Higher ATM minimum may hit the elderly

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2007, 12:00am

Watchdog alarmed at HSBC move

The Consumer Council is concerned at HSBC's decision to raise the minimum cash withdrawal from automated teller machines from HK$100 to HK$300, saying it may affect the underprivileged.

Kenneth So Wai-sang, deputy chief executive of the watchdog, said: 'Big banks cut branches and encourage people to use the ATM and the internet, but if they increase the minimum withdrawal limit, it may cause difficulties and inconveniences, particularly for underprivileged people.'

Lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said it was unreasonable to raise the withdrawal limit and he feared it would hit the elderly particularly hard.

He said 'HK$300 is not a small amount to many underprivileged people, and the elderly and welfare recipients may suffer hardship and inconvenience', adding that there was a security concern. Robbers may set the elderly as a new target to rob.'

Roy Lam Man-chiu, assistant executive director of Against Elderly Abuse of Hong Kong, said the policy would have a significant impact on the elderly. 'Why do they have to restrict how much people withdraw? They should consider keeping the same policy. I wonder if they want to kick out underprivileged customers.'

Mr Lam said most elderly would withdraw HK$100 and that HK$300 may be too much.

However, Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun said last night HSBC might waive the HK$300 minimum in some poor areas.

'I spoke to HSBC executive director Peter Wong Tung-shun yesterday (Thursday) afternoon. He said the bank may consider whether it is possible to exclude some ATMs in some areas from the new policy,' he said.

The new policy would take effect on January 6 at HSBC and Hang Seng ATMs, the bank said on Thursday.

Hang Seng card holders using Hang Seng ATMs will still be able to withdraw HK$100, but the higher limit will apply when they use HSBC machines.

An HSBC spokeswoman said the new limit did not apply to customers who use Easy ATM services or those who have less than HK$300 in their accounts. These customers can still withdraw as little as HK$100.

She said there were several thousand Easy ATM users and anyone could apply for it. However, Easy ATM has a limited range of service, such as withdrawals, transfers and personal identification number changes.

She said HSBC had seen an increase ATM use and customers' waiting time. The new policy was expected to cut waits by about 10 per cent.

A number of banks, including ICBC (Asia), Bank of China, Standard Chartered and the Bank of East Asia, said their minimum cash withdrawal limit was HK$100 at their own ATMs using their own bank card and would remain so for now.


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