Some banks charge 2 per cent of the value of the money withdrawn, if the transaction takes place at another bank’s ATM.

Banks in and the are “ripping off in the use of ATM cards in particular,” says Minister of Finance, .

He said his ministry was still gathering data and he hopes to have a conversation with the banks about these charges associated with the use of ATM cards.

“But if the conversation doesn’t yield results, we will have to go to a legislative route in this regard and I just want to alert the public and the banks on this particular issue,” he told a press conference in on Monday.

“Not to put too fine a point on it, but it has been brought to my attention that some banks in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are ripping off Vincentians in the use of ATM cards in particular.

“The charges run the gamut from acceptable to unacceptable and I have been gathering information on these issues and the information shocks the conscience.”

He said that “is the most cash-dependent nation in the Caribbean.

“We have fewer ATM machines, fewer bank branches, fewer credit cards, fewer digital points of sale than our neighbouring countries.”

Gonsalves, who became Minister of Finance last November, told the media that at the beginning of the year, he had a quiet conversation with the banks in the lead up to the budget process.

Among his inquiries were why are there so few ATMs, why are there so many places that only take cash or cheque payments.

Vincies don’t love bank lines

The banks told him it is “something peculiar about the Vincentian psyche, that Vincentians want to come in with their cheque book and they want to fill out the forms and so on, they want somebody to write on their little stubs and so on.”

The minister said he rejected that argument.

“… I don’t accept that we are so different from Grenadians or ns or Bajans or Antiguans that we feel a need to stand up in a bank line. I am sure that people will be happy to use ATMs and I encouraged them at the time to increase the number of ATMs and to make it more easy for people to get their money without going into a bank.”

The minister said that over the past few weeks people have been sharing with him screenshots showing a bank charging as much as 2 per cent of the value of a withdrawal if it is done at another bank’s ATM.

He said that someone was charged in excess of EC$50 for an EC$2,000 withdrawal, because the ATM used did not belong to the bank to which the customer belonged.

Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves speaks at Monday’s press conference. (iWN photo)

He said the bank of which the cardholder is a member charged EC$8 for using another bank’s ATM and the cardholder’s own bank charged them 2 per cent of what they withdrew, plus another EC$8.

“So 2 per cent of $2,000 is $40 plus another $8, … plus another $8. You are up to $56 to take your own money out of your account. That can’t be right. It can’t be right,” the finance minister said.

“And the idea that you have to charge someone a percentage of what they are withdrawing certainly shocks my conscience. It’s one thing to say there is a fixed fee… people will find an equilibrium; they will decide what they are comfortable with but to charge someone a percentage of what they are withdrawing and such a high percentage is shocking.”

Gonsalves said the modus operandi of banks is to charge people “a whole set of fees”.

He, however, said: “… but when you are getting into that sort of gouging, I think it is unacceptable.”

He said he had discussed the issue with Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Timothy Antoine.

“I am still compiling the data. Not all of the banks have responded to me but I have sent a questionnaire to all of the banks and from the credit union to the banks themselves, and they have been sending me what they do. And none of what they do now is currently illegal but we will have to make it so if we cannot have a useful and productive conversation with the banks.”

Hoping ‘people can vote with their feet’

The finance minister said he was not standing in the way of any bank to make money.

“I hope that people can vote with their feet. If one bank is out of whack in terms of fees, hopefully, customers would migrate to another bank, but, at the same time, some of these fees are very high and the promises that were made to the Ministry of Finance at the beginning of the year about increasing the number of ATM access points around the country, there have been no ATM machines added in the nine months since we had that conversation — not one.”

The minister said that when he asked about points of sale, one bank said at the beginning of the year that it had 150 terminals at various businesses. Since then, only five have been added.

“This is after they made a pledge to cut fees and to make it more attractive and so on. The fees haven’t come down, the marketing hasn’t gone up, there is a sort of a static behaviour here because the banks are making their money as is and I would like to encourage them to try and improve service to the Vincentian public on par with the service that they provide to the citizens of other countries in our vicinity.

“I am not asking for something special. But if you are an international bank, if you have a branch in St. Vincent and a branch in St. Lucia and a branch in Grenada, I don’t see why we have to get the shortest end of the stick. I think we should be able to expect and demand the same levels of customer service and care that are available in the other locations,” Gonsalves said.

10 replies on “Banks ‘ripping off’ Vincies with ATM charges ”

  1. What do you say when both parties are correct? The inter-bank ATM fees are outrageously high but most of our people are too dunce or too backward to use the machines.

    Still, in theory because bank machine withdrawals are automated, fees should be very low, especially when using the ATM in your own bank which is the only way I draw funds.

    I also love to macoe the slips often left behind by patrons and notice that most people have less than 100 dollars left in their accounts, a sure sign of a hand-to-mouth economy.

    I also notice that some people leave the bank in disgust or dismay when they look for cash from the ATM only to find that their account is empty, another sign of an empty ass people.

  2. About time they reign these banks in. We also need to be able to receive online payments through services like PayPal. Time to catch up to the rest of the Caribbean.

  3. We certainly don’t need more digital points of sale. All the large supermarkets have them but most people pay cash even when they have a debit card because all the money in the world they have is in their purse or pocket, a sure sign of a hand to mouth existence.

  4. Whenever I come to SVG, I am have grown so accustomed (unfortunately) to visit the bank as earliest as possible, as there are so few merchandisers who do POS transactions via credit and debit cards. It is 2018 and I am dumbfounded that one must walk around with cash daily just do regular business. Often times, you ask the organization and the responses are the same, “The bank is charging me too much to get the machine.”

    I doubt that moral persuasion will cause and effect and unfortunately, as the Minister has indicated, I only see legislative review as remedying the situation.

    I hope that this action is followed through and the conversation is not further delayed. THE BANKS REALLY NEED TO DO BETTER!!!

  5. I studied in Jamaica in 2003, and at that time (15 YEARS AGO), I paid for groceries, clothing, airline tickets and everything else using my ATM CARD. AND there were no or minimal fees. I also used the same ATM machines to top up my LIME and DIGICEL phones. It baffled me that fifteen years on, that I still have to be withdrawing cash to conduct business in SVG AND I have to remember where specific ATM machines are located in order to process a withdrawal.

    Furthermore, why are ALL the ATMs of specific institutions serviced AT THE SAME TIME daily? So when I have an emergency at that time and need cash..crappo smoke my pipe!!

  6. Gonsalves is right on point with this , why should SVG get the short end of the stick and pay higher fees. As far as ppl rather go into the banks to retrieve or deposit money ……I believe some are nervous or tech illiterate and just simply needs guidance by the bank associates to train or guide them through the experience for the first time and after the public will become comfortable to use the atm service . so the banks should have someone standing at the atms to assist and guide the public for those that need it .

  7. Talk about being disconnected from the masses, his example is someone paying $50+ for a $2000 ATM withdrawal. Most of the jobs his party creates doesn’t even pay $2000 a month.

  8. Rawlston Pompey says:

    BANKS RIP – OFFS & MACOE ?

    Governments have a moral duty and ‘…legislative responsibility’ to ensure protection
    of the innocent customers against ‘…exorbitant and deceptive Bank Charges.’

    Dialogue, however, could result in lowering of the specific charge.

    Stiff-neckedness, then flex the muscle of Parliament.

    This may either bring ‘…relief or grief.’

    …………………………………………………………………………………….

    MACOE! Dangerous word C. ben David.

    Luckily you are doing this to ‘…slips of paper.’

    Growing up (in Colonarie), though not to death, ‘…peepers’ would be stoned.

    There were stones everywhere. Not sure about other villages..

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