House leader thumbs down looming ATM fee hike

Published August 13, 2019, 2:34 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Ellson Quismorio 

House Deputy Speaker, Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel sees no reason for banks to increase the fees they charge depositors each time they withdraw money from their automated teller machines (ATM).

Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
House Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel

“Offhand, we see no justification for banks to impose ATM charges in excess of the P10 to P15 that they are currently collecting per single interbank withdrawal transaction, considering that depositors are merely taking money that they lent to the bank,” Pimentel said.

“We must remind banks that the cash being withdrawn from their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) is money that they borrowed from depositors. This is why banks are paying interest on deposits,” noted the Mindanaoan.

Pimentel said the existing P10 to P15 “convenience fee” that banks charge per withdrawal seems “minimal and acceptable.”

“However, they might become ‘annoying fees’ as soon as they are increased,” he warned.

In this regard, Pimentel is backing calls for a House probe on the impending ATM fee increase, following the move of bank regulators to lift a six-year freeze.

“Besides, banks are already extracting way too many superfluous fees from depositors, including the P300 to P500 monthly charge slapped on accounts falling below the P10,000 to P25,000 minimum monthly average daily balance, not to mention the dormancy levies on inactive accounts,” noted the lawmaker.

The Deputy Speaker urged the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries to find out “exactly where these ATM charges go.”

“What we know is that all sorts of ‘fee income’ now constitute a big chunk of the core earnings of banks, apart from net interest income and trading gains,” Pimentel said.

He added that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas should also be asked to explain why it suddenly decided to remove the 2013 moratorium on ATM fee increases.