Best Indonesian Banks

Sep 5th, 2011, in Business & Economy, by

Which Indonesian banks are most suitable for an expat's needs? Find the answers here.

When it comes to banking and finance, expats can have different needs or expectations compared to their Indonesian friends. These may include a bank that:
klikBCA for Smartphones

  • Offers a wide range of electronic banking options - internet, smartphone, etc - minimising the need to visit the bank branch in person.
  • Has staff that speak English well, can assist with filling in forms, and can explain technical matters about Indonesia's currency and bank accounts easily.
  • Can make international/telegraphic transfers quickly and easily at competitive exchange rates, with no hidden fees.
  • Offers a bank account in their home country's currency, and can make deposits/withdrawals in that currency without difficulty.

Which banks perform these services well, which need improvement and which are best avoided? And why? Newly arrived expats in particular may have found it difficult to choose because impartial answers and recommendations in this area have been hard to find, until now.

So, to help people make an informed choice, please read below the views of two long-term foreign residents, Chris and David. You can either read them all by scrolling down, or jump to a specific bank by clicking on its name below:

BCA | Bank Danamon | Bank Mandiri | CIMB Niaga | Commonwealth Bank | HSBC


Bank Central Asia

POSITIVES NEGATIVES
- Paspor BCA is the only card that offers "cash back". Also known in some countries as "cash out", it allows customers to withdraw cash at the same time as purchasing items in shops with a red "TUNAI BCA" logo.

- The Internet Banking system called "klikBCA" is very simple and easy to use.

- BCA Gold customers (minimum balance Rp10 000 000 or $1200) can access a machine which automatically prints your transactions in your passbook, rather than having to queue.

- Customers can only withdraw $US cash from the branch where they opened the account. This is a problem if you move house, let alone move cities.

- Fewer branches and longer queues, yet the highest account fees.

- Some of their ATMs only issue Rp100 000 banknotes, which are difficult to use/change for small items.

Bank Danamon

POSITIVES NEGATIVES
- There are no monthly account fees if you can keep the balance of your Rupiah account above Rp6 000 000 ($700).

- It offers some unique benefits that other banks don't: husbands and wives can have a joint bank account (Danamon One) with two ATM cards, not one; customers can opt to receive e-statements by email (with password protection); there is a choice of funky ATM card design.

- Customers with a $US account can send funds to other countries for only $US5.

- It is the local agent of American Express in Indonesia, yet it seems to be virtually impossible for expats to apply for an American Express credit/charge card.

- Sometimes customer service staff seem to not know about new or less common Bank Danamon products.

- Bank Danamon accounts become inactive/dormant if there are no transactions after six months, not twelve or never like other banks. Expats who go home for a while will need to remember this.

Bank Mandiri

POSITIVES NEGATIVES
- Personal experience is that Bank Mandiri make international transfers quickly and with transparent fees: $US25 + Rp35 000.

- It is the largest bank (by assets) in Indonesia and is government-owned, so has more staff and branches than many other banks. Some would also suggest that this position makes it less likely to suffer difficulties in a financial crisis.

- Friendly, helpful and professional customer service staff.

- It is the only bank where customers need to get a statutory declaration ("surat keterangan") from the police to replace a lost ATM card. Apart from the extra time/inconvenience, the police may ask expats to pay a fee for this service, which should be free.

- It charges an additional monthly fee for ATM cards, including the lowest-level "Blue" card.

- Queues for tellers are often quite long, and the number of tellers never equals the number of desks. The situation isn't helped by (presumably frustrated) customers joining the premium customer queue instead of the normal one.

CIMB Niaga

POSITIVES NEGATIVES
- Formed from the merger of Bank Niaga and Lippo Bank but without any branch closures, there are a lot of branches and ATMs.

- Partly related to this, waiting times in branches for tellers and customer service are often less than average. And rather than have people standing and queuing, Niaga offers comfortable seats and queue numbers.

- ATMs at some branches have a different machine for electronic/non-cash transactions. This means you can quickly e.g. pay a bill or check your balance without having to join the queue of people withdrawing money.

- Personal experience with the online banking system "CIMB Clicks" was poor, with frequent problems and inadequate support.

- A customer's new ATM card is often not ready for collection until almost the expiry date of the old one.

- Personal experience is a customer's ATM card is deactivated for transactions if it hasn't been used for a year, despite the ATM card still being able to obtain the account balance, and the account remaining active. This is confusing for customers, and is difficult to fix.

Commonwealth Bank

POSITIVES NEGATIVES
- Low fees: one monthly fee, charged per customer and not per account; customers can use other banks' ATMs and not pay a fee; they can also use Commonwealth Bank ATMs in Australia for a reduced fee.

- Customers with a $US bank account can withdraw $US100 banknotes at selected (not all) Commonwealth Bank ATMs. This is very useful for purchasing international flight tickets. These ATMs are specially marked.

- Offers a wide range of foreign currency savings accounts - $US, $A, $SG, €, £, ¥, $NZ - with a low minimum account balance, e.g. $US100.

- Few branches outside larger cities. Similarly, CB's call-centre phone number has a Jakarta (021) area code; most other banks have numbers for other cities or a toll-free number.

- Commonwealth Bank advertises international telegraphic transfers as being fee-free if completed online, but personal experience is they are not.

- Customer service staff sometimes do not know about some of their less common/more obscure products, such as CommInvest.

HSBC

POSITIVES NEGATIVES
- If you have a HSBC account in another country, you can link and view them all through the "Global View" section of the HSBC website. This is unlike many other international banks in Indonesia, where there are no links between the different countries' accounts.

- As it has a relatively small presence in Indonesia, queues at branches are rarely a problem.

- Customers with a $US bank account can withdraw $US100 banknotes at selected (not all) HSBC ATMs. This is very useful for purchasing international flight tickets. These ATMs are specially marked.

- The minimum balance to avoid fees is relatively high: Rp20 000 000 ($2400).

- There is a fee for withdrawing $US at a branch, making it more expensive to get an exact amount of $US, rather than multiples of $100.

- There are relatively few branches and ATMs, so you would need to live near one for it to be suitable.


Do you agree/disagree with the comments above?

Which bank would you recommend for expats?

Please share your experiences and opinions below.


48 Comments on “Best Indonesian Banks”

  1. avatar David says:

    Somebody once described BCA to me as a bank for ‘grubby Chinese merchants’; I make no comment on this other than that he should have mentioned something about wives, what I can remember when I used them is interminably long queues, is it still like that? Or are more people using internet and atm’s now?

    HSBC

    The minimum balance to avoid fees is relatively high: Rp20 000 000 ($2400).

    I knew a UK girl who badgered/forced them to back down on this, they waived the penalty fee after all her haranguing.

    There is a fee for withdrawing $US at a branch, making it more expensive to get an exact amount of $US, rather than multiples of $100.

    I know banks are under no obligation to provide foreign currency services but charging you a fee to withdraw your own money is something. Having said that in Australia trying to open and manage a US dollar account is a much worse prospect than in Indonesia.

    Once I got ripped off rp 50,000 by a customer service officer at HSBC, here is the story: I asked him for a print-out of my account activity for the last 6 months or something because I said I needed it for an Australian residency visa application for the wife (so he thinks I’m leaving the country permanently); he said it costs 50,000 for that service and asked me to go into a different room with him where there was no one else; he said you pay here, so I gave him rp 100,000 and then he got out his wallet and gave me my change. Obviously I thought this was odd but…

    A few months later I needed the same thing, a print out, and was served by a woman; she showed me a little brochure thing and said ‘see, the fee for that is 15,000, but don’t worry you don’t need to pay it’.

    So, what I can’t understand is why the first guy would risk such a good job and good prospects to steal 50,000, even 50 million I couldn’t understand it, 500 million maybe, 50 billion and it’d be worth a shot.

  2. avatar Oigal says:

    Well today being a bad day but walked into the BCA Branch picked a number from the machine…514..looked at the board “now serving 273” Security guard just looked at me funny when I screwed the ticket up and walk straight back out the door.

    I have always liked the BCA Branch here with its habit of charging you 10,000Rp to deposit money into the bank if its not your own account “you mean I have to pay you money to put money into your bank” ..”Yes Pak, its not your account”…

  3. avatar timdog says:

    Worth noting too that while there are BCA ATMs and branches at every turn in Java, they thin out very rapidly once you go further afield, and vanish altogether once you get properly remote. If you’re looking for banking in the sticks it seems like BRI might be the best best. There are BRI branches in places where there is no electricity!

  4. avatar Oigal says:

    oh..off topic but I owe Timdog one…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onQ1xZI7_EU

    Weddings Parties Anything…A nice left wing band for the conservative patriot.

  5. avatar Chris says:

    Hi Timdog,

    Yes, we would have liked to review BRI too. Unfortunately, both David and I have never had a bank account there.

    One interesting statistic I read about BRI somewhere (couldn’t find it for this article) is that it has FOUR times more customers than any bank in Indonesia: 17.7 million, followed by BCA and Mandiri at around 4 million.

    This is probably a by-product of BRI being the only bank with a branch in a lot of small towns/villages. I remember seeing a BRI branch in almost every major town while driving through Flores, for example. Unfortunately, most of them didn’t have ATMs; don’t know if they had electricity, though. There were definitely towns in Flores with no phone lines – including Moni, the town at the foot of Mt Kelimutu – so it is possible.

    Hi Oigal and David,

    My experiences of pointless bank fees:

    1. BCA and Mandiri don’t print more than 30 days of transactions in your passbook. If you need a full printout for some reason, they charge you for it up to Rp5000 per page.

    2. If you need to withdraw more than Rp5 000 000 in one day from a Mandiri account, you can’t do it at the ATM. But if you withdraw the cash at your non-home branch, they charge you Rp2500 for the “privilege”.

  6. avatar cessch says:

    nothing said about permata.

  7. avatar Chris says:

    Hi Cessch,

    Bank Permata Logo

    David and I haven’t written anything about Bank Permata because we haven’t had any experience with this bank; it’s not a judgement on the bank.

    If you would like to recommend Bank Permata for expats, please write another comment and explain why. We invited comments on other banks at the end of the post.

    I did once teach English to Bank Permata staff, and one time we discussed new ideas and innovations. The couple of things I remember them mentioning are:

    1. Customers who forget/lose their ATM card can use their mobile phone to login at the ATM

    2. Unlike other areas of the bank, female staff working in the Sharia section were recently permitted to wear an Islamic headscarf/jilbab.

  8. avatar David says:

    My wife and I have been using Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) for the past 30 years. Have had no problems, but it helps that my sister in-law is a branch manager.

  9. avatar Andhie says:

    hi guys.. feel free to ask me about indonesian bank. I am indonesian, and i should say that indonesian banks has a lot of troubles. Oh, i’m an ex banker. No matter what, but my advice, if you need to exchange any dollars to rupiah, never did it in banks. I would prefer to do it via ATM machine because that’s the best rates.

    I live in surabaya. Feel free to contact me if you need any info about surabaya.

    Regards,
    Andhie.

  10. avatar Chris says:

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I agree, it’s my experience also that it’s good to have someone at your local branch you know and trust, particularly if other staff are not as professional. If you find someone who knows their stuff, get his/her business card (“kartu nama” in Indonesian) so you can contact them again in the future.

    An interesting story to lighten the mood: The customer service lady who opened my account at Commonwealth Bank in 2005 (has been promoted a few times and) is now the face on the flyer/brochure promoting their new “Tabungan Bunga Harian” account. I now regularly see her on the ATM screen, which is kind of weird but cool.

    ===

    Hi Andhie,

    Thanks for your comment.

    You wrote:

    feel free to ask me about indonesian bank…. my advice, if you need to exchange any dollars to rupiah, never did it in banks.

    I have mentioned above my experience with e.g. only being able to withdraw $US from my BCA Dollar account at the branch where I opened it. Some banks you have to “pre-order” $US cash withdrawals one day before, while others only accept deposits of $US from the account holder.

    Do you have any advice/experience about the easiest bank/s to deposit and withdraw $US at the branch?

  11. avatar Oigal says:

    I have a Question…

    How do I stop those numpties at the ANZ Bank from sending me SMS messages about their tacky promotions to my mobile phone.

    Gee, I hate people and companies that do that, if they are a normal number they always get a very rude response to their SMS, although not as rude as the response to the SMS scam where someone pretends to be your “mama” at the police station and minta tolong, transfer credit now.. I actually enjoy those ones, can spend a bit of time creating a really nasty return SMS pressing all the right buttons.

  12. avatar Lairedion says:

    Funny, most of my relatives have given up on Indo banks for their poor service and moved to foreign banks like HSBC.

  13. avatar Oigal says:

    Well after just wasting yet another two hours of my life to get a very simple transaction done at the local Mandiri bank, I can confirm

    Queues for tellers are often quite long, and the number of tellers never equals the number of desks. The situation isn’t helped by (presumably frustrated) customers joining the premium customer queue instead of the normal one.

    Frankly its a joke of Bank! although in my experience BCA and banks in general here are not customer focused.

    I was bemused at the Mandiri bank, closing its shutters to the road 25mins early and actually locking people who were queuing outside (One assumes it was because they figured they were already long enough lines inside already). I think my attempt at sarcasm missed when I mentioned to the teller as they locked people out early “Gee it would be sad if it was your grandmother waiting for hours you just locked out” I just got the wet smile again..sigh

  14. avatar berlian biru says:

    Not just Indonesian banks, I opened an account with ANZ Thamrin about nine months ago, providing all the necessary paperwork and ID, after about forty attempts to get my signature to match the one on my eight year old passport I finally got the account open.

    Originally I had the statements posted to my work address but when I left that job two months ago I went to the branch, with my passport, to ask them to change to my home address. I filled out the required forms and left. I later received sms messages from them asking me to provide a letter from my employer. Well at that stage I hadn’t started my new job and anyway they had everything relating to me on their account opening files from only a few months previously.

    I replied that I didn’t have an employer and could they simply change my statement address like I’d asked them.

    I received no reply. Mind you I haven’t received any statements yet either.

  15. avatar timdog says:

    after about forty attempts to get my signature to match the one on my eight year old passport I finally got the account open.

    Oh christ, I’d forgotten about that, but it’s all coming back to me now… They obsessed over the point on the signature on my KITAS where the crusty biro I’d signed with had dried up, leaving a short gap in the loop at the start of what is in any case a very irregular signature.
    Hours, I was there, I swear, signing over and over on bits of paper, attempting to imitate something that looked nothing like my real signature anyway, and I actually had to pay for a second bank book because they decided that the signature on the first one was unacceptable and tore it up…
    I’m inclined to suspect that the sheer trauma of it is designed to ensure that you never change bank, not wanting to go through all that again…

    Oigal – I only just noticed your much earlier musical gift to me – proper good stuff that, thanks!

  16. avatar Oigal says:

    Don’t get me wrong, no big fan of international banks. For many years have operated a significant over draft at Citibank Singapore for business transactions. Last month made the mistake of paying too much into the overdraft and got a nice letter saying thanks for the payment and we have now closed the facility….WTF..

    Rang the bank, oh no problem can reopened the facility just come to Singapore and fill out all the applications again. My mistake was not leaving $1 over drawn…bizarre

  17. avatar Robconway says:

    Hey guys!
    I’m from Indonesia, i’m in America right now.. And i’m using Mandiri blue card to get money… Do you guys know what is the withdrawal limit for it? I think i can’t get more then $500… Thanks b4! I need the information quick..

  18. avatar Chris says:

    Hi Rob,

    Yes, the daily withdrawal limit for the blue Mandiri card is Rp5 000 000, around $US540 at the current exchange rate.

    Don’t forget to also include the Bank Mandiri transaction fee for using a foreign ATM: Rp20 000.

    If you want to get a higher withdrawal limit, you need to upgrade to a Mandiri “gold” ATM card. The daily withdrawal limit is Rp10 000 000 ($US1100). I used to have one of those before the monthly fee increased from Rp1000 to Rp6000 per month. For more information, please see here.

  19. avatar Frozpup says:

    How about e-banking? Specially to use outside indonesia..
    Do the token pin device could work properly?

  20. avatar Chris says:

    Hi Frozpup,

    How about e-banking? Specially to use outside indonesia..
    Do the token pin device could work properly?

    I have successfully used online banking tokens inside/outside Indonesia with the following banks: BCA, Mandiri, Commonwealth, Danamon. I have never had to replace one or had a flat battery, not even the Mandiri token (which is now 7 years old).

    I recommend you use a PIN that is easy to remember, though, because if you enter the wrong PIN 3 times it will “lock” (meaning you can’t use it) and requires you to visit a bank branch to “unlock” (or replace) it.

    You can do the basics with them all. But if you want to do international telegraphic/bank transfers, I think only Commonwealth offers that on their internet banking site. Curiously, Commonwealth has the fewest bill payment options; it is also the only one which doesn’t have e.g. a function for buying credit for your mobile phone (very useful when you are roaming overseas).

    By the way, BCA, Mandiri and Commonwealth now all offer online banking on smartphones (e.g. Blackberry).

  21. avatar Asri says:

    BB and Timdog,

    “after about forty attempts to get my signature to match the one on my eight year old passport I finally got the account open.”

    It’s such a relieved to know that that kind of experience actually quite common and happened to anyone else. I mean, as Timdog said, it can be a traumatic experience. But in my case, I was just simply humiliated since the CS lady (Danamon Bank) looked at me as if I was an idiot who unable to write my own signature (I have to confess that my signature is as simple as ABC) exactly like that on my ID. In my defend, I have quite unique hand, fingers and palm that prevent me to write the EXACTLY same signature (for like millions time attempts, and btw, after those millions attempt, my hand was kind of shaking and made it more difficult to write the same signature). The lady apparently was not impressed with my excuse, and I decided to end the torture for both of us by cancelling my intention to open the account. I encouraged my self to try again about a month later and at the different branch office. Only one attempt and I got the account. So I wonder that my experience actually was my bad luck day or what, but now I know that it was not. It just the bank playing god again.

  22. avatar Chris says:

    I got this note on a recent Commonwealth Bank statement:

    IN CONJUNCTION TO BANK INDONESIA REGULATION NO. 14/2/PBI/2012 REGARDING THE OPERATION OF CAR BASED PAYMENT INSTRUMENT CHAPTER 25, EFFECTIVELY FROM THE DATE OF JUNE 1, 2012, THE WITHDRAWAL TRANSACTION THROUGH ALL COMMONWEALTH BANK’S ATM CAN ONLY BE DISPENSED IN IDR. WITHDRAWAL SERVICE IN FOREIGN CURRENCY IS AVAILABLE AT THE NEAREST COMMONWEALTH BANK BRANCHES. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT CALL COMMBANK 5000 30.

    In real English, Indonesian banks’ ATMs now must only offer Rupiah cash; they are forbidden to offer $US.

    To my knowledge, only Commonwealth Bank and HSBC ATMs offered this service anyway…

    I don’t understand why Bank Indonesia decided to do it. It will just give a free kick to moneychangers.

    It will be most inconvenient for anyone who cannot visit a bank Monday to Friday between 8 and 3.

  23. avatar saurav says:

    Pls advise which is the best bank to make TT transfer SGD to a bank in Singapore, especially in terms of lowest hidden charges.
    Commonwealth bank staff is usually donto know what are the charges on COMMCASH accounts and most of them are assuming what is written on there tariff and charge list.

  24. avatar Manny says:

    Adding to CIMB Niaga, its now owned by CIMB Malaysia and you can withdraw cash from any of their branches in Malaysia, Indo, any countries where they have branches (many in SE Asia) for FREE. You won’t get that with any other indo banks.

    CIMB Clicks is quite easy to use in Malaysia, but I’m not sure how it is in Indonesia.
    Do you need a TAC code each time you make a transaction? If so, what do you do if you are not in Indonesia…they will send the code to your indo mobile but you will be using a different phone number overseas…how to overcome this issue? In CIMB Malaysia, the only way is to get a physical TAC, which you have to pay for.

  25. avatar Peter says:

    Manny,

    I have a CIMB Niaga account, and now I’m using it in Thailand without any hassles.

    I’ve tried using it to withdraw Thai Baht from CIMB Thai, and yep it’s for FREE!

    But their exchange rate wasn’t the best though. I know this because when I withdraw Thai Baht from other Bank’s ATM in Thailand, I get better rates, around 5-10 IDR cheaper than CIMB rates. I’m guessing it is because they use MasterCard international rate.

    As for CIMB Clicks, I brought my Indonesian number with me here so I can still get the PIN and do transaction from Thailand.

  26. avatar sharing says:

    1. BCA never cross-sale (so far), you’re relatively safe giving out your contact number. although there is a serious detachment of information between various arms of the bank… anyway, branches can grant you the most flexibility, compared to the rest on list, if you’re deemed worthy.
    2. mandiri may have courteous CS but they’re probably the least capable to deal with irregular banking request among large banks. Too many lazy/incompetent employees, this bank survives by size.
    3. commonwealth bank has fairly competent front-end employees but they’re really bogged down by their complicated archaic Standard Operating Procedure. Things should change 2 years from now, they’re fixing it.
    4. hsbc (and dbs) have subtle rip-off fee structure, be careful. arrogant front-end employees if they think you’re not loaded, blame their culture and compensation structure.
    5. permata cross-sales like there is no tomorrow, curse that well-integrated CMS.

  27. avatar Chris says:

    Hi sharing,

    Thanks for your comments.

    To continue the conversation:

    1. BCA never cross-sale (so far)

    A friend told me that BCA are slowly rolling out a system of selling AIA insurance nationwide. She knows because she works there and just attended a 3-day training course about it.

    3. commonwealth bank has fairly competent front-end employees but they’re really bogged down by their complicated archaic Standard Operating Procedure.

    I admit I don’t know what SOP is but I’ve liked CB in the past for reasons described in the article above, plus their relatively light idenitification and paperwork requirements if you e.g. lose your ATM card. CB is also one of the few where Indonesians don’t have to have a KTP (ID card) issued in the city where they’re opening the account, and you don’t have to go to the branch where you opened the account to do big changes.

  28. avatar Steve says:

    I am wondering if someone may be able to give me some advice.

    My partner has a business here she has been running for a while now and it is going well. It is at the stage now where she is ready to accept online credit card payments for the items through the website.

    I am trying to work out which may be the best bank to get a merchant account or any other account that will let her recieve credit card payments online?

    Payments are international coming from many different countries so she really needs this service to take things to the next level.

    I am off to do the bank crawl today starting with BCA & Commonwealth but rather than see every bank in Indonesia any information would be very much appreciated!

  29. avatar Chris says:

    Hi Steve,

    You might find this post helpful.

    My advice: If websites like Bhinneka.com, TokoBagus, etc, don’t offer credit card sales, and Indonesan domestic airlines can’t offer international credit card sales, I doubt your your partner will be able to either.

    The easiest (but not easy) way to get around the problem is to have the website hosted in another country, or use an online payment system like Paypal or Moneybookers. Please note that neither offers payment in Rupiah.

  30. avatar Mark Gibbs says:

    Regarding Permata Bank. I have had an account with them in Bali for 7 years. Average balance being about 300 million. Local staff are very friendly, but since everything must go thru head office in Jakarta, they are unable to solve problems. For example, incoming international money transfers are often delayed, presumably to get a more favorable exchange rate. Sometimes transfers from the same source take 2 weeks, sometimes less than 2 days. There is never an explanation of course. More recently I was unable to get a credit card from Permata in order to purchase air tickets/book hotels online. I even agreed to a 20 million hold on my account, but to no avail. Local staff could do nothing as faceless people in Jakarta make the decisions. Commonwealth Bank look a better proposition except they don’t even issue credit cards, and as with all other Indonesian banks their debit cards do not work online. It’s Catch-22 squared.

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