It’s a times hard to describe adventures here. So many things are like any other big city, and then others seem to catch us a little off guard.
For example, Banks and ATM’s.
When we first landed we opened an account with Standard Chartered. They were very kind and helpful and we liked them. But then we discovered something odd, our bank card could only be used at certain ATM machines. Turns out, that across the island, you can only use your ATM card at machines from your bank, or a select few banks that are pre-approved. That’s a bit of a problem, because Singapore is very much a cash type of country. So even if you wanted to pay that $2 service charge to get some quick cash, it’s not always an option. So, here we are in the Switzerland of Asia, a major financial hub, and we can’t use our ATM card where we want to get cash. Crazy right? So I opened up a second account with DBS so now I have a lot more options. Between the two I seem to be covered. And again, my DBS card only be used at DBS and POSB (another bank) ATM machines.
Writing checks is another funny thing. All the checks have text that say Pay to the order of XX where you fill out the XX like you would back home, but then they also have text (pre-printed) that say “or bearer” so that anyone with that check can cash it, unless you cross that part out, which you always end up doing anyway. Then once you cut the check, in the upper left hand corner you have to make two “//” lines. I kid you not. We don’t know what that means, but they will make sure you do it when handing over checks.
Here’s a handy website to explain it further. http://www.moneysense.gov.sg/resource/publications/quick_tips/Graphicised%20cheque%20-%20FINAL.pdf See upper left hand corner for info, you may have to zoom in some to read it.
At the same time there is a sophisticated system in place to move money around called GIRO. We use this to pay our bills, and even transfer money to our landlords account.
And then there’s the security. When we try to purchase items online (like movie tickets, or shopping) or if we try to log on to access our account balance and pay bills, we get a text message to our phone with something called an ALP (Additional Logon Pin). This 6 digit number is sent via text message to your phone and is required to access you account online or complete a purchase. At first I was really annoyed, but now, I can’t help but wonder why America is not doing stuff like this. I mean, now, even if you have my account ID and secret password, unless you have stolen my phone, you can’t do anything with my money. It does make me feel more secure.
Now if only the brains behind that idea could explain why I can;t use my card at ATMs around the island…..