Set businesses, customers free from overly burdensome bank transfer fees

Interbank transfer fees, which have been criticized for being relatively costly, are expected to be lowered. It is important for each bank to establish standards for fees commensurate with the costs and improve the convenience for customers.

The Japanese Banks’ Payment Clearing Network, the operator of the system for interbank fund transfers, plans from October to lower remittance charges, the original value based on which the interbank transfer fees are decided.

Each bank adds related costs plus a margin to the remittance charges and imposes interbank transfer fees on customers when they send money from their accounts to accounts at other banks.

Currently, the remittance charges, excluding tax, stand at ¥117 for a transfer of less than ¥30,000, and at ¥162 for ¥30,000 or more. The network will lower charges for remittances uniformly to ¥62. It has been said that the charges have remained unchanged for more than 40 years.

In April last year, the Fair Trade Commission said that remittance charges far exceeded the clerical costs and in effect asked banks to lower the charges. It is a matter of course to review the charges.

The three megabanks currently impose ¥440 for a transfer of ¥30,000 or more to another bank using an automated teller machine card, and from ¥220 to ¥330 for a transfer of less than ¥30,000.

If the change in the remittance charges this time is simply reflected, the interbank fund transfer fees will be reduced by about ¥50 to ¥100.

Due to the spread of internet banking and other new services, the amount of work is decreasing for over-the-counter services at banks. To give back to customers the benefits of efficiency through the adoption of information technology, banks are encouraged to make aggressive moves to reduce interbank transfer fees.

As smartphone payment providers are also expanding free money transfers between users, the old way of lockstep business operations in the industry could further drive customers away from banks.

Each bank needs not only to review their interbank transfer fees, but also to devise measures to strengthen their services.

It is also important for them to link the reduction in the interbank transfer fees to the expansion of cashless payments.

According to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, cashless payments accounted for only 26.8% of private consumption in 2019. It is still far from the government’s target of 40% by 2025.

PayPay Corp. and other smartphone payment providers, using bank transfers to make payments of users’ purchases to participating businesses, have said that the interbank transfer fees are a heavy burden.

If the interbank fund transfer fees are lowered, it is expected that the costs collected by smartphone payment providers from participating businesses will decrease. As a result, an increase in the number of participating businesses will further improve consumer convenience. The banking industry needs to contribute to the steady spread of cashless payments.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 4, 2021.