New fee rules to help banks strengthen ATM networks

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It happens to the best of us. Suddenly, you find yourself short of cash while in the middle of an urgent matter or emergency.

If you live in a big city or highly-developed area, you can usually count on an automated teller machine (ATM) being nearby to serve your needs round the clock.

Photo credit: Freepik.com

And if your bank happens to have one of the largest and widest ATM networks in the country, you can just pop into their nearest ATM kiosk, insert your card into the machine, push a few buttons, and voila! Money at your fingertips in less than a minute.

By using a machine owned by the same bank that issued your debit card, you’ll be able to do your transactions without paying additional service fees.

You heard that right. 

Banks, depending on the product, don’t usually charge their customers for using the ATMs they own. However, they do have the right to impose fees on non-customers or clients of other banks who use their machines.  

After all, the 24/7 convenience offered by the major banks across the country comes at a cost. It takes real money to obtain, maintain, and protect infrastructure, equipment, processes, and staff that allow you to withdraw and check your balances anytime anywhere.

Indeed, keeping all these pieces of equipment up and running and making sure that they work with one another — from server maintenance to system upgrades — costs serious money.  

We talked to the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), one of the country’s largest banks and, incidentally, the bank that first introduced ATMs to the Philippines, to ask about the news reports we’ve been seeing about a new ATM charging model.  

To explain the change, BPI said that under the current model, users get charged a fee if they transact on an ATM that isn’t owned by the same bank that issued their debit card. For BPI, customers who use non-BPI ATMs get charged a flat fee of P15 per withdrawal. The same goes for other banks, though the fee depends on the card-issuing bank. 

However, starting April 7, 2021, things are about to change. On that day, the Acquirer-Based ATM Fee Charging (ABFC) model will take effect.

Under this new charging model, the bank that owns the ATM will be the one charging the fee for each withdrawal or balance inquiry. After all, it’s the ATM owner who spends for the operational costs, rent expenses, insurance, and other maintenance fees. 

Issuer BasedAcquirer Based
Who is charging the client?Owner of the debit cardOwner of the ATM
How much?PHP 15PHP 18
Effect on client?When the client transacts from an ATM not owned by his bank, he will be charged Php 15. The withdrawal and balance checking fees stayed the same, regardless of which bank’s ATM they use.

For BPI, the service fees are reflected as lump sum during the end of the month.
When the client transacts from an ATM not owned by his bank, the fees vary. It can be Php 10, Php, 15, or Php 18 for withdrawal transactions, depending on the fees set by the owner of the ATM.

For BPI, the withdrawal fee shall be automatically added to the amount withdrawn. The balance inquiry fee will be shown as a separate debit amount which will be reflected in your Statement of Account (SOA) on the day the transaction was made.

This shift in fee model will give banks who own the ATMs both the means and motivation to expand and improve their ATM networks, according to BPI Chief Digital Officer Noel Santiago.

“The ABFC model provides a better business case for all banks to expand and enhance their own ATM networks. This will let them better serve their own clients, while giving more choices for the clients of other banks. Ultimately, a more robust and diverse national ATM network will benefit the banking public,” Santiago said.

“In BPI, we have invested in our network to primarily serve our customers,” he added. “Therefore, our customers who need access to cash are well-served by more than 2,200 ATMs across the country, as we operate one of the largest ATM networks.”

BPI clarified that customers will still be able to withdraw from any of BPI’s over 2,200 ATMs around the Philippines for free, just like before. 

Meanwhile, non-BPI customers who use BPI ATMs will be charged P18 per withdrawal and P2 per balance inquiry.

The ABFC model was designed to allow customers to choose the bank that would best meet their needs.

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