Cash Agad service bridges the gap for unbanked Pinoys
Ehda M. Dagooc (The Freeman) - October 22, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — BDO Unibank Inc., has re-introduced its Cash Agad service in Visayas and Mindanao to provide instant cash disbursement to people who have no access to ATM.

“Financial inclusion in far-flung communities is a driver for economic growth. Some places are too far away or located in terrain that make it difficult, logistically, to build a bank branch. Take for example some islands or mountainous regions. That’s why innovative services like Cash Agad are a way to bridge the gap. As more spending occurs in a community, the better for residents and businesses,” said Jim Nasol, Head of Agency Banking, BDO in a recently held virtual presscon.

“As we face a public health and economic crisis, it’s evident how crucial Cash Agad is for people’s survival. They would otherwise not be able to get money for their essential needs. Cash Agad provides convenience but it can be a literal lifeline to those who depend on it. We’ve seen that during quarantine but the truth is, Cash Agad has become essential to communities whether there’s a pandemic or not,” he added.

For decades, residents in far-flung areas in Visayas and Mindanao have been burdened by minimal, if not outright lack of access to banks. It’s not unusual for residents to travel many kilometers just to get cash from a bank or ATM.

“They need to spend half a day, or even an entire day in some cases, to transact with banks in distant urban areas. Some of them may need to travel by land and even by boat, spending hundreds of pesos in the process,” Nasol explained addig that with the Cash Agad service, this situation has been slowly changing for distant communities.

Cash Agad, which has been operating in both far-flung and semi-urban communities for the past several years, is allowing residents to make cash withdrawals, receive remittances and government cash subsidies, make balance inquiries, and get access to calamity funds and loan releases.

Essentially, Cash Agad is a service that turns community-based shops and similar establishments into a neighborhood ATM.  It was BDO Unibank Inc. that first originated the idea for such a service and has been expanding the Cash Agad network in the countryside ever since.

Cash Agad is one example of a bank’s faith in the resilience and resourcefulness of Filipinos in the countryside; it’s a vision realized into a service that has become crucial to the survival of communities during this pandemic.

The service works with agents in communities and local government units (LGUs).

The service accepts ATM cards, whether debit or prepaid cards from all banks in the Philippines.

According to Cash Agad partner agent Elsa Pardo of Lantapan, a municipality in Bukidnon Province, Mindanao, until today there’s just one single bank operating in their community.

When the bank’s ATM runs out of cash or is in need of repair, people will have to wait and endure a few days without cash. Those who can’t afford to wait would have to go to the nearest urban area which is some 14 kilometers away. Transport fares can get quite expensive.

Elsa related that sometimes even these other ATMs also run out of cash or go offline. In such cases, people would have to return home and go back the following day. This situation got even worse when quarantines were imposed due to COVID-19.

Elsa runs her Cash Agad service at her store in their municipality’s public market. When the pandemic hit and community quarantine was declared, she worked with the local government so that Cash Agad transactions could be done safely and in compliance with physical distancing regulations.

The Cash Agad partner agents network is comprised of small to medium business owners in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao who are operating the Cash Agad service in their communities. This service aims to provide ready access to cash for distant communities, especially those who are not so easily reached by public transportation. These would include communities in places that were located in challenging terrain like mountains, hilly areas, or those in far flung islands only reachable by boat.

Cash Agad is the solution provided by BDO Unibank to unbanked and financially underserved communities, especially those places where setting up a building or bank branch or even an ATM machine would prove to be impractical and unfeasible.

Community shops-turned-ATMs. A community shop owner (the business might also be a salon, drugstore, hardware store, etc.) is usually tapped to be Cash Agad partner agent. Since such a business owner has long been part of the locality, has an establishment close to the residents, and is a trusted figure in the community, it’s much easier for the people to trust him or her with their money-related transactions.

Once the shop owner becomes a Cash Agad partner, he or she is given a POS terminal that is capable of accepting transactions using any Philippine-issued ATM card whether debit or credit.  And even though BDO Unibank is the one that runs the Cash Agad service, the POS terminal accepts ATM cards from all banks in the Philippines.

BDO UNIBANK INC
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