Consumers are set to be relieved of headaches associated with depositing the new banknotes to automated banking machines (ABMs) as several commercial banks move quickly to update these facilities which have become a necessary tool in everyday commerce.
Jamaica's new series of banknotes were launched on June 15 to much fanfare as the notes are meant to last longer and should be more difficult to counterfeit. However, not all of the commercial banks were ready for their ABMs to process the deposit of these notes. This is an even greater issue for people seeking to pay bills and do transactions which require them to deposit these notes in their bank accounts.
"Today we have 300 ABMs in the fleet that are active and available to customers. Of those, 290 are dispensing new polymer notes. We have 134 of those machines that are deposit-taking machines. 50 per cent of them today you can deposit the new polymer notes into, and we will be upgrading another 45 of those deposit machines by the end of August, bringing us to 108 out of 134 machines by the end of August. The rest of the machines we expect to complete by the end of the quarter," said Daniell Cameron-Duncan, vice-president of payments and digital channels at National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited (NCBJ) at an August 10 investor briefing.
NCBJ started 2023 with a fleet of 326 ABMs before it was whittled down to 300, based on risk assessments at certain locations and different attacks. There were 804 ABMs across the island, according to the Bank of Jamaica's (BOJ) March payment system report.
While NCBJ has made significant strides to have the ABMs able to process deposits, other banks have had minimal impact or were fully ready for the new notes.
"All of our deposit-enabled ATMs [automated teller machines] (19) are configured to accept the new banknotes. The exercise was completed on June 14th ahead of the June 15th launch date. No delays or issues encountered updating any ATMs to process the deposits of the new banknotes," said First Caribbean International Bank Jamaica Limited in an e-mail to the Jamaica Observer.
JMMB Bank (Jamaica) Limited mentioned that only its Spanish Town and Junction, St Elizabeth, ABMs were not able to process deposits of the new notes on the launch date, while its other 12 deposit-enabled ATMs were ready.
A similar response was received from First Global Bank Limited, which stated, "All FGB's deposit-taking ATMs have been upgraded to accept and dispense polymer notes, with the exception of our three video teller machines. Our FGB video teller machines require additional hardware and software upgrades to accept the new notes. We anticipate that these upgrades will be complete before the fourth quarter of 2023."
However, while the Bank of Nova Scotia Jamaica Limited (BNSJ) ATMs are enabled to disburse the new banknotes, some machines are unable to process the deposits of these notes. As a result, people would need to find someone to exchange their new banknotes with to deposit them in the ATMs or deposit them in branch if the location is open. This inability to deposit via ABMs is significant as banks have shifted heavily towards these channels and placed a reduced focus on a larger branch footprint. The Caribbean Business Report reached out to the BNSJ team and was still awaiting a response up to press time.
"We are still working to modify all of our ATMs to accept the new notes. We will advise the public once this has been completed," said a notice on BNSJ's website.
No response was received from JN Bank Limited and Sagicor Bank Jamaica Limited up to press time on where they stood with the processing of deposits with new banknotes. Sagicor Bank noted that its ATMs would no longer disburse $100 notes in a Twitter post, but there was no mention of handling deposits.
A frequently asked question section of JN Bank's website highlighted that not all of their ATMs were ready to accept and dispense new banknotes on June 15. "Select JN Bank ATMs that only dispense cash will issue the new polymer notes. Our deposit-taking ATMs will only be able to accept the older banknotes. Our teams are working swiftly to have all our machines upgraded to accept the new polymer banknotes."
The BOJ is currently developing policies regarding faulty banknotes with the Jamaica Bankers Association as five defective notes have been handled by consumers since the launch. Jamaica is the latest country in the Caribbean to switch to polymer banknotes, with Barbados launching their series at the end of 2022. The Central Bank of Barbados has noted that it has not received any fake 2022 banknotes and reminded consumers to be aware of the various security features. The new banknotes won the best new series award at the Reconnaissance International's Regional Banknote and ID Document of the Year Awards in June.