Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: Damn Banks

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Damn Banks

Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have become huge world financial centers in the past 40 years. With the oil export and tourism income there is plenty of cash flow that attracts international banks as well as made home grown institutions very wealthy. For the most part these banks are some of the safest and most innovative in the world. One can even instantly pay a parking meter or almost any bill from a cell phone text message.

However, the banking business must be the lowest risk enterprise in the UAE. I am sure they take care of each other and big corporate clients in the "Good Old Boy " club but the ordinary retail guys seem to get it in the neck. 35 % interest on credit cards and an unholy alliance with immigrations assures a healthy profit and jail time for anyone attempting to leave the country with debt.

You will take it and like it! (Apologies to Gunny Ermey!)


Many innocents are lured with fast and easy credit when first arriving here and get into a big bind. It is tempting with the apparent affluent lifestyle of fancy cars and designer shops.  People should pay their debts but should be able to do so from another country if they choose. That option is not available here.

But Solar Powered ATMs Are


I recently had problems with my bank, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD). This firm sent out a notice a few months ago that they were upgrading their website and I would have to make some adjustments such as losing my templates I used to transfer money and pay bills. From my past experiences with the national telephone, internet and cable TV companies, I had a strong feeling this website upgrade was not going to end well. It didn't.

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Two days after the "upgrade" I tried to log on and got errors and denied access. I called the help desk and was assured the problem would be handled and I would be called back with the magic solution. No call back for 2 days. I called again and my password was reset....failure again. I made my 3rd call and was told I can't be helped because the technical center was now closed despite the on-hold recording proudly announcing online help was available 24/7. The same recording told me to press 4 for online support and after suffering through more minutes of raucous advertisements it told me to press 6 for the special online help desk. So I did.

Mind you, I have a lot of bills to pay back in the US and I have to refill that bucket every month ontime or suffer some very expensive consequences. That urgency was lost on my bank. I finally got the site working after another lengthy phone call only to find it takes many more levels of security, passwords, questions, token codes and I had to redo all my payment templates. Very clunky and not an improvement. I do not mind security, but this could have been made sleeker and more user friendly. I suspect I will cringe everytime I have to do online banking again. I just expect something else to go wrong.

This Big Building Didn't Just Spring Out Of The Ground By Itself


Overall, NBAD is not a bad bank but they screwed this up. Remember, the rules are different here and things are definitely tilted in the banks' favor. You will not win, ever. The vast majority of my friends and co-workers have horror stories about their dealings with UAE banks.

My recommendations:

DO NOT get a local credit card, even if it says Visa or Mastercard on it, the rules are different. Read the fine print. Keep cards and debt in your home country.

DO NOT buy a new car. Get a good used one, they are cheap and plentiful.

DO NOT go into any kind of debt here. The banks are ruthless and if things go tits-up for you, you could get prison time. Its the law. You will severely limit your "options".

DO NOT  keep more in your local UAE account than you need to live on month to month. Send the excess back home. The banks will take what is in your account on the slightest pretense such as a traffic violation. Geez, they even want ~$40USD to give you a clearance letter saying you do not owe them any money.

I am not picking on the UAE banks specifically, they just have their own rules that are bad for us consumers. The banking industry in the USA has caused far more damage to the global economy and hurt more people than a UAE bank could ever do. Shame on them and their greedy ways. They screwed up a good thing, may they rot in hell!



















5 comments:

Anonymous said...

LOL! SOME of what you said is true, some are "spiced" if you will.

BTW, that building that you said came from somewhere... It isnt OWNED by NBAD. That building is owned by a member of a royal family. 3 floors are rented by NBAD.

There is no link with immigration, or with the traffic dept. If you want I will tell you the exact process (I had sadly asked that many ppl be bared from flying myself)

Also, there are reasons why banks here cant allow people to pay for debt from abroad. Mainly because you cant enforce it in any way. If a bank scares you into thinking that it can "get" you when ur back home, they are usually mistaken. Few are the countries in which a bank here can get a bad debt holder to pay. Truth.

There are however non official ways to continue to pay for asset backed loans (Like a car or house) but we wont get into those. I will say that I had set a few such schemes up for customers and they did not cause me any issues till the day I left. But not all customers are like that. With 20% of the country being labor, and another 30% being low level employees (with low incomes) you simply cant take chances with everyone. It it really is a chance.

The banking system here is based on caution. In the UAE it's the exact opposite. Yes, a healthy way to be would to have a nice balance, but you have to understand the contact, this region is not a stable one. the UAE may be stable, but it's surrounded by shit and bad stuff.

Also, with 90% of the country's population foreigners, the control you have over securing your loan is close to nil. Truth is if you take out 500K worth of loans and leave within a week, the bank will have no warning and little recourse.

As for banks not being all they can be to consumers, it depends both on the bank and the consumer.

If you have a salary of 55K, a 1.6 million mortgage, a car loan, a personal loan, and credit cards, the banks are the best you'll ever deal with.

If you make 55K and send 45 back home on the same day, most banks wont care about you.

Also, not all banks here have the same focus. NBAD has, and is, and probably always will be a corporate bank. Its main job (originally, and still) is to be the banker of the Govt of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi as well as govt owned companies, semi govt companies, and large corporations.

Do they have consumer banking solutions? yes. Are they good? Maybe. Are they the best? No.

For a consumer, a more consumer focused bank like RAK bank might be a better option. RAK Bank is one of the few UAE banks that does NOT have a corporate banking section. Only consumer (you) and SME (Your small business)

As for consumer rates (You mention a credit card at 35%) yes, it is highway robbery. But things are getting better. A few months back the central bank limited what a bank can offer and charge in terms of base banking and lending. CC were not included. Maybe in the revision next year. (Last year a certificate of liability costed 400, today its no more than 100 by law)

The lack of a central lending database = ppl can get into debt easily and with multiple banks without the banks knowing. But this isnt the banks fault. The lack of the data base is the system's fault, but no one forces all these morons to sign those loan agreements.

It simply isnt anyone else's fault if you cant manage your finances.

But yeah, you added alot of "baharat" (Spices) to the story Ace.

Romana said...
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Romana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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