Tuesday, December 8, 2009

International Banking Problem Solved.....sort of

Prior to the closing on the sale of our house and our leaving the States, we made a trip to our branch of Bank of America for a talk with one of the officers.  We explained that we would be leaving most of our money in BofA, transferring money as we need it.

No problem.  Set up SafePass, which provides you with a randomly chosen password and allows transfers up to $10K USD per day.  BofA charges a flat transfer fee of $35.00 and the bank here charges another $16.00.  Quick, easy, safe, and you can do it online 24/7, even banking holidays.   NOT!!!!!

After four days of trying to get answers from customer service at BofA; getting through to a robot, who transferred me to another robot, etc, etc, only to have the call dropped, I had a chat with an online customer service agent.  She looked into the matter and told me that I could not set up SafePass, because you need a cell phone based in the US, to which they send the randomly selected pass code.  She did say that our bank here could request the transfer.

Then she transferred me to the wire transfer department, who informed me that they do not do wire transfers .  HUH?  Anyway, the nice young lady suggested I could go to my nearest BofA branch and they would be glad to assist me.  There was complete silence for a minute after I told her that I was looking out my back window at the jungle, and the nearest BofA branch was a 2 hr 25 min flight to Miami.

In the meantime, Macho Man has been to the bank here several times asking what we can do, because we have a 40 ft. container, on a ship, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, getting closer and closer to Puerto Cortes, and the mover's agent wants almost $5K USD before the ship docks.  The bank manager tells him that only the bank who holds the money can initiate the transfer, which makes perfect sense.

The next customer service agent I spoke to doesn't understand why our bank will not initiate the transfer, but suggests as an option that we give our passcodes to our BofA account to someone we trust, and let them make the transfer.  We thought about this and called our daughter and asked her if she would help, to which she agreed.

In order to help her out as much as possible, I decided to set up SafePass for her from here, and at the proper time entered her telephone number and clicked Submit.  Immediately there was an error message that there was a problem setting up SafePass on our accounts, and we should contact customer service.

Okay!!  Back to the robot, etc, etc, at almost $3.00 per minute.  When I finely got to a human and explained to her I was almost completely bald from pulling my hair out, she said, "Mrs. Ramirez, you are trying to set up SafePass from a foreign computer, and for security purposes we don't allow that."  This is the same foreign computer from which I have been paying bills since we got here.

So, back to our daughter.  Again she steps up to the plate, gets SafePass, and transfers $200. USD to our account here.  The next day, Thursday, we get a notice from BofA saying our transfer has been made and the money is in Honduras.  Maybe so, but our bank denies it. 

Then we made our road trip, and while at Banana Beach we explained the problem to our new friend, Rand.
Rand tells us he has not gone through that hassle in years.  Just take our ATM card to our local bank and withdraw the money.  Then make a deposit to our account.  Voila, instant money,  no fees!

It works!  The mover is happy, we are happy, and now we know how it is done.  Oh, the $200. that BofA wired Thursday?  It got here today.  We don't know where it was for four days.


  1. Welcome to the Honduran World of Banking Wonders! Be advised that wire transfer does not mean instant! No where in Honduras is anything "Instant"! It takes anywhere from 2-4 days for a wire transfer to show up in your account! I set up an automatic wire transfer with my bank so that monthly, on a designated date, all the money we are going to use for one month is transferred. Of course this is for living expenses for my husband and I after we were settled with house, furniture, etc.
    Banking is sometimes a nightmare here! But, when I go to the Coast on a trip, I run to the nearest ATM and withdraw mucho lempiras for extra cash!
    Good luck and Welcome
    Guanaja Sharon

  2. Thanks, Sharon. Elisa wired us $200 8 days ago and it is still in Ficohsa. We used the ATM card to withdraw the money for the appliances and BofA charged us $145.00 ATM fee. It's not just the banks here.