I called up the number to find out it belongs to, the Gulf Bank.
If there is one piece of information I cherished learning, it is the following pearl of wisdom by investment Guru Warren Buffet, "do not spend then save, save then spend".
What does this mean? And what does this have to do with the Gulf Bank, and just how exactly do they suck? All shall be revealed.
The first thing people do when they get their monthly paycheck is proceed to tick off all their expenses; rent, food, fuel, credit card, cigarettes etc. etc. what amount they have left in the end, they allocate a portion of that to savings. Effectively, spending then saving. Buffet says no, save then spend. And in this digital era of online banking, gone are the days of the old bulky mattress or hiding money under the floor.
All it took was one trip to the Gulf Bank (my salary account is at NBK) to open up a savings account. The day my salary is transfered, I login to Watani Online, and transfer a portion of my salary to the Gulf Bank account, and I keep that card safely out of reach, never to be used, as it is only for money-in, never money-out.
Prior to taking this decision to go with the GB, I had thoroughly researched all other savings accounts with all other banks in Kuwait (even the BBK) and determined this one to be the best, it was to be called the Golden Investor account, and it had an interest rate, albeit minute. It was linked to LIBOR (what I came to find out later stood for London Inter Bank Offering Rate, meaning the rate changed monthly, so technically, it was not haram).
So, I head on over to GB to open up the golden investor account; what does the heavily manicured, peroxide blonde, excessively-made up sales rep tell me? Go for the e-trading account, it has a higher interest, and it does not change, 3.125%, highest in Kuwait. She was right about that, initially.
I was coerced into that account.
Months went by, and the "interest" was working well, you would basically multiply whatever amount there was in the account by 3.125% and divide by 12 months, to reach the amount you get per month.
I noticed that although the amount within the bank was steadily rising, the interest I was earning was in fact dropping! I sent the bank an email to inquire, and they told me that since the bank had undergone drastic overhaul (remember the case almost a year ago when they almost lost 80% of their venture capital?) and that the e-trading account was no longer going @ 3.125% interest, but it was the same as the interest rate of the Central Bank.
Off the top of my head, that is called false advertising. They had advertised highest interest rates in the Gulf, and then suddenly had plummeted to about half that amount. For figures sake, if you had KD5,000 you would be earning KD156.250 @ 3.125%, however when the rate drops (an interchangeable rate, which is what I was going for in the first place with the golden investor account) to 1.5% you are making KD75 a year.
These are not big amounts, but it is a matter of principle none-the-less.
Now, what I had started with in the first place, the calls from the customer service reps whilst I was abroad. I initially got worried, what if something had happened to my account, my nest-egg, and they were trying to reach me? I feared the worst, but those fears were alleviated when I checked my balance online.
They called me again today, if you head on over to Marina Mall, and go to the central fountain, you will find the GB guys sitting before a large box LADEN with cash, moolah, dough, the reds. Bank-packs of KD10 notes, apparently KD1million (roughly $3.6M).
This is in preparation for their Al-Danah Millionaire draw. Apparently they have to raise the required cash for this "lottery".
The thing about lotteries is, you all must have read the story with the guy who wanted to buy a donkey from another guy, so he paid him $100 for it, the next day he goes to collect the donkey only to be told it died and there was no refund, so he asked for the corpse. He held a "lottery" with a grand prize of 1 donkey, each ticket cost $2, he made $998 by selling 500 tickets and refunding one to the winner telling him the donkey had died.
I am skeptical of lotteries, I would rather invest my money in the stock market, as opposed to playing "odds", anyway, the girl seemed pleasant enough, so I figured, what have I got to lose, my monthly interest of about 6KD, or the chance to win 1,000KD weekly or better yet, KD1million in January?
I said ok, open up an account for me with the bare minimum (I dont see a point in putting all my eggs in that basket), the greedy lass wanted me to open it with more! I said thanks, but no thanks. That nest-egg is going to liquidate into the Aymz Car Fund in 2011.
She asked me the usual questions to open the account, and after she opened it I asked, what if I wish to cancel it, she goes you have to visit the branch to do so.
Now I know this is common practice, but how is it I can open an account over the phone, but I cannot close it over the phone? All the while she started talking about penalties if the balance drops below 200KD etc etc.
A stupid policy, and again, I was misinformed. The dumbest thing ever is that banks work for less hours than their customers, and are off on the same day that their customers are. When on earth is anyone meant to do any banking work if they close @ 3 and we all leave work @ 4 or so?
a) they dropped the interest rate on an account they primarily billed as having the "highest interest rate in the Gulf". Deceptive advertising.
b) I transfer money from NBK to GB free-of-charge, as it is a local transfer, right? If I wanted to go the other way, GB want to charge me 1KD per transfer.
c) Their online banking is a joke compared to NBK.
d) Their internet shopping card requires a minimum balance, as opposed to NBKs card where you can merely transfer the exact amount you want, and maintain a zero balance all year long. NBK gives you the first year free, GB charge you. I heard it was 10KD per annum, NBK is only 5KD.
e) There are thrice as much NBK ATMs all over Kuwait as there are GB ones.
f) Even their website is tacky. E-gulfbank.com Vs. NBK.com?