The school bus screeched to a halt outside the ATM next to the building gate. Out hopped Rahul, behind his two classmates, all racing towards their homes with their overloaded backpacks and dangling water bottles.

Darting up the stairs, Rahul sprung on his toes to reach for the door bell. His watch screamed 2.00 pm. Time for his favourite show, Doremon!

After a couple of rings, the maid opened the door to find nobody outside.

Huh? The maid looked around puzzled. But the doorbell did ring!

“What are you looking at? I’m here!” exclaimed Rahul from inside the drawing room.

Lightning speed! That’s how he darted in, leaving the maid flabbergasted.

“Switch on the TV, my favourite TV show is coming up!” he said shrugging off his bag, water bottle and uniform, all higgledy piggledy on the floor.

The maid smiled and handed him the remote control.

Rahul pressed the power button, fidgeting impatiently as the TV came to life. He quickly punched the channel number of his favourite cartoon channel. “This channel is locked!” came up on the screen. “What?” cried Rahul.

He turned to the maid, stricken. “What happened to my channel?” he asked.

“Rahul Baba, your mother has locked all your channels and I do not know the password. She has strictly told me that you have to study well and get better marks in the coming exams. That is the cost you have to pay for playing and watching TV all the time. Nothing comes for free, Rahul Baba. You have to earn your privileges. You have got very poor marks in the previous exams. Now pay the price!” the maid smirked as a glum Rahul sank into the sofa.

There is no such thing as a free lunch!

Everything has a cost. This seems to be the line banks have adopted while raising charges for multiple ATM transactions above a limit. Four bankc —  HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and State Bank of India — have bolted off the block to raise the charges. And the rest will soon follow suit.

During the turbulent days immediately after demonetisation was announced, all banks had waived the ATM charges as a goodwill measure. Now that the dust has settled, banks appear to be going back to their old ways.

Broadly, the schedule of charges looks like this:

HDFC Bank ICICI Bank Axis Bank State Bank of India
Free ATM transactions per month Four across all ATMs. Four at home branch only. Free up to Rs 1 lakh per month at home branch only. First Five cash transactions up to Rs 10 lakh are free. Free up to 5 transactions at SBI ATMs and three transactions in non-SBI ATMs.
Charges Beyond free ATM transactions Rs 5 per thousand, minimum Rs 150. Rs 5 per thousand, minimum Rs 150. Rs 5 per thousand, minimum Rs 150. Rs 10 per transaction at SBI ATMs, and Rs 20 per transaction in non-SBI ATMs.

Hiking ATM transaction charges seems to be a case of killing two birds with one stone for the banks. At the back end, the banks will be able to recoup transactional costs as well as instill a sense of discipline and planning among its customers. And secondly, the push towards digitalisation of the economy will definitely get a leg up by this measure.

So what should you do now?

  • Plan your cash payouts for the month in advance.
  • Visit the ATM as sparingly as possible.
  • Withdraw enough money to last atleast a whole week or ten days.
  • Use your debit cards, online portals and wallets more often for payments.
  • Last but not the least, keep a close watch on your bank account transactions.

Poor Rahul!  Little does he realise that this reprimand will be a lesson for life. There are multiple ways to teach discipline to one, whether a kid or an adult.  The banks know too well how to do that for sure!


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