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'Looming' increase in ATM fees, explained

'Looming' increase in ATM fees, explained

BSP chief: Spike in ATM fees won’t happen

MANILA, Philippines — The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ decision to lift a moratorium on ATM fee adjustments had worried lawmakers, prompting them to set an inquiry into the move’s impact on consumers.

Rep. Luis Campos Jr. (Makati City) filed Resolution 210 enabling the inquiry, warning that charges “could jump to as much as P15 to P30 per single interbank withdrawal, possibly even higher, with the removal of the moratorium.”

“We are worried that the forthcoming increases in ATM charges might harm consumers — the nation’s more than 58 million ATM cardholders,” Campos said.

“Even more vulnerable are our estimated 4.1 million minimum wage earners. Many of them receive and withdraw their salaries twice a month through their ATM cards at the machine nearest them,” he added.

 House to probe looming increase in ATM fees

Here are the things you need to know about this development that frays the banking public’s nerves.

‘Looming’ ATM fees increases?

A cardholder pays an ATM fee for transactions made with another lender’s ATM terminal.

In a text message to Philstar.com, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno assured the public that “the spike in ATM’s fees won’t happen. Period.”

The BSP in 2013 blocked lenders’ planned hike in ATM fees for interbank transactions to study if such an increase is reasonable.

The central bank at the time explained that while banks have to recover the costs of putting up and maintaining the machines, the amount and timing of a fee hike should be studied to avoid burdening the consumers.

Banks spend on electricity, security and even disaster recovery measures, among others, for each ATM unit, which plays a critical role in helping them reach more customers and in providing consumers cash 24/7.

The central bank’s Monetary Board — in a resolution dated April 19, 2018 — approved the lifting of the moratorium on ATM fees adjustment, but subject to certain guidelines.

The BSP doesn’t directly intervene in the prices of banks’ products and services as a matter of policy.

 BSP finalizing review of ATM fees

Can banks unilaterally jack up ATM fees?

Currently, banks charge P10-P15 per interbank withdrawal and P2 for interbank balance inquiry.

In a statement, the BSP stressed that banks cannot increase the ATM fees on their own.

A July 19, 2019 memorandum signed by BSP Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier explains that any bank that intends to adjust ATM fees must file a request with the BSP, indicating their proposed fees, as well as the costs currently incurred by the bank in maintaining the ATMs.

The BSP also prohibits the imposition of set fees arising from agreements between market participants.

“Rest assured that the BSP shall examine each request and decide if the increase is warranted to cover the cost of maintaining the ATMs,” the central bank said.

“Should an increase be necessary in order for banks to continue providing ATM services to the banking public, the BSP will ensure that the increase will be reasonable and will adhere to pricing principles,” it added.

Where do ATM fees go?

The ATM fee is set and charged by the bank that issued the customer’s card.

The ATM fee collected is used by the issuing bank to pay the other banks that accepted its customers’ card-based transactions — also known as “interchange fee” — as well as to cover other costs such as fraud-related losses.

Any difference in the amount of ATM fee and the interchange fee is considered as revenue to the issuing bank and is commonly referred to as “issuer’s fee.”