7 things you need to do to cope with shorter banking hours 1

7 things you need to do to cope with shorter banking hours amid COVID surge

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Jan 10 2022 12:59 PM

As we face another surge of COVID-19 infections, the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) warned the public to prepare for the sporadic shutdown of some branches, as well as shortened banking hours.

The BAP with 45 members is the lead organization of universal and commercial banks operating in the country. “In light of the current situation, our member banks are enhancing their health protocols to protect both clients and employees from the virus. These may include temporarily closing down certain branches and shortening operating hours for routine cleaning and disinfection,” the BAP said in a statement issued late Friday.

This is really nothing new, and I speak from experience, as my branch of account has been closing on and off during the last 18 months. Each closure would be triggered by a staff testing positive, requiring close contacts to be placed in quarantine. Over the last 18 months, almost all branch personnel I know have been infected or exposed. 

But with the BAP announcement, we need to brace ourselves that periodic branch closures will become the norm rather than the exception. If you are used to stopping by the branch after office hours or during the weekends, note some have announced they will now have shorter banking hours and will be closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Here are 7 things you need to do right now so your financial life won’t be put on hold.

#1 (Re) Discover your bank’s ATM.

If you still treat ATMs like your personal cash dispenser, it’s time to rediscover this virtual bank. Many ATMs now have additional capabilities beyond checking your balance and giving you cash. Some can accept cash deposits and post real-time in your account, others can also accept check deposits, and you can even pay your bills. Explore your bank’s ATM and you may realize you won’t need to visit your branch at all. A friendly reminder: use your bank ATM as much as possible to avoid interchange fees.

#2 Register for mobile and/or online banking access.

If you haven’t yet, now is the time to download your bank’s app, or sign up for online banking access. Onboarding is not always easy as some require you to fill up a manual form, or verify your PIN in a bank ATM within a short window so try to do all these while your branch of account is open to serve you.

#3 Check your daily withdrawal limit.

All banks have set daily withdrawal limits for ATM users and for online users and this can vary depending on account type. If you do not know yours, chances are it is set to the default limit, which is usually the lowest. You can check with your bank and see if you want to increase or keep the default. This will help you access sizable cash in an emergency if your branch is closed.

#4 Know when withdrawal limits are refreshed.

You might think that the limits refresh after midnight but bank systems do not necessarily follow how we traditionally define a day. I noticed some refresh at 8 am, while others at 9 am (start of banking hours). Worse, others do not seem to refresh during the weekend so it means what you withdrew on Friday is it, until Monday comes around. Ask your bank so you will have peace of mind.

#5 Find out the referral branch for back up plans.

But if you really need to withdraw money that is beyond the daily limit for ATM, and your branch is closed, it’s good to know if they have a referral branch/back up system in place. I’ve suffered waiting a long time in another branch while they tried to verify my signature with my branch of account and spent way beyond the maximum 15-minute exposure time in an indoor venue with strangers. Spare yourself this pain by asking your branch where you can go if they should have to close for a while.

#6 Verify check cut-off clearing times.

Many of our funds are still going around through issued checks, and with shorter banking hours, it is important to know the check clearing cut-off time of your branch, including on-us checks (or checks from same bank). I used to try to beat the clock just to make sure I make the day’s cut-off so the funds will be in my account a day or two later. This is good to know so you can be on top of your cash flow. 

#7 Who you’re gonna call (when you need help)?

Much as you want to be self-sufficient, there are cases when you need to call your bank like if the ATM holds your card, or worse, you lost your card. Make sure to have their customer service hotlines stored in your phone and also written down somewhere (in case your phone is lost too). It would be good to also have your account numbers handy but safely stored until you need them. 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.