I was at a loss as to what to post about today. My incident with the bank this weekend provided a pathetic excuse for blog fodder....Banking in Trinidad.
When we moved there we of course needed to set up a bank account. We asked around and several folks we knew did their banking at Royal Bank and seemed generally satisfied. So off we went. We sat down with the lady in New Accounts and gave her all the necessary information. After all the forms and whatnot she came back with passbooks and then began to explain the checking account procedures.
At that time in Trinidad there were 2 kinds of checking accounts, secured and non-secured. The secured ones demonstrated you had a good history with a bank and everyone would accept checks from such an account. We were informed we were not eligible for such an account since we had no banking history in Trinidad. Ok, how long for the secured account? Six months. Ok, so for six months we used the non-secured account, never bounce a check and then we can get the secured account. I guess we can handle that.
So we go off with our happy little non-secured checking account and try to get utilities set up. Hhhhmmm, none of the utility companies will accept non-secured checks, too risky. Uuum, ok. Back to the bank to get cash to drive around to the utility offices to set up service.
Now we need to get some groceries. We've been to the fresh market and understandably that is cash only. We've gone on Saturdays to the plucking and gutting places so we could pick out a chicken for Sunday dinner....yeah, that one over there pecking at the food, we'll take her...half hour later she's plucked, gutted, and bagged up. Again, that's a cash only operation, no biggie. But we go to the Hi Lo supermarket for the non-perishables and such. Guess what? They don't take non-secured checks. Neither do the drug stores if you need medicine. Neither do mechanics if you need your car fixed. Basically, NO ONE on the island takes these checks. The bank may as well have issued us Monopoly money.
I'm not entirely sure how a person is suposed to establish banking history when no business will accept these lovely non-secured checks but we don't seem to have much choice. so for six months we go to withdraw cash before we have to do any transactions. No ATM cards were available to us either, that was all part of the whole secured account thing. Plus they were not quite as prevalent.
So we put up with this for 6 months then trot back to th bank and ask for a secured account. No, I'm sorry. You can't have one. You haven't been using the checks. Yes, that would be because people regard them as unacceptable. Well, I'm sorry, you'll have to go a few more months before we can authorize a secured account. We are less than thrilled by this.
Some days later we were chatting with a neighbor who worked at Scotia Bank. She said if we came to her bank she'd personally see to it that we were immediately given a secured account. We did and she did. It's who ya know, baby.
Happy Trini Tuesday.