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Wiring Money... The Hard Way

Have you ever tried to wire money to another country? If not, consider yourself lucky. What a pain. In an ideal world, all banking systems would be standardized worldwide... or, at the very least, have an understanding of other countries banking systems. I would have figured that banks that do wire transfers would at least have some practice with sending money to other countries in different currencies. Well, after today it sure doesn't seem that way. 

First off, let me say this about my bank. I like them very much. They have always been good to me. They are very friendly people, and very willing to help me out and explain things to me when I need it. I opened my first checking account ever with them (I was a teenager). They even helped me recover money that had been stolen from me when I was abroad (the Italian mob cleaned out my checking account). But, today I gotta say I am frustrated with them.

Today, I feebly tried to make my first international wire transfer... I gotta buy these knives somehow. So, knowing my banks cutoff for wire transfers is noon, I walked into the bank at 10am, armed with all of the information they told me I would need (and then some). I sat down at the desk with the banker who has been helping me (super nice guy for the record). I gave him all the info, signed a few papers and confirmed that everything was correct. He said it was all good, and that they would e-mail me with confirmation in a few hours. So far, so good.

About an hour later, I get a call from a lady at the bank. She informs me that my account balance is too low for this transfer (I had just moved in extra money which would cover this transaction and my next one). I questioned her about it. Turns out that she thought my figure was in dollars as opposed to yen (even though the document said “YEN” and had the "¥"symbol next to the money. In her mind, I was wiring in excess of $100,000... Thank God that didn't go through... it would be one hell of an overdraft fee. I cleared up that issue and explained what I wanted to do. She assured me that she understood and that they would e-mail me a confirmation shortly.

About 30 minutes later, she calls again, this time to ask me about a bank account number. For those of you who don't know, there are bank account numbers and then there are bank account numbers. What I mean is that banks themselves have account numbers that identify them for the sake of wire transfers (in addition to swift codes). Then individuals (or companies) have their bank account numbers, identifying their personal or business account within the bank. She was confused by the first of these types. Why? I'm not so sure. It happened to be a number the bank specifically asked me to have. In fact, I had Sara call the bank in Japan yesterday to confirm all of the information beforehand. It turned out my bank doesn't need that number... it just confuses them.

So now some time passes... no e-mail confirmation. At this point the electronic banking division has left for the day, and, as it is Friday, they won’t be back until Monday. What to do?  I feel horrible for not being able to confirm with the Japanese company. Now I am just hoping that the bank doesn't call on Monday with another problem. Please let me money get to Japan... I want me some knives!!!


Jonathan Broida
Jonathan Broida

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