I had to send some money to India on a regular basis. So I looked around for options available to me in Houston, TX USA. The normal ones are HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, and Citibank. Now, HDFC and ICICI are Indian banks .. with good services in India but they dont even have reps in the various US cities. WIth the kind of money that is at stake, I would assume that they could at least keep one each in the 5-6 largest US cities. But like most Indian companies they would like to cut cost at the price of growth! Anyways, I went with Citibank. Here is what I did:
- Opened a Citibank Checking Account in the US Bank
- Opened NRE and NRO Accounts in the Indian Citibank.
What this does is it allows me to deposit the money in my US Bank and then transfer it over to the NRE and NRO accounts.
This week though I had to send money pretty quickly so when I went to deposit the money in the US bank branch I got to know that since my Credit Union was out of town, it will take a week before I could use all my monies. So obviously the usual route that I could use was out! So I thought of other ways. I found that there is a dial-a-transfer service from Citibank where I can send money from my US Bank to one of the NRE or NRO account in Citibank just through the phone. So I call that number. After some funny options I get to this service rep and request her help.
She suggests that I deposit the money in the NRE Account.
Why? – I ask
“Because then you can easily transfer the money to NRO account if you want”
Well, Maam I dont want to do that. I just want my mandatee in India to withdraw the money… so let me just send it to NRO account directly so it could be withdrawn.
“But then you cannot send money from NRO account to NRE Account”
I dont want to!
“Sir, I would really suggest that you send it to NRE account because it gives you flexibility”
Maam I dont want flexibility! My PRIMARY OVER-RIDING GOAL today is to send this money AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! (my frustration thinly veiled)
“But for the future you could use that service if you send to NRE account”
To heck with the future.. Maam I WANT TO SEND TODAY!
“Ok, but it will take 5 business days for your mandatee to get the money. “
Irrespective of which account I use?
Ok.. any faster way?
“Send the check to NY branch and the mandatee can withdraw in 2 business days after the check reaches the branch”
Thats almost a week!!
So finally I came to that same time frame! And this is one of the faster ways to do it. Of course I could use other money transfer ways like ICICI transfer and XOOM.. but both give very low rates. XOOM for example was giving me some INR 66,000-odd for USD 1500 while at todays rate of 45.60 it should have been INR 68,400! So they are conveniently taking away at least Rs. 2000 off me just by tampering with the conversion rate! Western Union thrives by that.. in fact WU is almost akin to a highway robber for the transfers done to Mexico for those poor workers who depend on it every month. They are illegal anyways so they hardly have any voice and plus they give cash!
Some feedback on the Citibank services site:
1. their CitiNRI site page is one of the most retarded online experience I have ever had. There is this strange red colored scroll these days that covers all the links and options that you cannot get rid of!
2. The login mechanism is just impossible! I run this site singlehandedly and I am net-savvy.. but till date I have not figured out how to log in to that place .. yet!!
So, you see all this money transfer business is not such a simple and easy service… specially when you deal with service reps who want to think about your future instead of your needs!!
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