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In March, when the main island of Luzon was sealed off to arrest coronavirus spread, most banks voluntarily suspended the collection of fees when sending funds through the central bank's InstaPay and PESONet facilities to promote cashless transactions and reduce human contact.
BSP to request some banks to extend free cash transfers
Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( - September 24, 2020 - 4:30pm

MANILA, Philippines — Banking regulators are eyeing to request some lenders to postpone plans to return charges on money transfers by October 1.

“We can ask them to reconsider their earlier response to already impose said fees by Oct. 1,” Chuchi Fonacier, deputy governor at Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, said in a text message on Thursday.

“Actually, it’s still up to the banks. But maybe we can persuade some of them through bilateral engagement,” she added.

Ten lenders are scheduled to resume charging on interbank fund transfers by next month after dropping fees for 6 months when lockdown measures were enforced and prevented people to go out and conduct their business.

The banks that will slap charges on their fund transfers after September are BDO Unibank Inc., Bank of the Philippine Islands, Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., China Banking Corp., Robinsons Bank, Philippine Savings Bank, Bank of Commerce, China Bank Savings and Philippine Bank of Communications.

PayMaya Philippines Inc. and G-Xchange Inc., which are cashless payments systems, would also re-impose their charges in transferring money to other players. Charges between P10 and P50 will apply.

Fees are consistent with the BSP’s InstaPay and PESONet facilities that allow the interbank transfers to happen in the first place. That said, Fonacier reminded consumers 11 banks would continue to support free money transfers until yearend, while 4 others pledged to keep them in place “until further notice.”

“We will ask them up to when” are they keeping transfers for free, Fonacier said of the other banks.

Government-imposed lockdowns have accelerated Filipinos’ shift to cashless systems. While encouraged to stay home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, consumers made 21 million transactions using InstaPay and PESONet from January to June, up 196% year-on-year. Transactions were valued at P340.9 billion, up 92% annually.

PESONet is a BSP facility that allows same-day bulk cash transfers among banks worth more than P500,000 daily, while InstaPay caters to small amounts of up to P50,000 a day.

Credit card charges limited

In a separate statement on Thursday, BSP announced the Monetary Board, its seven-member policymaking body, has agreed to put a ceiling on bank charges over credit card dues that remained unpaid beyond the due date.

Under new rules that will take effect November 3, credit card providers will now only be allowed to charge cardholders up to 24% annual interest per year, which translates to 2% a month. The limit will apply on both interest and finance charges. 

For installment payments, the ceiling will be narrower at 1% per month. 

“Amid rising use of electronic platforms for payments, the issuance will enable credit cardholders to settle financial transactions under more affordable pricing terms,” BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno said. 

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