Monday, August 14, 2006

Is Banking Easy in Mongolia?

This is one of my other gripes with Michael Kohn of Lonely Planet-Mongolia fame. Lonely Planet is the only travel guide company out there that makes a Mongolia guide, so Michael Kohn, the latest author, has a monopoly on tourist information. And sometimes he's wrong. As in when he says that "banking in Mongolia is a snap."

The one thing I'll give Kohn is that there a zillion banks in UB. I read the NYT article last week A Bank For Every Block and determined that Manhattan has nothing on Mongolia. Here, there are 17 different bank companies. All of which have the majority of their branches here in UB.

In another country, this might make it difficult to determine which bank to go to. Here, it's fairly easy; there are only three banks that are considered "clean" in the sense that they don't pay off the government: Xac Bank, Xhan Bank (which used to be the National ie, only bank in Mongolia), and the Trade and Development Bank. Otherwise, there is little to differentiate the banks. Almost none of them have ATMs, and it appears that just has Pepsi has a monopoly on soda in the Mall of America, Visa has a monopoly on debit and credit cards in Mongolia. A few banks accept Mastercard, but only when they feel like it. Most pretend they've never heard of Mastercard.

Mongolians are also a fan of lines, by which I mean they hate lines. By which I mean they shove to the front and pretend the line doesn't exist. Bank managers therefore like to exact pain on Mongolians by creating as many lines as possible. They often have you wait on one line to tell them how much money you would like. You may then have to wait on another line if you don't have an account there, where they will swipe your credit card or debit card, as though you are "purchasing" cash. For this you will get a receipt and you will watch the teller count out the proper amount of cash (all the money is on display here -- they seem to have no concerns about holdups). The teller will then walk the cash over to another teller whose line you will have to wait on to receive the cash. At which point you may snap, which could be what Michael Kohn meant to say.


At 3:50 PM, Blogger bankelele said...

very interesting. I thought our banks were wanting, but Mongolians have to put up with some much more (and no ATM's)!

At 3:18 PM, Blogger Radigan Neuhalfen said...

Bradt publishes a guidebook for Mongolia.

One of the shopping guide booklets for the 800th Anniversary lists 38 ATM locations in Mongolia, almost all in UB, though a couple in Erdenet and Darkhan. There is an ATM in nearly every large hotel. The ATM at the Trade and Development Bank's HQ is heavily frequented by foreigners getting cash from out-of-country accounts.

Of credit card networks, VISA's is the most extensive in the world.

Mongolian lines, in general, form to the right of the target window. Foreigners can often be pushed aside by Mongolians, because unaware or non-assertive (read: non-Russian) foreigners will allow it, seemingly not comprehending or not believing that they've just been pushed aside in line.

Switching lines in a bank is part of the process for taking cash out of a foreign account with a debit or credit card. Open an account in the bank, and you will need to wait in only one line to withdraw or deposit cash.

All bank locations, I believe, maintain armed guards.

"Snapping" would be a result of the stress created by expecting a society to which you are not accustomed to operate similarly to the society or societies to which you are accustomed.

At 5:37 AM, Blogger SoS said...

I can't agree with you. I've been using both my Visa and Master cards for years in UB.

Also, ATMs are widely available.

And queues... well, there's one kind of queue in Mongolia, the crowding one. Just try getting on the bus. :)

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Are the banks in UB closed down for one month due to the economy that they will not issue money for loans and from your banking account?

If you have any feed back please respond.

At 6:40 AM, Blogger Tushikma said...

I promise,u won't die there in Mongolia.I use mastercard and have no problems so far. I.m a Mongolian.If someone wanna more information about Mongolia feel free to contact.

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Nandin said...

Liar!!ATM is everywhere!!!

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi, is it (by now) possible to withdraw money with a regular debit card (e.g. Maestro) and not only visa or master card from the ATM's in UB?
Thanks a lot in advance

At 9:24 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger VonAleK said...

This blog is obviously pretty old. I'm living in UB right now and there are ATMs everywhere, trick is finding one that displays in English, and all banks take master card now. And I've never had the problem with multiple lines here. So banking here is easy and it seems like everything is sorted out now!

At 5:18 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Mongol is nice


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