Monday, August 27, 2007

Banking on It

After breakfast, before I could open my new positive psychology coaching book, our long-time house cleaner poked her head into the dining room and shyly asked in a whisper if I knew how to open a savings account. "No, but let's find out!" I responded.

I do know that lots of families here never open one, and thus worry constantly about robberies at times when they actually have cash.

Currently my accounts are all in the US, but I am thinking of opening a local account, so this was a good moment to find out how. We locked up the house and drove into town with Roberto. We dropped him off at the monumental, crowded national bank, which he recommended against them and other large banks due to tiresome waits and poor service. I decided to head for the small, tidy branch of Credicoop, the only public credit union type bank.

We ventured into the brightly lit modern building. No lines! Juan, a very amiable young man, quickly attended us at one of the three desks. As he explained, “We have members instead of clients; we’re more like a family, with offices all over the country.” His colleague, a young woman, as if on cue, beamed at us.

He continued: "The monthly maintenance fee is four pesos (about US$1.40), with negligible interest, but when using the associated debit card, there is up to 5% return of the IVA tax (the whopping 21% federal tax on all purchases, including food, in this country!)." Sounds like a good deal, I advised Angelica. He asked her for identification and proof of salary. "She works for me, and this is for the money her husband sends her from another city." That seemed good enough for Juan.

In less than fifteen minutes, Angelica was making her first deposit into her first banking account ever! Next week she can pick up the debit card and pay with plastic. . . I’ll have to ask her how it feels.

Alas, Juan also confirmed that I remain ineligible for any bank account until I get my national identity card and number. (Four years and waiting!) In departing, Angelica watched carefully as I used my Chase ATM card at the only machine in the lobby, which as in all Argentina, allows withdrawals of up to about US$100 at a time. (Do banks do this to force customers--or members--to pay more service fees?)

After paying all those service fees, I can't wait to have my own account. . . that is, if I can be convinced that an Argentine bank is indeed a safe place to keep money. The federal finance minister was forced to resigned recently after about $70,000 was found stashed in her executive washroom, her alleged down payment for a house. “It was just for safekeeping,” explained Felicia Micelli.

Why not a bank then? But then that's another story. . . .

2 comments:

Francisco from Seattle said...

Hi Gayle, I love your blog, specially the post about gas stations...For many years I lived in Patagonia and the YPFs are real oasis in the patagonian tundra!

jomama said...

Angelica watched carefully as I used my Chase ATM card at the only machine in the lobby, which as in all Argentina, allows withdrawals of up to about US$100 at a time. (Do banks do this to force customers--or members--to pay more service fees?)

I was seriously considering retiring in AR til I read that.

Now, dunno since I can't open
bank account there w/o ID card due
to the wait.