Eight (8) Automated Teller Machines (ATM) on the island are down. Only one inside Bank of Hawaii Belau Branch is working but all the rest are not due to lack of maintenance as result of border closure. The machines require certified technicians to service and because of COVID restrictions, they have not been serviced in nearly a year.
Every day, long lines outside all the FDIC banks, Bank of Hawaii, Bank of Guam and BankPacific can be seen with people braving the sun or the rain to stay in lines to get in the banks.
Despite availability of debit cards, many people still prefer to have cash for transactions. “Customs don’t accept debit cards,” expressed a frustrated young lady who didn’t want to be named. “House parties, money collection for number of mechesangs this weekend, and what good is my debit card?”
Typical Palauan weekend consists of 2 or 3 funerals, couple of child birth ceremonies and house parties. In each of these events, a person can be giving donations to 3 different people at one funeral. This means that he/she has to split cash in so many different ways and this cannot be done with a debit card.
In addition to lack of operational ATMS, COVID precautions at the banks add on to frustrations as only certain number of people can be inside the bank at any given time. Despite Palau being COVID free, institutions require temperature checks and 6 feet apart between customers adding to long lines.
The ATM machines, according to Bank of Hawaii Branch manager, are sensitive equipment, easily trapping dirt, dust, oil and other impurities usually from the money placed into the machines. As such, they need to be serviced regularly but unfortunately, there are no certified technicians on island that can provide this service.
There are only few certified people that service Guam, Saipan and Palau. Just getting them to Palau is difficult right now because they cannot afford to be tied up in quarantine for 14 days in Guam and 14 days in Palau. They are also in demand in those islands.
Financial Institutions Commission issued a statement on Tuesday informing people that solution is being worked on to bring technicians on island and assured people that all the banks have cash available to meet the demand. It encouraged people to use other means such as debit cards, credit cards and checks to make purchase or payments in the meantime.
FIC Commissioner assured that work is being done to try and resolve the ATM issues and restore service to all account holders.