Thiruvananthapuram: After a day of high drama, two circulars and a clarification, State Bank of India, the nation’s largest commercial bank, said on Thursday that there was no change in its policy on service charges on ATM transactions and denied reports that it had increased the same to Rs 25 on regular withdrawals from June 1. It has also decided to allow customers to withdraw money from SBI Buddy, the bank’s mobile wallet, through ATMs at a fee of Rs 25 per transaction.
It all started in the morning with an SBI circular, forwarded to all its branches across the country, listed the revised charges for various transactions.
It said each cash withdrawal from an ATM would be charged Rs 25, which effectively ended free ATM transactions. Service charges would also be levied for exchanging soiled notes after a limit, it said. After widespread protest broke out, the SBI came out with a clarification saying it would issue a fresh circular. The second circular, released by the evening, clarified that all normal savings bank accounts would continue to get eight free ATM transactions (five at SBI ATMs and three at other bank ATMs) in metros. Also, 10 free transactions in non-metro (five each at SBI and other bank ATMs) apart from the bank transaction. It said the fresh charges were applicable only for State Bank Buddy using the ATM. The limit of four ATM withdrawals in a month only applied to the basic savings bank deposit account, it added. As per the circular, a customer who uses Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), an instant interbank electronic fund transfer service through mobile phones would have to pay Rs 5 along with service tax while transferring up to Rs 1 lakh.
The charges are Rs 15 plus service tax for amounts between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh and Rs 25 plus service tax for amounts up to Rs 5 lakh. Customers will be charged Rs 30 for a 10-leaf cheque Book, Rs 75 for 25-leaf book and Rs 150 for a 50-leaf book, the circular said.
As soon as the news broke out, youth organisations started protests across the state. By then politicians cutting across party affiliations criticised the move saying it was a burden on the common man. A banking official based in Thiruvananthapuram told DC that there has been lack of clarity and transparency among the top officials of the SBI since the merger between SBI and five of its associated banks on April 1.
He added that even the State’s top SBI officials were caught off guard by the latest developments. “There is lack of clarity among the top officials of SBI countrywide,” said an SBI official.
“A sizable number of top officials had objected to the merger and they are now trying to defame the bank’s name. While the SBI management had thought that several thousand would opt for VRS, only 450 had done so in Kerala alone.”
Finance Minister Dr Thomas Isaac reacted to the report saying it was an act that gave no regards to the rights of citizens. “Such acts could even have its impact on the economy. It poses a big challenge to the common man.” If the people stop depositing money in banks owing to such acts, it would adversely affect the economy, he cautioned.