I guess this is how the Peace Corps gods balance out my superb site and awesome assignment, with bank troubles. Nothing is more stressful than money – maybe being President but his troubles are all money troubles too. So yes, money is the root of all stress.
The bank we were assigned is what I like to consider a little slice of hell. You have to fight people to get in “line” which is really just a mob. The bankers expect to be dashed, so throw in some good ole fashioned corruption. The manager and accountants tend to just read the newspaper while 100s of people are crammed into their tiny bank trying to just withdraw or deposit money. It is all about who you know. If you know the banker, they will let you skip the line. If you are wearing a uniform you can skip the line. If you push and shove enough you can skip the line. The bank itself holds onto your money while it is supposed to be transferred to your account – they want the free interest. So when all the other volunteers are being paid on the 23-26, we don’t get paid until the very last day of the month.
So when you are starving and only have a few dollars to your name, the bank looks like a giant donut (you know the kind on top of buildings that you can’t actually eat). I want to roll that donut into the street and watch a semi-truck that’s overloaded with far too much stuff slam into that donut. I want to see fake donut fiberglass explode everywhere like powdered sugar.
Alright back to the story, obviously I am craving donuts. So the bank sucks and it drives me crazy. It is one of the only things that I truly despise about Ghana. Everything else that is a little nutty, I can tolerate well enough and I do. The bank on the other hand. I have zero patience when it comes to money, especially when I know it should be there and they are just holding it to fill their own coffers. So I made the decision to switch to Barclay’s, a well known international respected bank. The bank is clean, has lines, has A/C, the bankers all speak amazing English, they actually know what they are doing.
First time I went to open my account, I forgot my passport. DOH. To be fair, I didn’t really know I would need it until I read my letter of recommendation for Barclays. I have never opened an international bank account. I was traveling for training so I would have had to go home and then go back to the other town for my passport. I was having a crappy day that day anyway, so I decided to come back next week. Which would be what I did yesterday. I had to meet some people in Techiman for a meeting of minds, so I went to the bank first. I sat in line for a while, it was surprisingly busy for a Monday morning. I filled out all the paperwork and the banker helped me choose the best account to open that would be most convenient given what I needed and wanted. So, he tells me alright now we have to verify your passport. He tells me to come back in a few hours. Perfect, I have to go to my meeting anyway. So 4 hours later I come back. He has a sour look on his face. Apparently, they haven’t processed it at the main office in Accra or something like that. So, I don’t get open my account today afterall. I have to come back! YAY. Just what I love to hear. Each time I go to the bank it costs me 4cd in travel costs. Which is 4cd I will happily pay once my account is set up. If I don’t have to deal with the other bank and save time by being able to use an ATM I will gladly spend the 4cd. But opening the account is going to cost me turns out.
The international ATM card is 10cd, the travel is now up to 6.5cd, the monthly bank fees will be about 5cd. So in effect, each month I will have to forgo about 10cd in order to get money. Which by the way, one of the bank fees is 1.20 a month to have your salary deposited. I thought that was the point of a bank…I will have to enquire about that some more, maybe with the manager.
The convenience of being able to use an ATM for free (internationally, including South Africa!) and having bankers that are not actually able to accept dashes far outweighs the costs in my mind. Plus, I will have access to mobile banking that works and an online account. It reminds me of people who haggle down to the lowest price possible, just for the sake of haggling. If you really want a service or a product, there is a price in your mind that you are willing to accept. I am paying for peace of mind and convenience. It is like buying an insurance policy for my sanity. Just as soon as the bank actually opens my account.