The Future (and Past) of Banking

I plan to update this post multiple times over the next few years, as the financial landscape around us is going through swift changes. 

Between 2010-2017, I have lived in over 15 countries, necessitating the opening of multiple bank accounts to manage my funds. Fortunately, all of this is coming to an end with the introduction of cryptocurrencies, virtual wallets and multi-currency debit cards. In this article I've recorded some of the pros and cons of the old accounts I've had - maybe it will help some of the other digital nomads out there (to avoid opening accounts with these banks).

Account Closed at HDFC (India) and here's why:

I opened an account at this bank thinking that private banks in India would be more efficient than public banks. However the number of restrictions in Indian banking (and the inability of Indian private banks to successfully navigate these restrictions) led me to closing this account. A few things that ticked me off - aggressive "Mutual Fund" offerings from their sales team (despite the fact that I was not interested); the bank ATM card that I had here required "pre-approval" for online transactions; if I added a beneficiary to send an online payment to, I would have to wait one entire day before it was "safe" to send money to this beneficiary; and just around the time that I closed my account there was news about a citizen's satyagraha (non-violent resistance) in defiance of their unfair banking practices. In fact, the fastest transaction that I've ever had with this bank was filling out the Account Closure form at their branch. 

Account Closed at Axis Bank (India) and here's why:

When I closed my account with Axis Bank, I told the NRI Manager that I was pretty confident that no hacker would ever be able to get his/her hands on my funds in their account because for the past 2 years I had an incredibly tough time getting access myself. With multiple apps for logging in (Axis NetSecure, Axis Mobile) - both of which had horrible interfaces; as well as the necessity for me to visit the branch personally every time I needed to either update my address or phone number made this private bank just as inflexible as regular Indian public banks. 

Account Closed at NBAD (UAE) and here's why:

A lot of my high school alumni work at NBAD branches across UAE. With their recent merger with FGB they are now the largest bank in the UAE. Unfortunately I closed my account here due to their high fees (particularly for international transfers and currency exchange rates); and the uncertainty. A few years after I opened this account, they randomly froze the account and offered no assistance either via email, their social media accounts or the phone. Eventually I had to fly down to Abu Dhabi to withdraw my funds and close my accounts in frustration.

Account Closed at Societe Generale (France) and here's why:

Fees, fees and more fees! I opened this account while I worked at the OECD in Paris. I signed up for the VISA Infinite Program which is supposed to open all sorts of doors, but in my case it opened me up to a list of extraordinary fees (30 euros a month as "maintenance fees" anyone?). Eventually the bank ate up the rest of the €80 or so that I had left behind. In fact the Bank Manager contacted me after they had depleted my funds to ask me to close the account which I gladly did after I asked them for an explanation of their charges - see below (believe it or not their Tariff booklet is 44 pages long):

FRAIS TENUE CPTE SANS MOUVEMT : this fee is when your bank account shows no transactions for a year (page 6)

FRAIS DE TENUE DE COMPTE ACTIF : this fee is taken every 3 months for the managing of your bank account (page 6)

ARRETE 01.10/31.12 MINIMUM FORFAITAIRE NOMBRE JOURS DEBITEURS :79 : this fee is because your bank account was in debit during 79 days (page 26)

Account Closed at and here's why:

Whenever I try out a new service (for example, an account with a Bitcoin-exchange in India) I start with small deposits - in this case, 10,000 INR (~$155). I created an account with Unocoin to test their system. The deposit and the verification process took longer than I would have wanted and actually involves a phone call (which - since I was traveling internationally, I had to stay up to receive!). Once the account was set-up I deposited the money and waited for a good opportunity to buy Bitcoin. The prices at the time were over 1 lakh INR for a bitcoin so I decided to wait until the price dropped. Turns out, if you don't buy a bitcoin within 3 months, Unocoin will automatically refund your deposit back to your account. While that may not be a cause for concern for others, it was for me and here's why. I had made the deposit from an NRE account. And the refund could not be processed back to that account due to RBI regulations. So the first refund was returned back to Unocoin (which they did not credit back to my Unocoin account - so I could not actually buy Bitcoin even though the price had dropped by then..). I then had to contact Customer Service about my missing funds (they weren't in my Unocoin account nor in my Bank account!) and it took them 21+ days to resolve the situation (The situation was finally resolved when I changed my bank details to that of an NRO account). Unocoin doesn't allow you to add two bank accounts to your profile. Needless to say, I don't plan on using them in the near future until they work out all their kinks.