Friday, December 09, 2011

You Want to Transfer Money? Don't Bank On It Part 1

As I shared yesterday, we signed the paperwork for the new apartment last night. I had wanted to make the bank transfers online while we were still in the realtor's office; once the password was typed in of course I welcomed a gaggle of witnesses looking over my shoulder. But no... first our realtor chimed in and said wait until tomorrow, but our lawyer seconded the motion. I knew this was a mistake, yet you follow advice when doubly offered. 

This morning, we were up early, booting up the computer and logging into our XYZ Bank account. We had made the seller a new payee yesterday, so it was all systems go. Type in the log in information, select the account, the payee, the day of transfer, and then the amount. Click on "Are you sure you want to make this transfer?" I hate getting these automated services when they question my judgement. It is like my mother's voice calling from the grave whining "Are you sure that is wise? Remember the last time..." With a stiff finger showing stoic intent, we hit the CONTINUE button with a sense of relief and disregard to mom's admonition. All is well with the world, the sun is shining, the full deposit has been made, we can let out our held breathes...

So much for false security. Red letters flashed across the screen "This amount exceeds your daily limit of 2 million HUF a day." Now what? We remember and revert to the Hungarian saying, "If you cannot get through the large gate, there is always a little gate next to it that you can usually get through." Well, it's worth a try, but we are both big guys and this is a big amount. That is one heck of a lot of squeezing through small gates.

We sign out of Ron's account number and sign back in with mine. We are able to confuse the system enough to allow us to send another 2 million, but that is where the bank has put its virtual foot down. No more! Okay, now what? I had to go to the doctor, so Ron went to the bank to try to fix this. Rather than their helping him there, they sent him home with a phone number to call. To their benefit, he didn't have all the information needed for their copious forms that needed to be completed and it would have taken longer to fill out the forms, get them into their computer and finally to be processed than it would have been to return to the US, get the cash and carry it over by hand.

When he returned home, I had returned from the ENT doctor. Finally, someone has diagnosed my sinus problems. There are three areas of sinuses that are chronically infected. The end result is surgery, but the doctor said to wait on this. After Ron and I exchanged our day's survival bits, he called Citibank to arrange for the rest of the money to be transferred to the seller, per the instructions they sent him home with. After thirty minutes on the phone, they had accumulated all of the data needed to check our dental records, know the last ten people we had relations with from the prior 4 decades, and oh, yea the reason for our call, to transfer our money. 

Just when we thought we were through, there was a catch. Someone else from the bank will be calling back to confirm our identity or that of Ron Schmitz and confirm the transfer. Okay, fine, but we had lunch plans with Árpád my former student and with Dan and Ellen, a Fulbrighter and his wife. Ron was going to leave us early for a tour at the museum he was to lead. He gave me his ATM card, this pin number and all of the codes the bank gave him for the confirmation call, and his phone. 

Giving that extra spice to being an ex-pat, last night we didn't have any water in the kitchen. There was water in both bathrooms, but none where the dirty dinner dishes were sitting. At lunch, we asked Árpád to call the building manger, an outside company. Turns out a pipe had been replaced, but the residents were warned yesterday. The joys of ex-pat living. No one came to our door. "Forget them, they are Americans; they will probably not notice."
All in all, I was prepared for the Citibank call allowing Ron to go do his tour of duty without interruptions... or so we thought... to be continued.

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