Vietnam's banks approach new ATM fees with caution

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Fearing they may lose customers, some banks in Vietnam may not take advantage of new central bank regulations which allow them to charge fees for every automated teller machine (ATM) transaction.

Duong Ngoc Minh, an official at Ho Chi Minh City's Dong A Bank, which boasts about six million ATM users, said the leaders of the bank are currently discussing what would be an appropriate fee to charge users, news website reported January 7.

He hinted that the fee may be lower than the prescribed rate and may be free for users who conduct only a few transactions each month.

Earlier, domestic lenders were granted permission to charge VND1,000 (5 US cents) every time their own cardholders withdraw cash as of March 1. The fee is set to be double one year later, and triple to VND3,000 by 2015. The regulation also allows banks to charge VND100-500 for other services, including transaction printouts.

Tran Anh Tuan, general director of Ho Chi Minh City-based Nam A Bank, said his bank will not insist on charging its cardholders the maximum fees allowed by law out of respect for their rights.

The director said he thought most lenders would charge its own clients lower fees for fear of losing their patronage.

Initially, the central bank justified the new fees by saying they would help domestic banks to cover expenditures spent on ATM infrastructure and facilities, but the public quickly objected, saying that banks had already begun profiting from the investment via fees collected for ATM cards and annual membership fees.

People have also complained that ATMs in Vietnam are often broken or out of service.

Among the fees that banks already charge their clients are a one-time card issuance fee of VND50,000-100,000; and an annual membership fee of VND50,000, which is due to be raised to VND60,000.

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