them more than any local installer), and their b) home loan – but I don’t need to go and buy a mansion just yet, only after I have earned enough from the users who donate after reading this article! haha.

Joskes aside: if you want 5,000 free Discovery Miles, then use this referral code on signup “GMV021”, and you will get them when you sign up to Discovery Bank. The kickback is I also get 5,000 for suggesting it, but no pressure, I wrote. this with the express motivation of just helping people… and I get enough back each month from my WW food purchases 😉