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