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As part of the joining formalities at my company, I was required to open a salary account with CitiBank. I was informed that I would not be able to continue my current salary account with HSBC (From my ex-job at the same company! Go figure). Little did I know about the wonders (nightmares???) that would follow.
CitiBank has this crazy policy of opening not one but two salary accounts. The normal salary account receives all your taxable income. The second salary account (also called ERA or Employee Reimbursement Account) receives all your non-taxable income. The ERA account however does NOT earn any interest and it’s your duty to transfer the amount from the ERA account to the normal account. Each account comes with its own debit card and plethora of PINs and passwords. The debit card for the ERA account throws in a googly; it has the words ERA appended to your name in order to help your brain recognize instantly that it’s an ERA account. All this in the name of customer service. Thanks CitiBank for this concern, but I think I am old enough and mature enough to differentiate between taxable and non-taxable income myself.
I had specifically mentioned in the account opening form that I did not want a debit card with my photo on it. Surprise. Surprise. I received the debit card with my photo on it. Oh well, at least I look handsome in it. This is also a hint to the female readers of this blog. Back to the topic on hand. CitiBank also merrily debited my account INR 150 + Service Tax for the damn photo card. My account balance now stood at INR -163.50 resulting in the account being locked out. I had to use the ERA card number to log in to their phone banking service (that’s one hidden advantage of the ERA card). A sweet female voice told me “Your account has been disabled because of the negative balance. Once you put money in, it will get re-activated within 24 hours.” The first thought in my mind as I slammed the phone down was “F*CK!”
In due course my account was re-activated once my salary was credited. I ran to the CitiBank ATM on Cunningham Road to smell some hard currency. The moment I stepped in the guard on duty informed me that the ATM had stopped giving out cash. I asked him something like “What in God’s name are you saying man? This is a bloody ATM. It’s only purpose is to give cash.” No response. Over the next few days I found something common at all CitiBank ATMs: serpentine queues, out-of-order machines, only notes of denomination 100, and frustrated people.
On one other day I wanted to urgently deposit some cash. I ran to the ATM on Cunningham Road (it’s close to my office). The guard told me something like “Sorry laddie. You need to go to the Fraser Town branch to deposit the money because the machine here is out-of-order.”
Thank you so much CitiBank. Now I know why “The City Never Sleeps.” It’s because they are too busy having nightmares.
HSBC, I miss you.
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