Your ATMs won’t shut down, but fee likely to increase

  • When RBI asked ATMs to follow certain security parameters, it became expensive for banks, as there was no consensus on who would bear the cost – the ATM firms or the banks
  • If the rates are fully passed on to the consumers, you can expect a 10-15% hike in your ATM transaction fee

Mumbai: Last year, the automated teller machine (ATM) industry warned that nearly 50% of ATMs may be shut down by March 2019 due to unviability of the operations. Though the March data for ATMs is not out yet, the ATM industry experts say that there is no need to worry about the number of ATMs. However, you may have to brace yourself for a higher ATM cost and here is why:

Increase is ATM maintenance cost

Firstly, the ATM industry had a direct impact of demonetisation, which took place in November 2016, causing a fall in profitability. Along with that, the ATM industry had the added burden of compliance which the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had imposed on them for security.

There are three types of ATM deployment models –banks deployed ATMs, ATMs managed by ATM companies and ATMs managed in smaller cities. When the central bank asked ATMs to follow certain security parameters, it was turning out to be expensive as there was no consensus of who would bear the cost —the ATM companies or the banks.

“Initially, no one was willing to take the cost burden. However, now there are a number of conversations going on. The NPCI has spoken to the ministry to revise the interchange fee and they have made certain recommendations. We are waiting for the ministry to come back in terms of the decision. We don’t know how much time will it take but we know that NPCI has made the recommendation which is a good starting point," said Himanshu Pujara, regional managing director, Asia Pacific, Euronet Services India.

Since there was no clarity on the commercial reimbursement and on the incremental cost of compliance, they had differed with the recommendation. However, now work is happening. “The end result will be either banks bearing the cost or a change in interchange fee. At this point, there is no need for consumers to worry in term of the number of ATMs."

This is the wait and watch period and at negotiation stage. “If the negotiated rate is not good enough then we will have to see. We are hopeful that banks will reimburse for the increased ATM cost and we in turn will be able to pay the cash loading agencies. I am expecting things to work out well," said Radha Rama Dorai, managing director-ATM and Allied Services, FIS.

ATM operators demand for higher interchanged fee, the cost levied by ATM operators per transaction. “There is an effort made by the white label ATMs for an increase in interchange and also supported by banks that acquire a lot of transactions but it is still under discussion. If there is an increase in interchange fee it will go up by 10-15%. Since the cash supply has improved, the profitability is improving," said Dorai.

However, if the rates are fully passed on to the consumers, you can expect a 10-15% hike in your ATM transaction fee.

Though the number of ATMs will not fall dramatically, you may have to pay an extra cost for it.