Thursday, September 2, 2010

What the ... banking bullshit 1?!?!?

I was talking about living in Korea with one of my nieces and the subject of banking came up. She works for a bank. So, I told her about some of the trials and tribulations of being a foreigner doing banking in South Korea.

I banked with ShinHan Bank, and after the merge ChoHan Bank, for about 8 years. When I lived in YongAm-Dong I got both a credit card AND an international bank card. Something foreigners were saying that they could NOT get in Korea.

When I went to renew my credit card in 2006 I was told that it was against the law in Korea for banks to give credit cards to foreigners. Yes, they said it was ILLEGAL and I should not have been issued the credit card. Of course, that was just so much bullshit. It was bank policy, not the law. (There was a newspaper (Korean) article about this topic where the government said it was NOT illegal for foreigners to get credit cards or international bank cards. It was bank policy. The banks tried passing the blame.)

A year or so later I was home and tried to use my international bank card. It didn't work. When I got back to Korea I went to the bank to find out what was wrong. I was told that it was illegal to give international bank cards to foreigners. That struck me as strange considering I had been using it with no problem for 3-4 years. The teller's English wasn't all that good and I knew the manager's English was shit.

I went to work and got one of my co-workers to call the bank's customer service number and get me an English speaker. She talked to someone, who wanted to know the problem WITHOUT getting me an English speaker. The person just parroted the party line that it was against the law. My co-worker insisted that they either get an English speaker online, give me a number to call, or have one call me. 10 minutes later I was called.

I explained what happened to the person who called. Her English was ok and she seemed to understand the problem. Unfortunately she started parroting the party line. So, I told her that according to her government (I had a copy of the newspaper article then) that was a lie. It was not illegal to give a foreigner an international bank card. Then she gave me a new reason that had me laughing at her.

She told me that they couldn't issue international bank cards to foreigners because they have no way to properly track the money taken out abroad. They have no system able to accurately figure out amount withdrawn, exchange rates, and all that good stuff. Which means they would have no idea how much was really withdrawn.

That is when I started laughing at her. She seemed a bit taken aback. I could tell because she got quiet. Then she asked me what was wrong. I told her that I never realized South Korea was such a technologically backward country that it can't do what we have been doing in the West for over (at that time) 25 years. Her silence was deafening. Then she asked what I meant.

Well, I have had a bank card since 1985 with the Royal Bank that enables me to take money out anywhere in that world that allows for PLUS or INTERAC. I have used it in the US, Japan, China, Thailand, and even in South Korea. In fact I used at it at my CHB branch just the month before with no problems. Our banks have no problem figuring out how much REAL money is withdrawn, taking into account exchange rates and all that other stuff.

I told her that I assumed the South Korean banking system had access to the same modern technology that Western banks had. Then I apologized for assuming they were a modern, 1st world bank. I would never have expected them to be able to issue international banking cards if I knew their technology was so old, backwards, and 3rd World.

She stuttered something unintelligible. I thanked her for her time and hoped that one day her bank would modernize and become the equal of a Western bank. Then I hung up because I couldn't hold back laughing any longer.

Yes, I could have mentioned to her that they ARE able to track the money Korean's take out with international bank cards but why bother? If they are going to make up such pathetic excuses to deny a service nothing you say or do will get the douchebags to change. Not even their own government telling them it is ok to give the cards to foreigners.

I have heard that KB Star will issue the international bank card and credit card to foreigner but never checked it out. Also, I have heard many people complain about being told by a bank that something was the law just to get them to conform, shut up, or go away.


  1. I tried to get a bank card with a visa logo from Nong Hyup. What did I get? I got a Maestro piece of shit. When they gave me the card I told them that I wanted a Visa. They told me that Visa and Maestro were the same thing.

  2. KEB actually has an entire service dedicated to expats called the "expat savings account". After signing a couple of documents insisting I would bank exclusively with KEB, I got an international card without a problem. Mind you, I live in Itaewon and every teller, including the security guard speaks English-- which is in direct contrast with KB, in the same neighbourhood, where no one speaks English.

  3. Can you link the article that states it is legal for foreigners to have a card?

  4. David

    I heard KB was doing that, setting up foreigner friendly services. A few people told me that they had it set up so they could wire money home through the bank machine at KB.

    If I ever go back I may have to check it out.

  5. And I got it mixed up in the post. My bank was CHB now it is SHB.

  6. Tyson

    I couldn't find the article so I didn't provide a link. Here is a link to another relevant article (part 1 of 2)

  7. My KB Star "international" banking card specifically stated on the back of the card that foreigners could not use the card outside of Korea. A fact I failed to notice until I was in Canada trying to withdraw money from my account. As soon as I got back to Korea, I closed my account and opened a new one at KEB. I've never looked back and I will never bank at KB Star ever again. Their customer service is pathetic.

  8. David

    That is pretty fucked up. An international card that can't be used internationally. I am not surprised, but damn.

    Maybe I meant KEB and not KB*. I thought they were the same bank.

  9. I went through a similar experience. I got a KB Int'l debit card in my third year in Korea, and it worked fine for a coupla years. Then it didn't, and it was explained to me through an interpreter that the rules hud JUST changed, and I couldn't use the card anymore.
    I think I had a Shinhan card for the few months remaining in my contract, and for the first few months of my next one. Then I went back to KB (this was when I was living in the Junkpile), and got the same Int'l card as I had before. I got two cards, sent one home, and every month my folks would withdraw half my pay and deposit in my Cdn account. The card still works for me, and I have just finished draining my Korean account of my last pay and bonus. Just the deposit to go...