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Posted On: 12 July 2009 03:01 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:09 pm

Bank charges hit customers hard

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Banking services are becoming a nightmare for many a customer, and those in the limited income brackets are finding the charges for ordinary services too high to bear. Some banks have almost doubled their charges for services like cash withdrawal using automated teller machines (ATMs) and providing monthly account statements. Some banks that were issuing bank statements for three to six months free until May this year have begun charging at the rate of QR50 per month. Likewise, customers are being penalised mercilessly for not being able to maintain the “required” monthly balance in their accounts and the fine varies from QR25 to QR50, depending on the bank. While Islamic banks are still lenient about the monthly balance requirement, some conventional banks, according to customers, have raised the slabs to “ruthless” limits, like QR5,000 for a current account and QR3,000 for a savings account. Since most salary transfers are routed to current accounts, with which the customers can get cheque books, limited-income account holders are finding it hard to maintain QR5,000 in their account. “My entire salary is QR7,000, so how can you expect me to have a QR5,000 balance in my account,” asked a hapless customer, requesting anonymity. He said he was penalised QR50 every month by his bank for not conforming to the minimum balance requirement. Loan clearance certificates now carry a premium at some banks and the fee can go up to a staggering QR1,000 if the document is required for another bank. Withdrawals using ATMs are all charged now and similar is the case with cash withdrawals using withdrawal forms. Earlier, banks used to issue ATM cards free of charge and even re-issuances in the case of loss were free of charge, but most of the banks now levy a fee. What an increasing number of customers find surprising is that the service charges are not uniform and vary from one bank to another, reflecting a lack of a centralised regulatory mechanism. “It reflects badly on the supervisory authorities,” said a customer, asking not to be identified. “How can you simply allow banks to act on their whims and fancies,” he wondered. Credit cards, a riskier product from a banker’s viewpoint, are also proving to be a dreadful banking product for an increasing number of customers in the limited income brackets.