Please forgive the forthcoming rant, but I wanted to relate my recent trials in trying to send some money to Germany via electronic transfer. As some of you will know I went to Germany last month to visit my Linux Outlaws co-host Fab, and also attend Linux Tag 2009. It was great fun and obviously there were various costs for hotels in Berlin and travel, amongst other things. I wanted to send some money to Fab to cover these things and a bank transfer seemed the easiest and quickest way to do that, or so I thought. I knew I needed an IBAN code and the SWIFT code for his bank, I thought this would be enough. First off I looked for a way to arrange this with the Natwest Online Banking site, which at the time of writing still hasn’t been updated to accept Firefox 3.5, but that’s another matter. It seems you can’t do International transfers online. I was disappointed by that but it seemed fairly reasonable.
So I took the details I had into my local branch. I was told that an IBAN number and bank code are not enough. It seems that 2 unique identifying numbers, the name of the bank and the name of the account holder are not enough to uniquely identify the recipient bank account. I thought these numbers were designed for exactly that purpose, you know identifying accounts? The name certainly leads you to that conclusion. I was advised I needed the full address of the local branch I was sending it too. They couldn’t look this up for me from the bank code apparently, so exactly what use is the code? Do they just pluck them out of the air? I might as well have given them my bloody lottery numbers.
Anyway, it gets better. Apparently it costs £10 for a standard transfer, which takes about 4-5 days. I could opt for the “urgent” transfer which should – and I emphasize the word “should” here – arrive in 2 days and costs a princely £27 for privilege. Let’s think about what they’re actually doing here. Taking some digits off a computer system in the UK and adding them to a computer system in Germany via the Internet. In this day and age where I can co-host a podcast with someone on the other side of the globe (not just Europe) with live video and audio; it still takes 4 days to send a couple of digits a few hundred miles?! That seems pretty pathetic to me. Is it incompetence? Is it by design so the bank can sit on your money a few days and claim more interest? Who knows. It’s similar to paying in a cheque and having to wait 3 days for the money to clear. It’s banks being bastards I think. Let’s not get started on the whole public bail out of the banks with taxpayers money, these huge corporations make billions in profit and promptly ship it to the Caman Islands to avoid tax and International law. I bet that doesn’t take 4 days!!!
I went back with the branch address a couple of days later and the woman at the counter spent about 20mins trying to type in the details. I was beginning to see why this cost £10. It was going to take her an hour, she was obviously working at full capacity, it wasn’t her fault but the system doesn’t need to be this complicated. We got to the end and it said the transfer was rejected, “computer says no”. Why? Because apparently there was a digit missing from one of the numbers we’d entered ages before. It took 20 minutes just to work out there was a digit missing, what system are they using in there, a ZX Spectrum? I’d checked this a few times and was pretty confident the number was right but the bank was about to close (they knock off at 4:30pm, another swindle) so she advised me to go home and check it again. I went home and thought to myself “what century are we living in here? Why is it so hard, expensive and slow to send a bit of money from one country to another in this day and age?”. I suddenly had a brainwave, why not just use Paypal. After looking on the site and calculating that Paypal charged about %5 commission to the recipient of a transfer, it was actually cheaper for me to add a bit of money to compensate for that and send it with them. It’s instant, cheaper and more convenient than going to the bank. I could even send the funds directly from a credit card if I wanted, and you know how much information I needed to achieve this magical instant transfer 2 banks were incapable of? A DNA sample, a letter from god perhaps? No. An email address, and that’s it, done.
So I sent the money with Paypal. They do take their own commission of course but compared to the service offered by my bank it was an absolute bargain, and I could arrange it anytime I wanted 24/7. It’s not hard to see why the banks are in such a mess if this is seriously the optimum efficiency they can muster. It doesn’t stop them paying 6 figure pensions to the likes of Fred The Shred though does it? I bet he doesn’t wait 3 days for his cheque to clear. Bastards.
Rant over, flame off. I’m off for a cup of tea. I just wanted to share my frustration, sorry.