ATM users getting ripped off by local banks – Minister
by Lyf Compton
Local banks are ripping off Vincentians when they withdraw money using Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) and if discussions with the Ministry of Finance do not yield the intended results, the government will enact legislation to address the issue.
Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves raised the matter of the bank charges on Monday during a press briefing at Cabinet Room.
“The charges run the gamut from acceptable to unacceptable and I have been gathering information on this issue and the information shocks the conscience…” the Finance Minister said.
At the Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines (BOSVG), there is no fee when account holders use the bank’s ATM and if account holders use their BOSVG ATM card at another bank’s machine, the BOSVG does not charge. However, there is a charge of $8 if another bank’s ATM card is used at one of BOSVG’s 19 ATM locations island wide.
Scotiabank charges $12 per transaction when cards from other banks are used at their ATM and that charge is also applied if a Scotia card is used at another bank’s ATM. There is no charge if a Scotia card is used at one of Scotiabank’s three ATMs nationwide.
At RBTT, there is a charge of $1 for the ATM service, even if used by an account holder. This $1 fee is in addition to the $25 most account holders pay that bank monthly to keep their money. If another bank’s card is used at a RBTT ATM, RBTT does not charge, but clients should expect charges from their bank.
CIBC First Caribbean International Bank (CIBC FCIB) charges $2 when their machines are used by CIBC FCIB ATM card holders, but there is no fee when FCIB debit card holders use their ATMs. Persons who do not have a FCIB card and wish to use that bank’s ATM will have to part with $8 as well as whatever fee their bank charges.
At the St Vincent Cooperative Bank there is no charge to use their card at the ATM, but a $1 charge applies to those using a different bank’s card.
These are just some of the fees with which customers have been burdened.
Gonsalves stressed that this country is the most cash dependant society in the Caribbean and noted that we have fewer ATMs, fewer bank branches, fewer ATM card users and fewer point of sale machines than neighbouring countries.
He said at the beginning of the year, his Ministry had a conversation with the banks in the lead up to the budget process and he inquired why so few ATMs and point of sale machines were being used.
The Minister said he encouraged the banks to push for these machines to be added but nothing has been done. Gonsalves said one bank had 150 point of sale terminals and only five more have been added since January when a pledge was made to cut fees and make banking more attractive.
“The fees haven’t come down, the marketing hasn’t gone up, there is static behaviour here because the banks are making their money as is and I would like to encourage them to try to improve service to people on par with what they do in other countries,” Gonsalves told journalists.
He said he knows of a situation where someone used an ATM and was charged a total of EC$56 to withdraw EC$2,000.
Another person told SEARCHLIGHT that she was charged a total of $20 to withdraw $1,000 from her Scotiabank account using a BOSVG ATM.
“The idea that you have to charge someone a percentage of what they are withdrawing certainly shocks my conscience. There is one thing to say that there is a fixed fee of $1 or $5 whatsoever, people will decide what they are comfortable with, but to charge a percentage at such a high percentage is shocking.
“Their modus operandi is to charge fees for all sorts of things but when you are getting into that sort of gouging…I have had conversations with the governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and I am still compiling the data,” Gonsalves said.
He said what the banks are doing is not illegal, but the Ministry will still have to do something about it.
“I am not trying to stop any bank from making money and I hope that people can vote with their feet and customers can migrate if they have issues,” Gonsalves said.
The finance minister said he will also be addressing businesses who charge persons for using their debit and credit cards and businesses who refuse to take these cards if the transaction is below a certain amount. He said this practice is illegal and against one of the policies of most of the debit/credit card companies.