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Mumbai: There are more than 200,000 ATMs in India and over 8,000 cash vans to refill these teller machines with cash. All ATM service providers put together can reach up to 60,000-70,000 ATMs a day depending on the number of employees and engineers equipped to refill them. The companies that manage ATMs say that it is a logistics problem to refill the ATMs immediately. 

“We can’t hire more people because of the extent of security, verification and criminal checks needed to employ anyone who deals with ATMs," said a spokesperson of Securevalue India Ltd, a unit of AGS Transact Technologies Ltd. The company manages over 60,000 ATMs and also provides logistics services for 25,000 ATMs. 

“Typically, an ATM has the capacity to hold Rs2.5 lakh or Rs5 lakh notes. That means you can do up to 125-250 transaction per ATM, assuming you withdraw Rs2000 per transaction," said the Securevalue spokesperson.

Configuration is another issue. According to companies that manage ATMs, so far, 98% of the ATMs were configured for 100, 500 and 1000 denomination notes. The remaining 2% were configured for 50 denomination notes. Currently, most ATMs are working on one-third capacity. Usually, each ATM machine has only 3-4 cassettes that can hold cash. Each cassette can hold 2,500 notes. Typically, the cassettes are equipped to handle different denominations. “Every ATM has ‘cassettes’ which can hold a particular denomination. To be able to provide ,000 denomination notes, the cassettes have to be configured, which will take time. Hence, for now, you will get only 00 notes," said Ramaswamy Venkatachalam, managing director, India and South Asia, Fidelity Information Services, a company that deploys and manages ATMs. Cassettes are small removable boxes that hold all the cash inside an ATM. Each cassette has to be configured to dispense a particular value. After the government scrapped 00 and ,000 notes, the banks are supposed to ensure that their ATMs dispense only 0, 00 and ,000 notes for now. To reconfigure it to the new ,000 and the old 0 denomination note, ATM providers will need more time. “Though the 0 notes are available in the system, they are still not configured in cassettes, so to reconfigure the 0 cassettes it will take time, however, it will be faster than configuring the ,000 cassettes as the 0 configurations are available with us," he added. It may take another 20-25 days for ATMs to get back on track. “Right now, the cassettes that are required to be recalibrated and reconfigured for new notes are in the testing phase. After it is tested and approved, engineers will have to visit each ATM to configure the cassettes which will take 20-25 days to streamline," said a spokesperson of Securevalue. He further said that changing it in metros may still be faster; but changing cassettes in tier 4 and tier 5 towns will be even more delayed. 

Meanwhile, bankers also say Rs100 currency notes are in short supply and the chances of the machines running out of cash are high. “The Rs100 notes are in short supply. I don’t think all ATMs would have enough cash," said a senior bank official, who didn’t want to be identified.

What you should know

In a circular issued on 8 November, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) advised all banks to provide all cash withdrawal transactions on their ATMs free of cost to their customers till 30 December. Following the notification from the RBI, all major banks have waived the charges for own-bank transactions. Banks such as HDFC Bank Ltd, Axis Bank Ltd and ICICI Bank Ltd said that if their customers transacted on own-bank ATMs, the transaction will be free of cost till 30 December—in case of some banks, it is till 31 December. Banks charged you a transaction fee if you transacted more than five times at your own bank’s ATM. Now, there is no limit on the number of transactions on own-bank ATMs. Here, remember that if you transact in other bank ATMs, you still have to pay a transaction cost beyond a certain limit. Hence, only three transactions will be free at other banks' ATMs in six metro cities—Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. For non-metro users, the number of free transactions at other bank ATM will remain at five. Hence, visit your own bank’s ATM till 30 December to avoid any charges for ATM transactions.

RBI has asked all banks to fix a limit of Rs2,000 per day per card withdrawal limit at ATMs, for all customers till 18 November. ICICI Bank says that customers will be able to withdraw money from ATMs in Rs100 notes. Also, remember that there is an overall cap of Rs20,000 per card per week. It may take some time for consumers to get Rs2,000 notes from all ATMs. Try and use less cash for the next 1-2 weeks until the logistics issue for ATMs gets resolved. Also, use your own-bank ATMs to withdraw cash as much as possible because banks have waived the transaction charges till end of December.

Select ATMs have been reconfigured and recalibrated to dispense Rs2,000 notes on Saturday night. However, it will take 20-25 days for the entire ATM network to be recalibrated for dispensing the new notes.

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