On Citibank and Bitcoins
I’ve been in the UK for four months now. In that time, I’ve opened accounts with HSBC here (to complement the one I have in the US) as well as one with Citibank (for the same reason).
Citibank in the UK is vastly superior to Citibank in the US.
First, in terms of service, the people at Citibank UK are attentive and get things done. The people at Citibank in the US (in both NY and VA) always made it seem like I was interrupting some Very Important Work (TM) that they were doing. It was always a hassle to get them to help, and their customer service attitude was always obviously fake. In the UK, they treat you with respect and work to get things solved. I even asked an office manager print things for me when I was in a pinch and he helped me out!
Citibank UK automatically assumes that you want to deal in multiple currencies. I travel quite a bit, and so it was always a hassle in the US to deal with different denominations. In the UK, they started me out with Pound Sterling, US Dollars, and Euros by default. Transferring among those is a simple account transfer. They offer other currencies, and I recently added a Hong Kong Dollar account. I may add Australian Dollars and Singapore Dollars as well… I can diversify currency right in the bank! Of course, all this is web-enabled, so I never have to leave the flat to work with any of it. However, when I do – I can deposit mutliple currencies (as I did yesterday) and it’s a breeze.
So Citibank US recently canceled a transfer I was making from it to Schwab. I transfer money from the UK Citibank to the US Citibank (which is really easy in that direction – not so in the other!) and then transfer from Citibank US to Schwab where I pay my bills. (I’ll have to start doing it directly.) One can only transfer $1000 per day in “Immediate” mode, and $2000 per day in “Standard”. However – what’s not immediately obvious is that there is a rolling 30-day tracking on that as well, so if you try to send three $1000 transfers in “Immediate” mode (on three consecutive days), the third will be summarily canceled as you can only send $2000 a month in “Immediate” mode. This is made all the more difficult in February, because February 28th will always be less than 30 days from January 31st – so even though it’s a different month it doesn’t matter!
(I’m aware that a lot of this is forced onto Citibank US by the US Federal Government. It’s still annoying.)
So where does Bitcoin fit into all of this? Of course, Bitcoin solves all these problems. While it can be volatile (my holdings alone have gone from about $10 per BTC down to $2 per BTC, but are now up to $32 per BTC (!)), it solves all the problems of having to transfer money. Since it’s pseudo-anonymous and doesn’t require an intermediary, I can transfer any value, and work with any currency, and with the same comfort and convenience of Citibank UK without any of the hassles of Citibank US. Furthermore, no one knows what I do with it (take that Chuck Schumer!) and realistically would have a ridiculously difficult time trying to figure that out if they really wanted to… and they couldn’t. Even accepting the “pseudo” part of “pseudo-anonymous” – on a VPN and using encryption for just about everything, there is essentially zero possibility that my financial transactions in the Bitcoin network will ever be traceable by a third party. All that – and significant convenience as well!