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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

SBP allows banks to charge fee on interbank fund transfers

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has allowed banks and several service providers to charge a minimal fee from the Interbank Funds Transfer on high-value transactions.

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The central bank has allowed banks to provide free-of-cost digital fund transfer services to individual customers up to a minimum aggregate sending limit of Rs. 25,000 per month per account/wallet. However, on transactions above the limit of Rs. 25,000 per account in a month, banks are allowed to charge individual customers a transaction fee of no more than 0.1 percent of the transaction amount or Rs. 200, whichever is lower.

This way service providers would be able to recover part of the costs they incur on providing inter-bank fund transfer service and build sustainable and innovative business models.

SBP has allowed banks to set this aggregate limit at a higher amount as well. This would allow individual customers to make as many free fund transfer transactions, remaining within their aggregate monthly limit of free transfers.

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The State Bank during Covid19 had instructed banks and other service providers to offer free of cost Inter Bank Fund Transfer (IBFT) services to all their customers regardless of the size of transaction.

All digital fund transfer transactions between different accounts within the same bank (intra-bank fund transfers) shall remain free along with incoming interbank fund transfer transactions, the central bank has announced.

The banks have also been asked to guarantee proper disclosure of charged and free IBFT amounts along with applicable fees to their customers by sending regular notifications through SMS, apps, and email.

Free of charge SMS need to be sent to the customers by the banks on their registered mobile numbers, informing them about the transaction amount and the charges being recovered. It is encouraging that theCovid-19 situation has improved significantly and despite fluctuating number of cases the overall conditions now allow relaxations in mobility restrictions while following proper SOPs.

In this backdrop, SBP reviewed the current IBFT pricing mechanism and has made some changes to ensure that free of charge IBFT services are provided by banks and other financial institutions on a sustainable basis.

In order to provide seamless digital banking services to the public, SBP has further advised banks to remove any limits on the number of fund transfer transactions on their customer accounts/wallets unless there are genuine concerns related to AML/CFT or frauds.

Earlier, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) had directed all banks to provide a set of minimum services on internet banking (IB) and mobile banking (MB) channels to promote use of digital modes for various kinds of payments and replace the manual process.

“For encouraging use of internet and mobile banking services by their customers, banks will not levy any activation, subscription or annual charges on their customers for using such services,” said SBP in statement. “All banks should provide minimum set of services on their IB and MB channels including bill payments, funds transfer, beneficiary management, limit management, credit and debit card management, stop cheque payment etc [means a customer can ask his or her bank to stop payment on any cheque which he or she considers not required for making payment]’’, directed SBP.