BAP: ATM fee policy promotes ‘efficiency’

The country’s biggest banks welcomed on Wednesday the acquirer-based automated teller machine (ATM) fee policy of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), whose imminent implementation a consumer advocacy group sees as ill-timed, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the government’s push for a more digital economy.

In a statement, Benjamin Castillo, Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) managing director, said his group appreciated the central bank’s “move to adopt this pricing philosophy that is market-driven and customer-centered.”

“This policy promotes competition and efficiency in the banks’ effort to deliver better services to the banking public,” he added.

This comes after some of the country’s biggest banks announced earlier this week that beginning April 7, fees for cash withdrawals and balance inquiries would be set by the bank that owns the ATMs that customers use.

BDO Unibank Inc. is currently charging non-BDO ATM holders P18 for withdrawals and P2 for balance inquiries.

Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. (Metrobank) and the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) announced that fees for non-Metrobank and non-BPI cardholders transacting on their ATMs would be P18 for withdrawals and P2 for balance inquiries.

Despite this, BAP assured the banking public that cardholders who continue to use the ATMs of their respective banks would still enjoy these machines’ services for free.

“Cardholders who choose to transact using an ATM of another bank will still have an option to proceed or not to proceed with his transaction, mindful of the ATM fee that will be charged,” Castillo said. “[N]o fee will be charged if the cardholder will use the ATM terminal of his bank.”

Meanwhile, consumer advocacy group Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) said that while the new ATM charging policy might help prevent the spread of Covid-19 by limiting customers’ mobility, it was still “not appropriate” at this time.

LKI President Vic Dimagiba told The Manila Times that although the scheme would ensure that depositors would easily access their money anywhere and anytime in the same bank, and comply with health protocols, it is “counterproductive to the cashless policy.”

“Banks should give rewards to the depositors that patronize the ATM facilities. [They should] add more mobility and transfer options,” Dimagiba said.

Banks do not need to adjust ATM charges as they “have [already] recovered their capital investments in the ATM facilities,” he added.

The central bank lifted the moratorium on raising ATM fees in July 2019, saying then the anticipated fee adjustments should encourage the public to consider using other modes of banking transactions, like electronic channels.

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