I try to keep this blog positive for the most part, but today it’s time for my yearly rant 😀 The focus of this post is all about Taiwanese bank accounts – the pitfalls and the painfully annoying points, according to my experience. Obviously your mileage may vary, but I’ve noticed a bunch of similar things between the two accounts I have here in TW. So, let the rant commence 😛
Opening an account
The first account I opened in Taiwan was a relatively simple process – I was lucky enough to have a colleague of mine accompany me to help open it. The only problem was that my English name was too long to fit on my passbook, although this didn’t cause any real problems. However, the second account I opened in TW was much trickier, even with the help of my wife. On our first visit we had to fill out paperwork and hang around for well over an hour, and then we ended up having to go back again another day to sign some other paperwork that was missed by the staff.
I believe that internet banking in Taiwan is purposely setup to be so inconvenient that nobody would ever want to use it, it’s the only explanation possible! Internet banking for both of my accounts was relatively easy to setup, but as soon as I tried to transfer my monthly rent payment I hit the first hurdle – you can’t transfer money to a new account without going into a branch and filling out some paperwork for each one!
Despite the fact that this completely defeats the purpose of having internet banking, I went into the branch and filled out the required paperwork to setup the account, to be told it would be ready in a few business days. A few days passed, and I still couldn’t transfer to the account. My wife called up the bank to ask what was going on. “Oh sorry,” they said, “you wrote one of the numbers for the account wrong. It should be a 7, not a 1. I’m sorry but we can’t fix it, you need to come back and submit another application.”
I do believe my next door neighbor learned a few choice swear words that day! Upon arriving at the branch they gave us our previous application form to see the ‘wrong number’. As far as I could tell the number was a perfect representation of a ‘7’; the reason they rejected it was because apparently you must draw a line through all ‘7s’ to distinguish them from ‘1s’…
Eventually the account was setup to make transfers online, and it turns out the maximum daily amount you can transfer is NT$7 mn (US$226k) – or about 6 years worth of pay when you consider Taiwan’s average income! My wife called them up and asked them to lower it to a more reasonable amount – “Sure, just come in the branch and fill out an application form”.
One of the reasons I setup my second account was because that bank had advertised an account that offered for free international transactions. My original bank was charging NT$600 per int’l transaction, so I wanted to take advantage of the offer. After going through the painful process of setting up both the account and then the international transactions (this took two visits to the bank), I was finally ready to make my first transfer (which annoyingly had to be done by phone, but to save NT$600 I was willing to put up with it).
I was lucky to get a friendly guy on the phone who was helping me make the transaction. After I gave him all the details, he said “OK, to confirm we are transferring $xxx to your int’l account. Let me remind you the transaction fee is NT$600”. I was shocked! “What! But the branch said there’s no charge for int’l transactions with this account,” I said, with a sense of impending doom. “Sorry,” he said “but that deal is only available to Taiwanese citizens”.
My wife and I returned to the branch where we setup the account to demand some answers. Even writing this now almost one year after it happened I am still pretty mad! When we asked the person who setup the account what happened, they offered this explanation: “Oh yes, foreigners can’t get the free international transactions. But you never asked us, so we didn’t tell you.”
One last frustration
I could write about the topic of Taiwanese banks forever, but let me just finish with one last point of annoyance. When my first ARC expired, one of the banks I have an account with sent me a letter asking me to come into the branch with my new ARC so that they could confirm I was still a legal resident. Otherwise they would basically freeze the account from performing transfers, so it was definitely in my best interests to go (funnily enough, the other bank never asked for this, so I wonder if it’s even necessary or not).
Anyway, I headed into the bank with the letter and my new ARC. After a bit of general confusion (the letter was written purely in English, and nobody in the branch could read it, even though I explained in Chinese what it was about), they eventually figured out they needed to check my new ARC. But instead of asking for that, a staff member said “Please give me your passport.” Passport!? The letter said nothing about a passport, it only said to bring in your ARC. I argued this point for what felt like an eternity and eventually they agreed to reactivate my account without the passport. Is it too much to ask that they write in the letter to bring your passport if they need it?
Thinking back to all these frustrating moments has got me super stressed. I need some bubble tea immediately!