Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What if your cash is too safe?

One of the first things you do when you land in a new country is figure out how to get your hands on local currency. Unlike other countries where you see ATMs as soon as you collect your bags at baggage claim, India doesn't seem to have that facility readily accessible. What you can do is walk up to an eager rep at currency exchange counter and turn in your dollars and get rupees. That probably lasted me a couple of weeks and then I decided to open a local bank account in order to directly transfer cash from my US account to India. 3 weeks later when I finally was able to use an ATM card in a machine and withdraw cash, I have to say, it felt very rewarding. Why you may ask? Well, transferring funds into your Indian account can be quite an adventure. My bank account sat with a $0 for 2 weeks. There are about 5-6 different numbers you need to start the process: your account number, a phone banking pin, an ATM pin, an internet securekey code, a SWIFT/ABA code and of course the 3 different toll free numbers for your bank (since there is a different department that activates your card, issues phone banking pins and wire transfers your funds to your checking account). I think my receiving bank is either overly paranoid about receiving deposits by their own account holders or got a little to excited about all the new secure banking technologies! So here is my question for your retail banking experts out there: how far do banks need to go to protect their account holders, even from themselves?

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