Don’t withdraw cash from other bank’s ATMs

This is the story published in the Hindu Businessline. I am publishing here as this problem is highly relevant now and I myself undergoing trauma after tried to withdraw cash from ICICI bank’s ATM from my HDFC Bank A/c.

The promise of ‘Free access to all ATMs for bank customers’ across the country was expected to revolutionise customer experience.

(The RBI had promised an expanded access to bank ATMs from April 1 this year).

Three months later, it is turning out to be a nightmare for many customers as banks still haven’t got their act together.

Just try getting cash out of an ATM of a bank (where you don’t have an account). It will be nothing short of a miracle if your transaction goes through smoothly. Often your request is turned down — for a variety of operational reasons. Bankers do admit that there are compatibility issues remaining to be sorted out. For instance, different banks have different limits on the amounts that you can draw.

In the normal course, if your ATM request gets turned down, you would just resign yourself to this disappointment and quietly look for your own tried and trusted bank’s ATM. Ah! If only life were that simple. As you will find soon, the problem doesn’t end there. You may not get the cash — but your card swipe may have still deducted the balance in your account.

Now try telling your bank or the other bank (from whose ATM you tried to draw cash) about this and see how they make you run from pillar to post. And they just won’t let you register a complaint. Listen to this traumatic experience:

Says Mr Ramasubramanian, a Savings Bank account holder in SBI, ‘I went to draw cash from the SBI dispenser near my house. As the cash dispenser was ‘out of order’, I opted to draw from the IOB point located near by. When I punched the amount, it displayed ‘High amount’. I returned home to check my balance on the Net and found that my account was debited, but the machine had not dispensed cash. I rushed to the Indian Overseas Bank branch in Mandavelli (in Chennai), only to be told that I would have to report the matter to the bank in which I hold an account. When I explained my predicament to an SBI official, he asked me to send my representation to the home branch (where I had initially opened my account). Incidentally, I am now working in Chennai, but I had opened the account in an SBI branch in Bhubaneshwar, my first place of posting.’

SBI officials, when contacted, said “core banking is only for transaction and some of the other facilities that we offer. Such complaints are outside the purview of CBS. The customer will have to lodge his complaint in the home branch.”

Weekend woes

Mr Ramasubramanian is not alone. The plight of Mr Mahendran (also an SBI customer) sounds worse. He had, on a Saturday, tried to withdraw cash from an IDBI ATM located near his residence in vain. He then tried at the Axis Bank machine, only to be told by the security personnel that the ATM was rejecting cards of other banks. He then tried with the Canara Bank ATM. “The message read ‘Transaction cancelled’. So I went in search of an SBI dispenser, and found to my dismay that my account had been debited. Since all this happened during the weekend, I had to wait till Monday to represent the matter. An IDBI official asked me to sort this out with SBI, and at SBI, they were furious because I used the ATM of another bank. After heated arguments, I was asked to give a complaint in writing.”

So be cautioned when you decide to draw cash from an ATM of some other bank. It probably is worth walking/driving a little further in search of an ATM of the bank in which you hold an account.

The RBI needs to intervene immediately, if this initiative is not to come unstuck.


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