Cheque charges increase

No matter how Cayman Islands’ bank customers get money from their accounts, they’ll soon notice it’ll be more expensive to do so.

Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson said last week that increases to government charges on bank account withdrawals will include cheques written on those accounts. The charges also apply to debit card, on-line and in-person bank transactions.

A revision to the islands’ stamp duty law was approved at Wednesday’s meeting of the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Jefferson said a 15 cent increase on the charge for postage stamps made in July should have been placed on bank cheques as well, but was delayed partly because of administrative oversight.

As of 1 December, the stamp duty or charge for any withdrawal from a personal bank account went from 10 cents to 25 cents per debit. The debit transaction fee was added in this year’s budget as a way to help finance government construction projects such as schools and roads. Mr. Jefferson said the fee has not gone up since 2001.

Ted Bravakis with the government’s Portfolio of Finance and Economics office said it’s up to each individual bank to determine how cheque fees are charged to customers. ‘Either you pay the debit charge when you purchase the cheques, or pay the 25 cent fee each time you use one, not both.’

Charges for debit cards can also be made differently, according to Cayman Islands Banker’s Association President Eduardo Silva. ‘Some banks show it separately, other banks show it as part of the monthly fee they charge on the bank account,’ he said.

The 25 cent debit transaction fee isn’t the only fee bank customers pay for withdrawing money. Many banks also charge their own fees for withdrawals, writing cheques or using debit cards.

For instance, the Butterfield Bank website states the bank charges 60 cents for each cheque or debit transaction, and 20 cents for processing debit card and online transactions. Those are in addition to the 25 cent debit charge now being levied by the government. So a customer paying a bill on a Butterfield account would pay 85 cents for each cheque, and 45 cents for each debit card transaction.

The Cayman National Bank website says the bank charges $5 for a 24-leaf chequebook, but the site had not yet been updated to include the increases in government-imposed debit transaction fees.

Scotiabank branches in the Cayman Islands charge customers for different banking plans anywhere from $5 to $30, which allows them a certain number of withdrawals or debits per month. If customers exceed that amount, they would have to pay an extra per cheque or per debit fee, said Scotiabank Senior Manager Sharon Diaz.

‘Basically, the accounts are set up so that the more self-service banking you do, the less service charges you pay,’ she said.

The Royal Bank of Canada said its customers are charged a small fee for each transaction, which shows up on their bank statements. Bank Operations and Customer Service Manager Jill Howse said this will not be shown any differently on future statements.

‘It’s just the amount that the government charges that’s changed.’

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