MORE LENDERS are extending fee waivers for fund transfers in a bid to boost digital banking and to provide safer ways for carrying out financial transactions during the pandemic.

Philippine National Bank (PNB) announced that it would extend the waiver for InstaPay and PESONet transactions until March 31, 2021 to encourage more of its customers to use digital banking channels.

“While all of our branches are open, PNB is giving customers the safer option of banking online to minimize the need to go out of their homes to visit branches and ATMs. We see an upward trend in digital transactions as more customers get enrolled,” PNB President and Chief Executive Officer Jose Arnulfo A. Veloso said in a statement on Tuesday.

InstaPay is the electronic fund transfer service under the National Retail Payment System that allows real-time transfers for transactions worth P50,000 and less. Meanwhile, PESONet facilitates batch transactions with larger values that are credited by the end of a banking day.

Separately, the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) also announced that interbank fund transfers made through its online facilities and mobile app would continue to be free of charge until further notice.

“This extension aims to further encourage the Bank’s customers to take advantage of the opportunity to send money to other banks for free, maximize the use of its reliable online banking facility, and utilize the powerful functionalities of its mobile application — allowing banking transactions to be done simply and safely in the comfort of their own home,” it said in a statement.

Earlier, Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., the parent lender of PSBank, announced that it would allow free InstaPay and PESONet transactions until March 31.

On Dec. 16, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) issued Memorandum No. M-2020-095 signed by BSP Deputy Governor Maria Almasara Cyd N. Tuaño-Amador extending the waiver of fees for fund transactions facilitated by the central bank until the last business day of 2021.

Other lenders such as China Banking Corp. earlier said it would offer free fund transfers until March 31.

Meanwhile, InstaPay fees will be waived by Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. until Jan. 31, while UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. will do so until March 31.

The pandemic forced consumers to go more into digital banking and caused a spike in transactions made through PESONet and InstaPay. As of September, volume of transactions in the fund transfer schemes surged by 264% and 758% year on year, respectively.

The central bank is hoping that e-payments will make up 50% of total transactions both in value and transactions by 2023.

A study by the Better Than Cash Alliance found the volume of e-payments in the country accounted for 10% of the total transactions in 2018 from a mere 1% in 2013. By value, e-payments comprised 20% of the total in 2018, also growing from the 8% seen in 2013. — Luz Wendy T. Noble