Banking in Mongolia
by Tara Munch
Banking in Mongolia
I have no money. Well, I have money, I just can ' t get any of the money that I have. This has been the week of banking difficulties. It didnt start out that way. I just got paid (into a Mongolian account) and I needed to transfer money to my U S account. Why? Because I NEEDED to! Anyhow, the whole internet banking thing has worked great for me since I got here (after of course the initial learning curve wherein I discovered you had to bank online during business hours). This time however, smooth has nothing to do with it. I start getting messages that my password is incorrect. Now my password is a six digit number supplied by a little electronic gizmo that changes every fifteen seconds. The first couple of times I think nothing of it. It is easy to type numbers wrong. After the fortieth time or so I start to twigto the fact that the problem might not be me
I emailed the bank contact that I was given at the beginning of the year and get a message saying that the email address I used was undeliverable. I started to suspect that this problem might be more of a problem to fix than I anticipated. I decided to bring my vasco to Tugsuu, the accountant at my school and the person who has to deal with the bank. This was a good idea as it started to rapidly decline. First, only the top half of the numbers would appear in the screen, then only a quarter and pretty soon there were no numbers at all. Several phone calls to the bank later (not by me thank goodness!) I was informed that the bank has no idea what I am talking about and that I need to get my but t down to the bank pronto. Ominous music starts playing in the background and I start to feel like the girl in horror movies who decided to go into the basement. I can almost hear the audience shout at me, Noooo, dont do it! It’s a trap! Not having a choice I ignored them. What does the audience know anyway?
It turns out, plenty It is pretty apparent from the moment that I get to the bank that they have no idea what to do with me. My first clue? Being directed to six different people in nine different offices. I told myself to be patient even as I was internally panicking as every minute brought us closer to the bank closing for the weekend. I finally got handed off to a woman who had at least known of my situation. She had me handwrite a formal request to the bank asking for another vasco. On blank computer paper. I can ' t help feeling that there should have been a form. Banks love forms! Still, this is Mongolia and anyway she promised that she would call me on Monday to tell me what is going on. I am not sure if that means they are going to review my request, give another vasco, or if she is just going to let me know how she is I handed my
vasco over and out it in the hands of fate.
Of course I still had to transfer money to my account in the US. The bank downstairs was closed but the women had me fill out the paperwork anyway and promised that they would do the transitions themselves. This was also more complicated than anticipated. It took three tries before the right forms were signed and then there was an endless search for my account information. I could have avoided this if I had brought it with me but I had gone to work that morning not knowing that I was on the verge of a banking fiasco. Finally, finished!
But no, my banking woes of this weekend were not over. On Sunday I decided to go to the ATM to get cash out for the month. I started out at Sky Shopping center. ATM- Out of order. Darn. I walk around the corner to the Chingis Khan Hotel. One ATM is out of or oder and after trying the second ATM I discover that it is out of cash. Argh! I flag down a taxi to take my to the bank. It is closed but there are two ATMs attached to it. Neither of them have money in them. I am starting to wonder if I am being punk’d and trying to stave off the panic attack as I head for the last place in the city that I know has an ATM, the State Department Store. No money. I start to hyperventilate (which just made me light headed and didn’t solve the problem) and used the last 2,000 tugrik I have to get back to my apartment in defeat.
You would think that would be the end of my amazing banking adventures, but wait there’s more! (I feel like an infomercial “ With the purchase of our complete banking woes package you also get this free set of knives!). I went to school and got permission to leave right after school and miss the staff meeting. Bless Jan! At the children’s recess times I decided to go online and check my account to see if the transfer I made had come through yet. It hadn’t but there was a charge there for 284.70 from an ATM in the Chingis Khan Hotel. Yep, you guessed it. The machine charged my account without actually giving me the money! I believe that it is safe to say that my reaction was split pretty evenly between rage and self-pity. But seeing as how neither emotion helps me to speak Mongolian I had to go to the schools accountant for help. On the day that the schools budget was due… I am pretty sure that she wanted to kill me. Leaving that in faith’s hands (well, that an an email to my bank in the states) I took a taxi to the bank, again! This time I got a new vasco, cash, and a very nice ride home with a man and his girlfriend who were eating arag (dried mild product) the whole way and who didn’t overcharge me. Thus restoring my faith in truth justice and the Mongolian way!
Of course it also helped that I had cupcakes for dinner…