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  • Tue Mar 14,2017

Pay more, pray more

Cash transaction at the bank and the ATM attracts a fee, which you better not take sitting lightly

  • Pay more, pray more

By Narayan Krishnamurthy

I did not have the luxury of living with my grandparents. But, the times I spent with them over vacations are well etched because I constantly heard my grandfather rattle about how bad habits were easy to make and very hard to break. I could not value the inference from what he said till much later in life and am reminded of it now again. I am reminded of this phrase because of the charges that banks are levying on cash transactions at the bank and at the ATM even as the date for restrictions on how much one could withdraw from the bank go.

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In the past 15 years, I have visited my bank branch on may be a dozen occasions at best. Some of them were to get my KYC done again, because either the rules had changed or they were unsure if they had my records any more with them. On the few instances when I actually transacted at the branch, it was either because I had to transfer funds or was no more able to use the internet banking. The habit of not visiting the bank had very beautifully seeped into my system. I have realised that there is a cost to such convenience as from time to time I have paid some fee or the other which I figured only after going through the bank statement once a year.

In all these years, banks have got aggressive to the extent of discouraging account holders to visit the branch. I even managed to get the RM assigned to me drop cash at home during the demonetisation drive, which he very happily obliged. But, now, the news and announcement of charging me fee for transacting at the bank and at ATM, where the number of free transactions has been reduced is a case of pain. In case of an emergency, I would not bother about the charges and go ahead and transact, come what may.

What pains me as a banking consumer is the opaque nature in which these charges are levied. I do not see any rationale in charging Rs 150 as annual debit card charges or Rs 150 plus service charge if I use the bank ATM beyond the free limit. There are also instances of ATMs not working or dispensing requisite cash when one uses it, should the bank not be fined for not doing its duty in such cases? What about the parking fee I am paying to use an ATM these days, because there is no other way to access this ATM? Moreover, why these charges are not fixed by the RBI? Why are banks allowed to fix rates on such transactions and instances?

I have more questions than answers to this one, but what I wish to suggest is the need to protest and make the banks accountable when they are unable to serve customers. Servers or computers hanging at branches are common on the few times that I have been inside the branch. How will a bank compensate me for the additional trip I have to make to the branch or the extra time I have to spend in a dimply lit and poorly ventilated branch?

Banks should thank accountholders who are not turning up at the branch instead of charging them a fee every time they transact through the ATM or otherwise. If they are planning to go the low cost airline way of levying charges on everything they offer, I think people will start hoarding cash than paying to the bank a fee every time they need it. It will also undo the good that demonetisation managed.