Following the advice of national health authorities for persons to remain indoors as much as possible, the Central Bank of Malta has issued a directive on important measures concerning cheques which will primarily enable persons to avoid visiting bank branches and other financial service providers, by depositing them through trusted third parties.
The measures were introduced after consultation with the commercial banks as a temporary measure during the current pandemic restrictions which came into force on the 26th March 2020.
Directive 17 is aimed at maintaining banking services essential to the life of the community. They spell out minimum services expectations to be provided by commercial banks and financial institutions.
The most important change affects the use of cheques which will no longer require direct deposit by the beneficiary. As from 26 March, those cheques marked as “only” for use by the beneficiary can – until further notice – be deposited by a trusted third party of the beneficiary.
This can be done in two ways:
- The beneficiary can instruct the trusted person to make the deposit directly into the beneficiary’s account.
- The beneficiary can also instruct the trusted person to make the deposit into the trusted person’s own bank account via an ATM. This should be particularly helpful for those beneficiaries who do not have a bank account.
These measures are aimed to help those persons who either cannot leave their home, or who have been advised not to do so by the health authorities. Basically, it provides a remedy for a section of the population who will be receiving their social security benefits, including pensions, in the form of a cheque from the Government.
The new directive also takes into account the concerns of commercial banks with regards to the wellbeing of their own staff, and places emphasis on the use of ATMs to reduce the number of people who need to rely on over-the-counter services. Since banks may also be working with limited resources, the amount of time taken to clear cheques and drafts has been extended temporarily to a maximum of six days, while cash deposits may take up to three days to be processed.
To reduce the number of customers inside branches, all banks are now authorised to restrict over-the-counter cash withdrawals from a deposit account associated with a payment card unless the amount exceeds €500.
In the meantime, banks and financial institutions must provide over-the-counter cash deposit services for all those customers who do not have any other access to alternatives such as ATMs. These customers are encouraged to obtain access to such alternatives offered by the financial services community.
These are just some of the measures being taken by institutions in the financial sector to support the health authorities’ guidance to reduce the need for people to go outdoors, and to maintain social distancing. Banks have also increased the limit for non-authenticated contactless cards to €50.