Over-the-counter cash withdrawal fee
Imagine you walk into your bank branch, go up to the counter to withdraw €200 and the teller tells you that there is a fee for this transaction and suggests that you withdraw the money from the ATM instead.
While not widespread, some banks have already adopted this practice. Fees for withdrawing money from other banks’ ATMs are common, but paying for this service at the counter is a new practice that is often met with surprise by customers.
Statistics point to a steady increase in the use of ATMs for cash withdrawals. However, if charging this fee becomes the norm, it could be an obstacle for some population groups, such as, for instance, the elderly or people who are unfamiliar with technology. With these groups in particular in mind, the Banco de España has defined a best practice whereby banks should provide their customers with at least one free, accessible and secure method for withdrawing cash from their account, bearing in mind the specific circumstances of each group.
With this recommendation to banks, the Banco de España seeks to prevent this fee from penalising access to cash for these groups, who may be left unprotected.
This fee cannot be charged on payment accounts with basic features payment accounts with basis features, where regulations either limit the maximum monthly fee that may be charged for using certain services, such as withdrawing cash from ATMs or over the counter, or stipulate that they must be free of charge when the holders are particularly vulnerable or at risk of financial exclusion.
However, as a general rule, banks are allowed to charge this fee. Except in certain cases, banks may set they fees they charge their customers at their discretion. Subject to certain requirements (fees may only be charged for a service actually rendered), banks are free to set the price of the services they provide as in any other business.
In any event, before charging a fee, the bank must inform you, clearly and at no cost, of the service in question, the fee amount and any other relevant information; the bank must also make sure that you accept these terms and conditions. Thus, in the case of services relating to your current account, the bank must provide you with details on each fee individually and include this information in the contract you sign when you open the account.
However, since these contracts are open-ended (as current accounts usually have a long duration) banks can change the initial conditions, for example by changing the amount of a certain fee or the conditions under which it is applied. To do so, they are required to inform you of these changes individually and at least two months in advance. This period allows you to assess the new conditions over a reasonable period of time and to decide whether to accept them or to transfer the account to another bank (customers may use the account transfer service to make this process easier).
Remember: if your bank is going to charge you a fee for withdrawing cash over the counter and you disagree, check whether you had been informed in advance, ask for clarification and, if necessary, request an alternative, accessible and secure method, considering your circumstances, for withdrawing your money.