Banks the Third

Following on from the last bankskapade I managed yet again to get locked out of my internet banking and go through the tedious and abhorrently expensive trans-continental phone call rigmarole.

Eventually, thanks to the kindly people at the Co-Op, all is well again and so far I haven’t been arrested for funding international terrorism.

When is a thousand pounds not a thousand pounds?

Simple – when you transfer it via the wonders of SWIFT international banking to Bank Windhoek. The Co-Op charged me £17 for an urgent transfer (not that it was actually urgent, just that non-urgent was £15 and would take twice as long) which I didn’t think was too bad (1.7%). This is an account charge to be debited at a later date from the balance.

Four working days later and with a marked thud some money arrives in Bank Windhoek. I’m rich. No, hang on, not quite as rich as I should be.

At worst case exchange rates (13.22 N$ to the £) £1000 should equal N$ 13220. Bank del Windhoek have instead credited me with N$ 12860 (£972 at worst case rates).

So that’s a transaction fee of about 2.8% to deposit money in my account.

But can I even get access to my account?

Faced with rapidly dwindling cash reserves and feeling flush with my newly transferred wealth I tried on Saturday to use my cash card (Visa Electron) for the first time.

Mini-statement? No. Transaction Cancelled.

Cash withdrawal? No. Transaction Cancelled.

Balance enquiry? No. Transaction Cancelled.

I suppose I should count myself lucky the card didn’t get swallowed.

So today when I found the strength it was off to the bank to face the endless tutting and exasperated sighs of the customer unfriendly staff. For a laugh I thought I might take along some travellers cheques just to see the look on their faces then thought better of it.

Oh well obviously

Tried the ATM in the bus-on-bricks out the front of the bank to no avail. Chatting to one of the 4 year old security guards (not the one who previously dropped the gun, this one has a much bigger shiny silver shotgun rather than a pistol) he thought the ATM might be knackered.

We waited until another customer tried and succeeded to get money out. As I was swearing and bemoaning that it had never ever worked the security guard (from a security company, not Bank Windhoek staff) said that if the card was new it would need “activated” by the ace customer service staff inside.

So in I went.

“Yes David, obviously it needs activated”

Of course, this wasn’t written anywhere or stated to me, or in fact told to me when I came to the bank to collect the card from this same guy. Oh no, too easy.

Anyway, two mouse clicks later and the card was activated and I am now cellphone banking enabled.

And the card even worked. I danced a little jig in the courtyard and only a few people looked at me funny.

Effusive thanks to the security guard who is friendlier, more customer service orientated and apparently more knowledgeable than the customer service staff.

Update: Actually Co-Op (though bless their hearts, all is forgiven, they’re still better than BankWindhoek) charged me £38 for the transfer (3.8%). So that’s roughly a total charge of 6.6% to move money electronically from Europe to Africa. No wonder money laundering and currency smuggling are so popular.

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