Monday, July 09, 2007

wanking in singapore

1280_wonky wire
Originally uploaded by thomask
first post from singapore, and it's a bitch. typical me!

so, we all know the joke about investment bankers, right?

well, all banks in singapore, and bankers, turn out to be like those dodgy men loitering outside public conveniences looking for some frottage action...

to begin with, there's the queues. singaporean banks, despite 'successfully' (?) having moved everyone over to electronic banking, are still filled with hordes of people, waiting to see a teller. why? money. well der, it's a bank. but i don't mean just a lobster or two, i mean like 10K and 20K at a pop. as far as i can surmise, these people wait for their pay to be deposited into their account, and then withdraw the entire amount to hide under their beds for the month. or it could be to do with the recent 2-point hike in the GST from 5 to 7% (shops are offering to absorb the GST if you pay in cash.) well, whatever the reasons, they result in queues the length of 3 chinese dancing lions laid end to end, as first the teller puts the cash through the counting machine, then counts it manually, twice, then the customer counts it, 2 or 3 times. all very frustrating.

when you finally get to see a teller to open an account, you have to make sure you bring the "minimum deposit" amount. $500 for our bank, $1000 for most others, and $5000 for the big boys (eg HSBC). this money is the mimimum deposit to open an account, and if the balance ever drops below that level they charge you for the indiscretion. again as far as i can tell, they only use this money to play on the international markets, increasing their profits. it does mean you pay no fees for the account, or ATM withdrawals, but really, who are they kidding? that's the only "advantage" your money gets you.

in a "wired" country like singapore, you'd think at least there'd be no fees for withdrawing money from another bank's ATMs, right? wrong, sort of. you see, there are no fees, but that's because you can't use other bank's ATMs, full stop. don't ask me why, no-one's been able to explain it. the one exception to this is POSB and DBS. (POSB is like the jetstar to DBS's qantas.)

finally, and i only just found this out today (and is what prompted this little tirade), there's a difference between "electronic use only" debit cards and 'real' debit cards. when you open an account, the bank will provide you with an ATM card, on the spot. that's right, the number is printed on the card with a thermal printer, you sign it, and bang, you're ready to spend the hardearned. fantastic yeah? they'll even, once you've filled in the additional form, turn your run-of-the-mill ATM card into a Mastercard debit card, so you can "sign and pay" in shops, restaurants and online. this is what the promotional posters and the teller in the bank will tell you. but hold your horses, sunshine, there's a catch. when you try to use to use said debit card online, it won't be accepted, because it's "electronic use only". what does that mean? isn't the internet electronic? nup. only ATMs are electronic. so what's the point of a debit card you can only use in ATMs? exactly.

so, this lunchtime i'm off to the bank again to apply for a 'real' debit card (the difference being this card has embossed, instead of printed, numbers, and no "electronic use only" in fineprint at the bottom. and that's it. same name. same pool of money. same mastercard symbol. same hologram.



cos said...

aren't you gonna just sign up for a million credit cards like real singaporeans do? i got pretty sick of not being able to walk down the street without being hassled by all the credit card vendors offering plenty of shiny things if you took up their offer for another card.

oh, and you'll find that all these different *anking cards give you different discounts at all sorts of places in singapore, too (eg. the zoo's one i can think of off the top of my head).

what's worse is that these credit card hasslers haver spread to australian airports now, too (at least)...

thomask said...

haha - trouble is andrew, i'm not a real singaporean. in order to apply for a credit card, i would have to have a $10,000 "deposit" as collateral. which i don't, obviously.

luckily (?) for me, the govt agency where i work has a 'corporate' credit card scheme ('govt' and 'corporate' being indistinguishable...) , whereby you can use your future earnings as collateral against your current / projected debt. neat hey?

so yes, i've applied for one of those too, only trouble is i need an official payslip before the application can go through. pay comes monthly, so...

these things are sent to try us, and what doesn't kill us can only make us stronger, right?

as for the zoo - one of the cool things about this place is that they give us free passes for the zoo and the birdpark - so when the next batch of tourists comes to town we can ship them off for a day while we actually do some work ;)

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