ATMs stutter during busy Lunar New Year lead-up

By Quynh Trang   January 19, 2020 | 06:38 pm PT
ATMs stutter during busy Lunar New Year lead-up
One customer said his card is swallowed at an ATM in Hanoi, January 18, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Trang.
Many people in Hanoi and Saigon were unable to withdraw cash from ATMs while online bank transfers also took longer than usual during weekend.

Three ATMs belonging to a bank on Hanoi's Pham Ngoc Thach Street stopped working several times in the past few days, including on early Saturday evening when all simultaneously flashed that services were "not available at the moment".

Nguyen Hoang, a customer who tried to withdraw money, said: "I came here because the ATM in Ha Dong District did not let me withdraw, but not only did the transaction fail but my card was also swallowed. I have urgent things that require cash but when I called the hotline, they said I had to wait until Monday to get my card back."

Two ATMs belonging to Vietcombank and BIDV in the area also failed to deliver cash, as did others belonging to VietinBank and PVCombank elsewhere in the capital.

At around 5 p.m. on Saturday a long queue could be seen outside two ATMs in front of the Hanoi University of Science and Technology in Hai Ba Trung District.

Lien, who had to queue for over 10 minutes to withdraw cash, said: "There are three BIDV ATMs next to each other on Ton That Tung Street, but two of them showed errors resulting in a large number of people queuing up. So I came here."

The ATMs have been frustrating customers in Ho Chi Minh City as well.

Two ATMs on Le Duc Tho Road in Go Vap District saw dozens of customers entering and leaving the cubicles Sunday evening after being informed they had insufficient cash. Some of them said they had already tried four or five ATMs earlier. 

In an industrial zone in District 7, Minh Buu, a blue-collar worker, said many ATMs in the area reported errors when he tried to withdraw cash. 

"There are already very few ATMs in the suburb; now errors keep popping up, tiring us out."

The run-up to Lunar New Year is a peak time as demand for shopping and payments skyrocket, especially during weekends, causing even transfers through some banks' online systems to become slow and error-prone.

This month, especially during the past week, many Agribank customers have reported being unable to use the bank's mobile application, which has been showing the "service not available at the moment" error.

Some have also reported not receiving notifications about money being transferred to their account several days after transactions. The bank's employees have claimed it was due to system maintenance.

To meet the soaring demand, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) has instructed banks to make specific plans for ATM operations during the end of the year and the Lunar New Year holidays, and closely monitor their ATMs to ensure they operate normally.

It also told them to take appropriate measures to reduce the load on ATMs in busy areas, warning they would be fined if an ATM is out of order for over 24 hours without customers and the local central bank branch being notified of it.

But technical issues and local congestion could still occur during peak hours, especially in the case of banks that have yet to upgrade their ATM systems.

According to the SBV, in addition to existing solutions to supply ATMs with enough cash, banks also need to promote cashless payment methods such as internet banking, mobile banking and paying through POS terminals and by scanning QR codes.

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