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Coronavirus lockdown: Waiver on ATM fees

Debit card holders can withdraw cash from any bank ATM free of charge for the next three months

  • Published 25.03.20, 3:36 AM
  • Updated 25.03.20, 3:36 AM
  • 2 mins read
Data from the Reserve Bank of India show that the 10 banks that will be merged into four entities — they will operate from April next year — have a total of 45,005 ATMs at both onsite and offsite locations as of July 2019. (Shutterstock)

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday announced that individuals will not be charged for withdrawals made at other bank ATMs and that lenders will not penalise account holders for not having the minimum balance as she sought to ease the hardship faced by people due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

With more number of positive cases coming to light, states have announced lockdowns resulting in the restriction of people’s movement and only essential services being made available to them. Banks have also brought down their business hours and offering only essential services such as cash withdrawal, cash deposit, cheque clearing and remittances at their branches to curtail the spread of the virus.

Sitharaman, while announcing relaxations in financial services, said that debit cardholders can now withdraw cash for free from other bank ATMs for a period of three months. At present, banks allow their customers to conduct only up to five free transactions at other ATMs. If this number is exceeded, charges of Rs 8.50 per non-financial transaction and Rs 20 per financial transaction are charged.

This will now be dispensed for a period of three months and Sitharaman indicated that all banks will waive them. As per Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data for January 2020, there were more than 2.10 lakh ATMs in the country. Similarly, the number of outstanding debit cards stood at over 81 crore. During the month, close to 6.67 crore transactions were done by debit card holders at the country’s ATMs.

Sitharaman said that one of the objective behind this move is to enable people to do a transaction at ATMs close to their home of any lender rather than travelling all the way to their own bank’s ATM.

Though there is a worry amid the ongoing restrictions on travel imposed by several States that refilling of cash at ATMs would be affected, sources said that there has been no interruption in this regard. What are now seeing is lower footfalls at our branches and ATMs as many people stay indoors. However, the cash refill at ATMs has not yet been affected’’, an official from a leading private sector bank said.

Apart from the relief to debit card holders, the finance minister also announced that banks will not levy additional charge for not keeping the minimum balance. Presently, banks stipulate a minimum balance of anywhere between Rs 1000-10,000.

Some of the private sector banks require an average monthly balance of Rs 10,000 for customers in metro urban branches while it is lower for those from other areas. They charge an amount between Rs 150-600 for non-maintainence of the minimum balance. Recently, State Bank of India (SBI) waived the requirement for maintaining minimum balance in its saving bank accounts. On Monday, Axis Bank said that it is dispensing with ATM transaction charges for its saving bank and current account holders till March 31.