Hontiveros: Could Big Banks Consider Lowering Rather Than Hiking ATM Fees?

Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros said recently that perhaps big banks could consider lowering their ATM fees instead of raising them, given the many technological advances that have allowed major banks to cut costs.

Hontiveros made the query following reports that several banks have applied to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to increase interbank withdrawal fees by as much as 50 percent, which, if approved, would allow banks to charge P30 for just a single transaction.

The Senator explained that the wider use of ATMs by the country’s major banks has allowed them to achieve greater savings on labor and operating expenses, since customers no longer have to be attended by human employees or go to banks when they withdraw or deposit money, make inquiries regarding their accounts, or pay bills. She said that one
major bank has even reportedly applied to lower their ATM fees now that the BSP has lifted its 2013 moratorium on adjustment of ATM charges.

Hontiveros, also said that ATMs are complemented by online banking services in which a range of financial transactions is conducted electronically through the internet.

“With all these technologies that have immensely reduced labor costs, there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason for big banks to raise their ATM fees. Maybe they could explore the possibility of lowering their fees as a way of providing a better experience for their existing customers and encouraging Filipinos to save,” Hontiveros said.

The senator said that big banks are not operating at a loss due to ATM operations. Citing a BSP report, she said that earnings of Philippine banks are up by 26% – from P86.87 billion to a whopping P109.77 billion – in the first half of the year alone.

Hontiveros said that she will support and join any effort by the Senate to probe the issue. “Any drastic increase in ATM fees will affect Filipinos in the lower socio-economic classes the most. We must explore options that promote a culture of financial literacy,” she said.

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