Nov 032011

I’ve been on this rant before. You’ve all heard it.

When I was planning my trip to the US, I was looking into what bank to use when I was here. I really wanted to avoid the ‘big’ banks, due to all the horror stories I hear about hidden fees and so on. I was looking into Credit Unions, online-only banks, that sort of thing. I really wanted to avoid Bank of America (BofA), because I knew they were planning on implementing a debit card charge soon, and as I use my debit card more than anything else, that was an issue.

Once I arrived here, naturally, reality hit, and everything changed. Without a social security number, no credit union or online bank would accept my application. I really didn’t want to wait a month without a bank account, so I gave up. The final straw was when BofA gave in to the pressure and cancelled the debit card charge.

So off I went to the bank. There’s a BofA branch in the same building I work in, so that was the natural choice. I went right after lunch, figuring I’d be in there for an hour or so.

Twenty-five minutes later, I walked out of the bank, all done.

Here’s what I had with me:

  • A working temporary debit card. My permanent debit card will arrive in the mail within the next two weeks. The current one is valid for 30 days. My permanent card is WWF themed, which means that whenever I use it, the bank will give a small percentage of my transaction to the WWF as a donation. Doing a bit of good.
  • Fully functional online banking. Username, password, security key stuff, all ready and in my hand. It was activated while i was in the bank.
  • A receipt for 50 checks. These are free (future books cost $10) and are in the mail already. I should have them in a week.
  • A ‘new customer’ packet, which contains all sorts of information about my account, and includes all applicable fees, and a small booklet to keep track of my transactions, you know, for people who still do that sort of thing on paper.
  • $500 deposited into my new account. Because the deposit was more than $125, and a co-worker ‘referred’ me, we both get a check for $25. Both are also in the mail.
I’m not arguing that BofA is a good bank. I have no experience with them yet. In fact, all the stories I’ve heard imply that they’re a pretty bad bank. But that’s the point. This is a corporate -we don’t care about our customers- kind of bank, and yet, they managed to pull all that stuff in twenty five minutes.
In the UAE? I’d be lucky if I had a usable bank account at this point, let alone all of the above. And online banking? Forget about it.. It would take weeks to get it set up, with their insane security requirements (mailing the user ID and password separately, etc).
To add to the story, I did the exact same thing with a bank in Canada back in 1998. With the same exact results. Less than an hour, and I had everything ready, with cash available, online banking, etc.
That was 13 years ago.
Take note, banks of the UAE. You’re more than 13 years behind at this point.