“I will never, ever do that again!” I thought as I walked out of the bank into the balmy spring rain.
But, of course I will — just like I will forget my umbrella again. And just like I must dash across the parking lot with the rain drops pelting my face, I will be forced (again) to pay an exorbitant fee for a transaction.
I just paid $70 to send 250 Euros to somewhere in Europe. What?
That is almost a 25% increase of the transaction amount.
This whole experience was becoming ridiculous and I mused out loud to the bank customer service representative as she pecked at her keyboard filling in field after field of information.
“Well, the fee is only $35 to send a transaction inside the United States,” she wasn’t defending the fee, she was trying to be helpful. “Or, you could always try Western Union,” she continued.
My mind turned to the last time I used Western Union. The first line I stood in was at the bank to make a withdrawal, because to send a transaction with Western Union you have to show up with hard cash in hand. The ATM in the bank lobby was out of service and my frustration was real as I waited my turn to hand the teller a deposit slip in exchange for an envelope of the green pieces of paper that I was eager to change into Bitcoin.
That day the line at Western Union wasn’t as long as I had seen it other times. On payday, the line meanders down the sidewalk in front of the building and sometimes turns the corner. I don’t remember very much about it. I don’t remember exactly how much the fee was except that it seemed like a lot. I don’t remember exactly how long the wait was but I do remember that I was fascinated to be surrounded by so many languages and representations of other cultures all crowded into that one small space on a sidewalk in one small town in America.
There wasn’t very much to know about cryptocurrencies back then as there were only a few. And I wasn’t a blockchain evangelist yet, I had not even heard the term. But today, knowing what I know, I felt trapped and little bit sick to my stomach as my mind careened from one thought to another as I picked up the pen and signed away 70 extra dollars because I had no other option. Maybe this is how those people in the Western Union line feel on a regular basis.
“Do you accept Bitcoin?” I had asked the recipient of my funds.
“Why in the world not?” I thought to myself. But I had heard all of the objections so many times I didn’t even bother to ask.
If I could have sent the funds directly from my BTC wallet on blockchain.info to the recipients wallet, I would have paid the equivalent of two pennies instead of $70. I would have saved $69.98 at todays rates. Please, object to that.
If I could have sent the funds directly from my BTC wallet I could have done it in a couple minutes from my computer or phone. Instead I spent hours on this transaction.
A few days ago I visited the same bank to make the same transaction only to find that the recipient had not sent the proper information. Thirty minutes wasted and more time emailing and explaining why I needed an IBAN and Swift number.
When I returned to the bank today I sat there for more than an hour while the woman behind the desk gave every indication she didn’t know what she was doing. She called someone for the exchange rate. She called someone to ask where to put the Vat-Reg number. And she called someone because she was worried that the institution receiving the funds did not have an address in a format she recognized. And she printed 5 pieces of paper detailing the transaction and all of the fine print I to which I needed to agree. She was obligated to review every page with me. Finally as I was walking out the door, she reassured me that if there were any mistakes or further questions the bank would call me. I just smiled and dashed into that spring rain.
If I could have sent the funds in Bitcoin it would have taken about one hour to confirm everything after pressing the submit button. Because it was after 3pm on a Friday afternoon before the customer service rep had painstakingly entered all of the transaction information and performed her obligatory review, the paperwork would not make it to the international transfer department until Monday morning and it might be Tuesday before it was processed. But, no need to worry, she had explained that the exchange rate was locked in to that one printed on the paper and initialed by me.
A simple transaction shouldn’t be this complicated or this expensive. It doesn’t have to be.
Don’t object to using Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency to transfer funds. Certainly for the unbanked, for remittances and cross-border payments it would be well worth the effort and easier than one would think to learn to use a cryptocurrency wallet. Really.
A reputable online wallet for Bitcoin can be found at blockchain.info
The ArdorLite Wallet is a wallet I use for my favorite cryptocurrencies — Ardor and Ignis.