Monday, July 09, 2007
wanking in singapore
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.