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Fee hikes threaten cashless plan

Update: May, 11/2018 - 09:00
A cardholder withdraws money from an ATM in Hà Nội. — VNS Photo Đoàn Tùng
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Recent surges in transactions and withdrawal fees at a number of commercial banks went against the State Bank of Vietnam’s (SBV) initial policy roadmap for a seamlessly cashless society.

For the past few months, a number of joint stock banks have continuously increased service charges, including SMS Banking fees, electronic transaction fees and interbank charges.

In their latest attempt to curb uncontrolled fee hikes, SBV was quoted by a number of sources on Wednesday as having issued a decision prohibiting commercial banks from raising such charges.

Said resolve is believed to be compensating for unreasonable increases in banking charges at well-known banks such as Agribank, VietinBank, and Vietcombank since the beginning of this year.

Representatives from these banks also confirmed they had received the SBV’s instructions and would devise a concerete plan to stop raising handling charges immediately.

Agribank is set to increase cardholders’ withdrawal fees at the bank’s ATMs to VNĐ1,650 (US$0.07) from the pervious VNĐ1,100 starting May 12. VietinBank also announced a similar fee increase since May 5, with Vietcombank following suit on May 16.

Vietcombank also increased mobile banking charges  from VNĐ8,800 to VNĐ11,000 per month since March 1.

Đào Minh Tuấn, chairman of the Vietnam Bank Card Association said that the hikes in banks’ service fees were "in accordance with international practice" and "justified" to cover expenses necessary for the upkeep of ATMs.

Speaking at a banking conference organised by SBV on Tuesday, Tuấn said that the current estimated VNĐ7,000 to VNĐ10,000 transaction cost enforced by numerous commercial banks across the country was reasonable, as it included all the necessary costs from ATM maintance to service, which he considered “inevitable”.

The increase in service fees was part of the banks’ overall plan to expand non-interest income, besides regular credit loans, in the context of controlled credit growth rates via SBV’s imposed quota of less than 20 per cent annually, as opposed to banks’ average growth of 30 to 40 per cent in 2018, Tuấn added.

At the moment, banking charges are set under the SBV’s Circular 35. Accordingly, the maximum charge for cardholders per debit transaction is VNĐ3,000 for domestic debit cards from 2015 onwards. This is seen as the ceiling price for most banks’ charges, which so far has yet been breached.

Nonetheless, commercial banks should focus on other services to offset losses, rather than increasing ATM charges, said Tuấn.

Remaining banks such as ACB, VIB, Techcombank, or VPBank still maintain a free-of-charge money transfer between accounts at the same bank, with Techcombank going as far as keeping interbank transactions free as well.

On another note, the National Payment Corporation of Vietnam (NAPAS) announced in January an adjustment plan to reduce domestic interbank transaction fees under the SBV’s Directive No. 01.

Accordingly, for cash withdrawals at ATMs, NAPAS will aim for a fee reduction starting March 1, with a maximum reduction of VNĐ150 per transaction, and it will not collect ATM service fees from banks as of March 1, 2021. — VNS

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