Early this week, my mother was livid upon seeing two service charges — one for July, one for August — worth Php 300 each on her bank account. Fuming, she called the bank manager and asked what the service charge was for. She has monitored her funds closely and do not recall going below minimum balance. Then the manager told her she did, because last May 2014, they increased the minimum maintaining balance from Php 5,000 to Php 10,000.
This, my dear friends, is the reason why 73% of Filipinos are unbanked. At least for me.
But per BSP, who defines unbanked as regions with has no access to financial instruments such as ATMs, banks and quasi-banks, only 15% of the country is unbanked.
In the 2012 report of State of Financial inclusion, of the 611 unbanked municipalities, 395 have access to alternative financial services, while 216 do not have any access at all.
Then again, let’s not look at the macro scale. Let’s do some internal scanning. Look among your peers. How many of you have a bank account that is not slightly above maintaining balance? Or a time deposit? Or a life insurace policy? Or an investment portfolio?
I think — and this is purely my opinion, absolutely no intent to represent my bank/s — we need to make banking more affordable. We have lived in revolving credit for so long; we might be putting too little a premium on saved cash.
How many in your barangay/township can afford Php 10,000 just sitting in the bank? The minimum wage on average is just Php 450. Multiply that by 22 working days, estimated monthly wage of minimum earners is just Php 9,900. And this is just in the National Capital Region. That’s still Php 100 short of what is required to open an account at a universal bank.
What’s even more annoying is the measly 0.275% interest rate. No matter what you do, the service charge of falling below minimum maintaining balance will still be higher than the interest earnings of maintaining the balance. Where’s the benefit in that?
Of course, I would know. Because I work in a bank. I encounter cost-benefit of deposits, terms deposits, investments, rebuttals to “why should I deposit there” on a daily basis. But do they know? Do the Php 9,900 per month earners know?
Okay, you’ll say there are cooperatives, rural banks, and even quasi financial institutions that entertain lower account opening requirements, and lower maintaining balances. But are those just as stable? In the first quarter of 2013 alone, 6 rural banks have been padlocked and put under receivership. Where’s the security in that?
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just bitching because I feel my mom’s frustration. That’s Php 600 of her money that she will never get back only because her bank became more expensive to maintain. And she earns far more than Php 9,900 a month. If that fine is already burdensome for someone of her stature and position, I cannot even imagine the impact of that fine to a lower income earner.
Perhaps there should be more bank products that do not exclude the lower income class. How about a cash card that can be converted into a savings account the moment it hits a particular amount? How about rewarding customers with increasing interest rates the longer they stay with their bank? How about financial planning programs at the barangay level, translated into the vernacular, utilizing community jargon?
I say this with so much carelessness because I cannot even begin to comprehend the economical repercussion of what I’ve just said. The complexity can be overwhelming. It’s just… very tiring conforming to an elitist standard of financial soundness with a seemingly intentional exclusion of those who have limited opportunities in earning more.
Eh. All these thoughts over Php 600.