My mind on my money

14 Jan

Banking is tough in Indonesia, if you’re a foreigner. Or an ATM. Witness this recent news item, courtesy of the IPJ Daily News service:

ATM Explodes in Malang, East Java
On Thursday (January 9) at around 0230hrs an ATM belonging to Mandiri Bank exploded on Jalan Kartanegara, Karangploso, Malang, East Java. The explosion caused the machine flew for 20 meters, yet the machine was still in one piece. Suspects failed to recover money from the machine. The police Gegana Team (bomb squad) deployed to the site to secure the area and a forensic team from Surabaya, Indonesia responded to investigate. Four witnesses are under interrogation.

Doesn’t sound like I’d want to be one of those witnesses. That said, trying to get normal banking done is about as pleasant as police interrogation!

1. First of all, getting a bank account is hard. It took me over 3 months. You need a residency permit, a work permit, a letter from your employer confirming your address, and then the ever-illusive tax ID number. And that’s just to fill the forms out. Someone then has to call you and confirm all the information you just provided, and eventually you get a bank account.

2. Having a bank account opened isn’t the same thing as getting a bank card. Nope, really. I found out I had accounts successfully opened because I got a text message from the customer service agent, asking me to deposit money into the account to meet a minimum balance. No correspondence, no bank card, just a text. Sure (I texted) but I don’t know the account numbers. OK, I can text them to you. But how can I deposit money without a bank card? Oh, just log in online. OK, but don’t I need a bank card? No, you can just transfer the funds in. OK, but how will the website know I’m me and connect to my accounts? Just create a user ID. This of course I tried and failed to do because … step 1 of creating a user ID is entering your bank card number. Sigh.

3. Effortless online banking is a fiction made up by marketing types. They probably keep their own money in a sack under the bed. Having eventually obtained a bank card by going in person to the headquarters branch, I now (foolishly) attempted to set up online bill payments. Setting up a payee requires a bank routing code, which makes sense so your bank knows where to send the money. So innocently, I call customer service to ask how I find said code. The response – we don’t keep codes for other banks, just for us. You need to call the other bank where the account is. Other bank – we don’t keep records for bank codes. OK, but this is a (trademarked) “virtual account” – doesn’t that mean I can pay online? Oh no, only in a branch miss. Have a nice day. Sigh again.

What’s most interesting is that everyone else seems to have figured this out. People routinely send you their account details to transfer money. My utility company has set up a virtual account just for me, so I can easily pay my bills. My landlady also sent me her account details, and so did my housekeeper. It’s clearly just me.

Maybe I need to go shopping for a sack. At least this I can do with cash.


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