With the demand for cash at ATMs often tripling during the Tet (lunar new year) shopping season, commercial banks are taking measures to ensure ATM networks and systems are working well during the holidays.

"Vietcombank ATMs usually process 500,000 transactions per day, but during Tet, the figure soars to 1.5-2 million per day," the bank's card centre director, Nguyen Thi Thanh Hang, told Vietnam News.

Hang acknowledged the problem of accommodating the increased load. "It takes some 30-40 minutes to load cash into an ATM. Meanwhile, the bad traffic during the Tet days can delay the vehicles," she said, asking for the sympathy and understanding of customers during the holiday rush.

Agribank staff also said increased demand had caused ATMs to run out of money and the bank had stepped up its ATM monitoring and replenishment efforts.

Representatives of Sacombank and Techcombank also said their banks were committed to increasing the number of teams on the road to restock ATMs with cash during weekends and holidays. They also said that the early return of some workers to their home provinces would helped ease some of the pressures on the ATM systems.

"About 95 percent of ATMs nationwide are connected and running smoothly. If your card issuer is a member of a bankcard network, you can withdraw money at nearly 10,000 ATMs, "Nguyen Tu Anh, director of bankcard services firm Smartlink.

"Banks have agreed not to charge more than 3,300 USD (0.16 USD) per cash withdrawal when a customer makes a withdrawal from another bank's ATM, or no more than 1,650 VND for seeking a balance or printing a receipt," Anh said.

DongA Bank deputy general Nguyen Thi Kim Xuyen suggested that customers go directly to a bank transaction offices to get money if they want to withdraw large sums, while Techcombank general director Nguyen Duc Vinh suggested that to ease demand for cash at ATMs, customers should make payments electronically wherever point-of-sale (POS) systems were available.

There are an estimated 28.5 million bankcards in use nationwide and 11,000 ATMs.

Not surprisingly some become the targets of criminals.

The Vietnam Bankcard Association said there were nine attacks on customers using ATMs in the past two months, with police in Nghe An province nabbing only one of the criminals.

"Right after the attacks, Vietcombank worked with local police to patrol ATMs and employed security services to secure ATMs," Hang said.

"To improve security, we will move ATMs from thinly populated areas to central areas, or reduce money volume at thinly populated ATMs," she added.

Sacombank has also set up a quick-response team to solve emergencies involving ATMs./.