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Donation-collecting group confused after Japan Post Bank charges handling fees for coins

(Getty)

FUKUOKA -- Starting January 2022, people who have savings accounts with Japan Post Bank have been required to pay handling fees when depositing coins, with an exception for some cases. The move is an attempt to promote cashless payments, and other banks in Japan have already begun to take similar measures.

    While Japan Post Bank Co. said that relief funds, donations and other such payments are exempted from the handling charges, an organization collecting "1-yen coin donations" to help cover funds for scholarships for university students and support others in need has voiced confusion over having to pay the handling charges anyway on the grounds that the funds do not fulfill the necessary criteria.

    "I don't understand why my organization is not allowed (to be exempt from the handling charges)," said Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, 80, the director of Kitakyushu-based incorporated nonprofit Nagomu, which has engaged in 1-yen donation activities since fiscal 2015 to offer scholarships to poor university students and support junior high school students' academic activities. The nonprofit group set up donation boxes at around 500 establishments and stores in the city, and has solicited donations of loose change, particularly 1-yen coins. When counted with company donations, the organization has gathered several hundred thousand yen, or roughly several thousand dollars, each year.

    The organization, which has a Japan Post Bank account, was informed of the bank's new system of handling charges for coins in October 2021. It was told that from Jan. 17, 2022, the bank would begin charging handling fees when customers deposit or make payments with coins at bank counters and ATMs. At bank counters, customers do not need to pay handling charges if they are depositing or paying 50 coins or less. The bank charges 550 yen (about $5) for customers dealing with 51 to 100 coins, 825 yen (about $7) for 101 to 500 coins, and 1,100 yen (about $10) for 501 to 1,000 coins. If more than 1,000 coins are used in a deposit or transaction, a 1,100-yen fee is charged along with additional fees of 550 yen per 500 coins.

    Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, who has continued efforts to collect donations in loose change in boxes made from reused milk cartons, is seen in the city of Kitakyushu on Dec. 27, 2021. (Mainichi/Kazuhito Ito)

    For example, if a sum of 1,000 yen is donated in all 1-yen coins, the donor will be required to pay an additional 1,100 yen in handling charges. If the 1,000-yen donation is made in 10-yen coins, handling charges will still cost 550 yen. Donations in coins of small value may require individuals to pay handling charges that are greater in amount than the donation itself, and under this system, the organization loses out and its efforts of collecting 1-yen donations are in vain. As for ATM deposits, there is a limit of 100 coins per one deposit, and handling fees cost even higher than at the bank counter as the number of coins increase.

    Yoshimoto was told by the post office that organizations dealing with donations would be exempted from coin handling fees if they fulfill certain standards. While following instructions by the post office, he sent the nonprofit's statute, as well as a report on its activities in 2021 and its plan for 2022 to Japan Post Bank's Kyushu area headquarters in the southwest Japan city of Kumamoto in early December 2021. However, on Dec. 23, the organization was notified on the phone that it "did not fulfill standards." The nonprofit was not told the reason for the rejection.

    Yoshimoto had no choice but to call on the businesses and establishments that collected the donations to send the money after exchanging the coins with banknotes. The 1-yen donation project was launched with the hope to create a society that is comfortable to live in through residents' small acts of generosity. Yoshimoto said, "If they would at least tell us what aspect of our activities was inadequate, then we could make efforts to improve it."

    When asked about cases where transactions for donations are not exempted from handling charges, a Japan Post Bank public relations representative told the Mainichi Shimbun that they "explain to organizations that it was the result of decisions made comprehensively while checking it against the standards."

    Japan Post Bank claims that it notifies organizations and other bodies of the necessary documentation after they receive inquiries on the handling charge exemption at the teller window for making savings. However, as the screening criteria is not disclosed, the bank does not give advice on what actions can be taken to be spared of handling charges, nor does it explain the reason why certain organizations are not exempted from them. The number of organizations that have been granted exemption from handling charges also remains undisclosed, and the procedure is not transparent.

    The public relations representative said, "We are aware of the voices saying the screening standards are difficult to understand. The nature of our explanations will be reviewed in accordance with legal revisions and social circumstances."

    (Japanese original by Kazuhito Ito and Emi Aoki, Kyushu News Department)

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