ATM Network Development in Poland and ATM Interchange and Surcharge Fees
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Publication date: 2011-08-31
GNPJE 2011;249(7-8):89-112
The article sets out to assess the development of Poland’s network of automated teller machines (ATMs) after a series of reductions in ATM interchange fees in the Visa and MasterCard systems in 2010. The author aims to determine how these reductions have influenced the development of the country’s cash dispenser network and analyzes whether or not ATM owners should be allowed to impose special surcharges on cash withdrawals under law. Moreover, based on empirical research conducted in 2010 and 2009, the author estimates the savings for consumers and banks resulting from the use of ATMs. Thanks to cash dispensers, consumers save time, while banks and the economy as a whole save money, Górka notes. The research makes use of foreign market experience, especially that gained in the United States, and of theoretical models developed in various research reports. The specific features of the Polish market are also taken into account. The author outlines the advantages and disadvantages of ATM surcharges, pointing out that, under the current economic conditions in Poland, following the interchange fee reductions, passing laws regulating the permissibility of surcharges would be beneficial to the development of the country’s ATM network, especially in rural areas and small towns. The development of the ATM network benefits both consumers and banks, the author says. Poland is a country in which cash payments continue to dominate and consumers need to have access to banknotes and coins, while cash dispensers are a relatively cheap channel of distributing cash, Górka says. Based on macroeconomic data for 2009, the author estimates that Polish consumers saved 22.4 million hours that year by withdrawing cash in ATMs instead of at bank branches, which means that the average consumer and bank product user saved 1 hour. The total cost savings of the Polish economy from the use of ATMs stood at 1.63 billion zlotys (about 400 million euros). The estimated cost savings for banks were 1.34 billion zlotys (around 340 million euros), according to Górka. An analysis of the Polish market data shows that the reductions in the interchange fees collected from ATM cash withdrawal transactions have directly led to a sharp decline in the profitability of the ATM business for banks and independent ATM deployers, who have recently been the main driving force behind the development of the ATM network in Poland. In the case of Poland, the possibility of charging special ATM transaction convenience fees does not necessarily mean that such fees will be charged to consumers, while they would help stimulate the market, according to the author. At the moment, interchange fees are low, Górka says, which discourages both banks and independent ATM deployers from investing in the development of the ATM network despite consumer expectations.
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