ATM services must run 24/7

Following recent complaints that several banks in Viet Nam have stopped providing ATM services at night, the State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV) has ordered all banks nationwide to provide ATM services 24/7.

Local media reported that many ATMs on the outside of buildings and shopping malls were turned off when the venues shut, stopping customers using the service, the central bank said.

The SBV has asked all banks and card payment service providers to review their entire ATM systems and ensure smooth operation of ATMs by adjusting ATM working hours.

A Vietnam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Agribank) representative told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that State Bank rules dictate that all ATMs operate 24/7. However, the central bank does allow banks to turn off ATMs as long as their opening times are listed at the facilities and on the banks’ websites, the representative said.

Hoang Chi Mai, a resident of Thanh Xuan District in Ha Noi and Agribank customer said she often withdraws money at an ATM booth on Nguyen Trai Street near her house.

“The security guard locks up the booth at 10:00 pm. I thought these ATM booths were open around the clock,” Mai said.

According to Nguyen Hoang Minh, deputy director of the SBV’s HCM City branch, several banks have stopped providing ATM services at night to prevent criminals from stealing money from customers’ accounts.

With thieves carrying out increasingly sophisticated activities, police have advised lenders to prepare measures to cope with the situation, Minh said.

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The central bank will check if local banks follow the correct protocol for this adjustment, he added.

Tran Quang Thoai, an expert in this field, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that although the banks’ decision aimed to ensure the security of customers’ assets, some methods of tackling card fraud have created problems.

To gain understanding from customers, these adjustments should be publicised properly, Thoai said. “All changes should not be carried out too suddenly,” he added.

Dozens of fees

Many card users have complained about the recent hike in ATM fees, claiming that banks are making profits from ATM services through various fees imposed on their fast growing clientele base, but banks said that the fees are not enough to cover the costs of operating the machines.

Local media reported that an ATM card holder is subject to dozens types of fees. For example, Agribank charges up to 25 types of fees at ATMs, BIDV collects 20 types of fees and Techcombank charges 13 types of fees.

An Ninh Thu Do (Capital Security) newspaper quoted Nguyen Toan Thang, general secretary of the Viet Nam Bank Association as saying that the ATM service had developed for 20 years now and there were 53 card issuers nationwide with a total issuance volume of more than 100 million cards. The ATM network had been expanded with more than 17,000 ATMs machines nationwide.

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He added that to meet the increasing demand for transactions, banks have to invest in system maintenance, technology innovation, products and services diversification and the integration of value-added services like mobile banking, internet banking and SMS banking.

While there may be many types of fees for card payment services listed, customers do not have to pay them all but only the services they use, Thang said.

“It is lawful for banks to charge fees to offset their investment costs and cover huge expenses they have to pay to maintain the system,” Thang added.

Recently, some commercial banks have asked the central bank for its approval on a roadmap to increase transaction fees at ATMs, aiming to cover part of the banks’ investment in the ATM systems.

A representative from a big Vietnamese lender told Dan Tri (People’s Knowledge) newspaper that with banks investing large sums to set up the ATM systems, fees of VND7,000 to 10,000 per transaction is too little compared to the billions of dong spent to set up, maintain and upgrade ATMs annually.

Not to mention that after each transaction, banks have to send a message announcing account balance to clients, which costs VND700-800 per message, 2 to 3 times above the charge rate for individual subscribers applied for a normal message, he said.

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