MANILA, Philippines — The country’s three automated teller machine (ATM) networks have promised to keep their cash machines well-stocked with bills over the long holiday weekend, even as officials admitted they are struggling to cope with clients’ unprecedented cash demand.
More importantly, ExpressNet vice president for operations Mike Bernabe said that their network recorded the highest level of withdrawals in its history last Tuesday when P1.8 billion in cash was withdrawn from their cash machines.
“This is the most we’ve ever seen,” he said, adding that the level of withdrawals are likely linked to the growing spending capability of Filipinos. “Many of them were probably withdrawing bonuses for their shopping [needs].”
ExpressNet pools the ATM networks of the Bank of the Philippine Islands group, BDO Unibank, HSBC and the Land Bank of the Philippines.
Bernabe said that the network normally services an average of P450 million in withdrawals nationwide on non-peak days, but noted that this level has doubled December 12, having risen to an average of P900 million per day since then.
“We expect this to continue this weekend and into the weekend before the new year,” he said.
Bernabe conceded, however, that many banks — including those affiliated with other ATM networks — have had trouble finding enough P500 bills to stock their cash machines with.
“The demand for P500 bills is very strong,” he said. “This seems to be the most appropriate amount for our clients since P100 bills are too small while P1,000 bills are too big.”
ExpressNet’s situation is being aggravated by the shortage of ATMs belonging to other networks, which results in clients of other banks lining up to use ExpressNet’s machines and straining the network’s resources.
“Everyone knows that BPI is the only bank which re-stocks its machines [with cash] even on Saturdays and Sundays, so we end up having long lines,” he said.
To ease the problem, he said BPI decided to open 30 bank branches in malls and strategic locations throughout the long weekend to service the needs of their clients. BPI also extended their banking hours until 5 p.m. during this period. ExpressNet ATM holders would be able to use their cards to withdraw cash over-the-counter at BPI branches.
“We are also sourcing bills internally to meet the needs of our clients,” he said.
Meanwhile, Megalink head of sales and promotion Bernadette Ramos said Friday that the network is committed to maintaining a 96-percent “uptime” from all its member banks.
“This is the guideline we set for our members to comply with,” she said in an interview, adding that the network expects to maintain this level even during the heavy withdrawal season.
“The demand for cash is very high,” she said. “Last week and last Saturday, [Megalink] recorded 770,000 transactions [per day] on its network.”
The normal level, she said, stands at 420,000 transactions per day.
“Normally, withdrawals peak on the 24th [of December] and taper off from there, then peak again before the new year,” Ramos explained.
Like ExpressNet, Megalink member banks are also experiencing a shortage of P500 bills, she pointed out.
“We experience this every year so our member know what to do in anticipation of the high demand for cash,” she said.
Philippine Daily Inquirer