Amount customers are charged to use ATMs under the spotlight

Lihle Mtshali

Lihle Mtshali

Draw cash from another bank's ATM and you will get hit by an extra fee of between R9, if you are an Absa account holder, and R5,75 if you bank with First National Bank (FNB).

The banking industry spent last week debating FNB's proposal to change the way the banks charge customers to use a rival's ATM.

FNB is pushing for the industry to do away with Saswitch fees. Saswitch is the computer network that links local ATMs together.

What isn't clear is if doing away with Saswitch fees will save consumers money, or if it will mean account holders paying the same amount as a "carriage fee" - simply new jargon to slap account holders with the same charge.

When withdrawing from a rival bank's Saswitch ATM, not only do you pay your own bank's withdrawal fees, but you also pay a premium that is charged by the bank that owns the ATM from which you are withdrawing. How much you pay depends on the type of account that you have. An Absa current account holder, for example, withdrawing R100 from a Saswitch ATM will pay R2.80 to Absa and an additional R9 to the bank that owns the ATM.

For every extra R100 the account holder withdraws, he will pay more in fees.

According to FNB, the banking industry, which is dominated by Absa, Nedbank, FNB and Standard Bank, makes about R500million in Saswitch fees a year. Other banks don't agree on that figure.

Kevin McIvor, general manager of group products and pricing at Absa said that carriage fees have an important role to play in the continued development of the national ATM network. While Absa will review and implement any model that will add value to their customers, the bank felt that scrapping carriage fees without proper investigation would be premature.