How to Avoid Paying ATM Fees

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Feb 15 2021 10:06 AM

Let me start by confessing that I hate paying fees. I make sure to avoid extras, penalties, surcharges, and if I must pay them, I want to be told beforehand what these are, so I can figure out a way not to have to pay.

This is even more true when it comes to banks, and I go to great lengths to avoid their fees. Why banks? Because they already enjoy my business but pay me so little interest for funds parked in my savings and checking account. 

And yet they want to charge me a long menu of fees – from an extra copy of statements (but the original one never reached me!), for falling below the monthly maintaining balance (when I forgot to leave the required amount in my checking account – and it was just one month!), or for transferring funds to my daughter’s account with the same bank online (yet I do not pay to transfer funds to another bank – this is too ridiculous for words). 

Having said all that, you can guess that I was not happy about last week’s announcement of banks shifting to acquirer-based fees for ATM transactions. The status quo was bad enough, but at least I only had to check the rates of my bank for using their ATMs. 

In this new scheme which takes effect April 7, the fees charged to the account holder for making a withdrawal or just for balance inquiry will be based on the fees of the ATM owner. So say you have a BDO account and withdrew from a Metrobank ATM, the fees charged to you will not be dictated by BDO, but according to Metrobank’s policy. This new charging model was introduced by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and all banks are required to comply.

Local banks have started to write to their clients to publish their fees and so far, Security Bank is at the low end of the range with P10 for every withdrawal, and BPI is at the high end with P18 for the same transaction. Want to check your balance? Be ready to pay P1 with Security Bank and double that with Union Bank, BDO and BPI.

While waiting on the other banks’ announcements, here are some strategies that can help you avoid paying these fees.

#1 Stick to your own bank.

In this new scheme, banks are waiving fees for their own customers so if you bank with Union Bank, best to use only Union Bank ATMs. If there are no Union Bank ATMs near your place of work, or home, consider opening an account with the bank with more ATMs in your daily commute path. All those P10 and P18 add up you know.

#2 Do the math to motivate yourself.

In the online chatter after the announcement, I saw some consumers say that the fees are more or less the same from the previous issuer-based method where banks imposed uniform rates so they are not worried or have no plans to change their ATM use. But let me do the math for you: if you withdraw P10,000 (the maximum amount for most ATMs per transaction), you can pay a fee as high as P18 with BPI. That’s equivalent to .18 percent per transaction, and higher than the .125% interest per year they award to their depositors. How about if you are withdrawing only P1,000? That’s 1.8% of your transaction. See who’s losing here?

#3 Plan every ATM visit.

Don’t treat the ATM like your electronic wallet. I know some people who go to the ATM to withdraw P500 or P1000. This means you will have to transact more often, and if you are using another bank’s ATM, paying more fees too. If you need to make a withdrawal today, consider how much cash you need for the next two days or even the whole week to make that extra fee count (but still better to follow advice #1).

#4 Time to download your bank’s App.

Most banks today offer mobile banking Apps that can help you inquire your balance with a few swipes. Some do not even require you to register and log-in. So that’s P1 to P2 saved – pocket change but change that’s better kept in your wallet than paid to banks for something you can easily do from your phone App, or online. Mobile Apps also allow for funds transfer – which may be free or cheaper – than using an ATM.

#5 Open an electronic wallet.

Discover the convenience of electronic wallets like GCash and PayMaya. You can receive and send money from these wallets for free or at lower cost. The trick is to always check which platforms are free, or which one will charge you less. 

Many have realized the convenience of paying for daily essentials via these wallets and just scanning QR codes. It’s also a healthier alternative in these times where we prefer zero or minimal contact. Now, your banks will encourage you to pay with your ATM cards but from my view, right now their customer experience is not as seamless, and some also charge fees. 

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