Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Banking in Jamaica

I have a bank account! I haven't been this excited about having a bank account since I was seven years old.  It is quite a process and I am told that I have been very fortunate to accomplish this in only two trips to the bank, each of about 90 minutes. There are rules and there are forms and then there are the rules that they changed and didn't tell you about.  

Of course, money laundering is a problem in Jamaica so they need to have tight controls on who can open an account.  Mind you, the amount of $$ that I will be depositing could hardly be called money-laundering.  It is more likely to be referred to as the dole.  Anyway, it is their country and I must abide by their regulations. I must say that the people I dealt with at CIBC First Caribbean were very pleasant and professional, and perhaps this is as frustrating for them as it was for me.

I had my passport and other picture ID (you need two with your picture and fortunately I have a driver's licence); proof of residence, which is the signed lease to my apartment; proof of "source of income", which is a letter from CUSO-VSO; and letter of recommendation from my bank manager in Vancouver.  However, when I arrived at the bank with all of this they then told me that I would also require two more personal references vouching for my good citizenship and all-round reliability AND that these would have to be from doctor/lawyer/notary/minister (sorry, school superintendents don't quality) AND they have to be originals mailed (yes, the old way) directly to the bank manager.

After negotiations and discussions with staff and said bank manager (and I was joined by another volunteer who was also in banking purgatory), the manager agreed that only one more personal reference would be required and a fax would be acceptable in the short term as long as the original was on its way. If mail arrives in Jamaica-time, it could be here by Christmas. I emailed my lawyer friend and she was very quick to write an embarrassingly nice letter, mail and fax right away.  Of course, the fax would not go through.  I called the bank and they said "yes, the fax often doesn't work".  I arrived with my emailed, scanned copy this morning and miraculously it was accepted. I expressed my profuse thanks to all. 

This is a long story, but think of how long it was for me :-)  I have an account and a bank card to make withdrawals because you can never get to the bank as it is only open 8:30-2 M-Th and 8:30-4 on Fridays. I understand that CUSO-VSO will direct deposit my monthly living allowance . . .  but I expect a catch here somewhere . . . 

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