Tuesday, October 13, 2015

BANKING IN OMAN: HSBC, and Bank Muscat

Now when I first moved here (and I know my financial requirements are different than most expats from my home country who come here to work and to save) I brought a lump sum of cash that was probably illegal to bring as I did, and a credit card from my home country connected to my credit line there. I converted the cash in money exchange places (mostly Mutrah where I knew people who worked in the shops who gave me a better rate than I could get at a bank, sometimes Qurum in Sabco center). I kept it in my bedroom hidden in a pillow. The credit card I used when I had to, and paid it from my credit line (which my bank account which still had some funds in it, was automatically set up to pay back before interest rates would be charged).

Smart? Not really, since one of my roomies stole a good chunk of it, and I trusted people a lot. I lent an Omani friend 1000 omr that I saw about 20 omr of since;). I also was talked into by said same roomie to share the pin on my card (I knew her's too) and I am pretty sure she used my credit card on stuff that I never ever bought... Anyways, it didn't matter in the long run, because I came here to live, not to save.
By the time I DID get a decent job, I opened an account with Bank Muscat.

Now I know most expats seem to be asked to pay up front for a whole year's rent and that's pretty bogus and I never do. If the place is really really nice to rent paying three months rent up front shows the landlord well enough you can afford it. Paying any more pretty much seems to guarantee you a crappy landlord. Just my experience. I usually have no contract when I rent and pay nothing up front. But... that does mean I COULD technically screw the landlord over and they'd have NOTHIING to do about it.... Despite, I have had two pretty awesome landlords, and one crap one, on that arrangement.

Most expats use HSBC, because, if you do have an HSBC account in your home country, then they know your credit rating and you can get a car loan here, etc, housing loan to pay your rent up front, ect... even a mortgage on lands that expats can hold... As if I would ever buy at the Wave (I don't like being near airports---I don't consider that prime real estate as nice as the wave is). 
But being that I didn't even need a credit card (and you can get one at Bank Muscat if you have a letter from your employer stating your salary and contract length---even a mortgage), I did Bank Muscat because they had a lot of atm machines.

Stuff I liked about Bank Muscat:
  1. decent enough exchange rates (better than HSBC and a flat rate for sending wires)
  2. got a bank card right away
  3. lots of atms with minimal fees
  4. no fee for having the account
  5. no minimum ammount locked into the account (unless getting credit without sufficient salary and contract term)
  6. friendly in-branch staff (despite my occasionaly anger management worthy freak outs)
  7. online banking seems decent
Stuff I didn't like about Bank Muscat:
  1. Out of three international wires I have sent they screwed up two, which cost me time, and I had to go into the Branch to fix the mistakes THEY made
  2. I no longer use online banking because some guy who worked in online banking decided to give my phone number to a friend of his that worked at a bank not Bank Muscat who phoned me to hit on me. Serriously? Not cool and a void of the contract I signed about not giving out my personal information.
  3. Visa doesn't work for a lot of online stuff, and works, like one day in Europe, then no more (and I did inform Bank Muscat I'd be travelling).
Now recently I opened an HSBC account because I've had to do business with some people who have HSBC accounts, and I thought they'd be more professional than Bank Muscat (and they have a USD account that would be useful for me when I am sitting on large sums of currency waiting for better rates).

Stuff I like about HSBC:
  1. They have US dollar accounts
  2. They have international branches from all over the world
  3. They have personal bankers open in the evening at City Center Seeb branch (which would be more useful if they could recieve cash too since I still haven't gotten an ATM card to use at cash-depositi-machines CDM).
  4. The manager phoned me to tell me when his staff screwed up before I had even notice the error myself.
  5. Friends says their visa card works better for travelling but since they haven't even gotten me an ATM card yet, I don't know if I should put this on the-things-I-like-list or the-things-I-don't-like-list.
  6. Bank teller lines are a lot longer at Bank Muscat than HSBC (but they have more CDM machines so this is a toss up between good/bad).
Stuff I don't like about HSBC:
  1. they do not make you an ATM card when you open your account and its been months and I still haven't gotten one. Not easy for cash despositing.
2. they didn't adhere to international anti-terrorism/money laundering procedures when dealing with my deposits a couple times, which may have made the deposit simple for me and fast but who knows what that does for a girl's reputation whose already been followed by some country's security task force pretending to be my country's security task force, INSET? I mean, if I was on someone's watch list, interviewed by own country's INSET, this is no good for me and means I wait longer in airport lines thank you very much.

3. They charge for having an account unless there is a minimum balance kept in the account.

4. they charge for sending wires even to other HSBC account (that on both sides)

5. their exchange rates suck like they think expats have to use them when really we don't
same requirements as any other Omani bank for loans unless using existing credit rating with an HSBC in one's home country (which I never did because I don't like their charges for stuff).

6.Personal banker lines in the day time are way longer than at Bank Muscat.

And that's pretty much everything I can say about Banking in Oman.

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