I returned from Guinea Bissua to find some bank statements had finally arrived from my Senegalese bank - from the past three months. There were all sorts of strange charges on there, and as I had decided to investigate getting a local credit card, I thought a trip to the bank was in order.
First, the charges. 'AGIOS' is a quarterly charge ($4), payable apparently for the privilege of having a bank account.
'Frais compact douze electron' is a monthly charge ($7), payable for having a cash withdrawal card. I pointed out that they had been charging me this since January, whilst I only had the card from the end of April, but apparently the card had been sitting in the bank for a few months before they gave it to me so I had to pay.
'Frais abonnement Sogeb@se' is a monthly charge ($5) for internet banking. I pointed out that I do not have internet banking, but it turns out that I have to pay for it anyway. So I asked them to set it up, and signed a form for receipt of a sealed envelope. When I got back to my office and opened it there was a form inside saying 'welcome to internet banking - please go to your branch to collect your password'.
Finally, I asked about a credit card. I knew by this time that the charges would be enormous but had suffered enough with carrying large wads of cash around West Africa to pay hotel bills (two thefts so far - one from a hotel safe). But even so I was unprepared for the response. In order to open a credit card I would need to deposit $10,000 into an account, which would remain blocked (and pay no interest) for as long as I have the card. I declined the offer.
Tonight I fly back to the UK, and I just hope that during my couple of weeks there I do not hear any complaints about the way British banks treat their customers.