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Business

Japan's megabanks raise fees as negative rates squeeze earnings

Changing bills will cost more as the sector looks for new income

TOKYO -- Japan's megabanks will raise fees for changing bank notes for new or smaller bills as they look for more revenues to counter the impact of the Bank of Japan's negative interest rate policy.

The increase will take effect from January at Mizuho Bank. Currently, customers can change up to 50 bills free of charge at the bank counter. The complimentary limit will drop to 30 bills and will apply only to account holders. Others will have to pay 324 yen ($2.87) per exchange.

In addition to individual customers exchanging worn-out bills with new ones, retail operators use the service to acquire coins for change. 

The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ also changes up to 50 bills for free, but in April, the free service will apply only to account holders for up to 10 bills. A charge of 540 yen will apply for changing up to 500 bills.

Another megabank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., already raised its fees in May 2017.

For changing via machines, the Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group unit and the Mizuho Financial Group  unit will keep one exchange of up 500 bills a day free, as is the case now. The Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group bank will charge 300 yen for exchange of more than 10 bills up to 500 bills via machines.

As the central bank's ultra-low rates squeeze earnings, banks in Japan have been working to raise efficiency by consolidating branches and cutting staff and operations. Labor shortages make streamlining urgent as well.

The machines are intended to reduce the need for staffed counters, although maintaining the equipment also takes some human work.

The banks say they will consider raising fees for ATMs and remittances as well.

(Nikkei)

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