A Little Background Information
I’ve been hearing many stories about Republic Bank in Guyana, South America over the last year or so, but I questioned the validity of those stories. At one time, I asked one of the clerks of that bank what he thought of all the accusations that were being hurled against the bank. He said that they were false and that it is impossible for money to come out of someone’s account unless they withdrew it.
Turns out he was wrong. Not too long after, I read in the news that Republic Bank issued apologies to customers for disappearing monies and were working to tighten the security of the “Visa OneCard” which served as both an ATM and Debit Card.
Card Security Issues
As as result of the said security measures, online purchases were restricted using the OneCard, and the only way someone could have made a purchase using the OneCard was to call a number and ask the operator to unblock the card so that the transaction could go through. The unblocking isn’t a one-time unblocking. It only works for that one transaction. Every time you wanted to purchase from that merchant, you had to make the call again.
The New VTM Card
Consequently, Republic Bank introduced their Virtual Travel Money (VTM) card to help override the problem. You can apply for a VTM card then load it with US dollars to make purchases online. The problem is that there is no way to check your VTM card balance online or at the ATM. You either have to go into the bank and speak to a teller or call a local number.
The First Red Flag
Sometime around November 2019, I noticed a discrepancy in my Republic Bank Account to the tune of about $70,000. To my knowledge, my balance was supposed to have been $70,000 more than it was. I approached the bank clerk and asked for an explanation. They “explained” that purchases that were done a few months back were still on “hold” and as a result, the $70,000 was in my balance, but not in my “available balance.” The story got so confusing that I thought it was not worth my time and energy to argue about it – especially in a case where it seemed unlikely to win.
Since then, I proceeded to withdraw my money from Republic Bank and use GBTI for savings purposes. I did this until my Republic Bank Account went down to less than $1000.00
$13,000 Disappeared in 3 Hours
On the 17th of February, 2020, I asked a business correspondent of mine from Georgetown to deposit $115,000 into my Republic Bank Account so that I could access it from Lethem to purchase Brazilian Products for my customers. The deposit was made at around 10 AM. At around 1 PM, I went into the bank. The ATM was down at the time so I went to the teller and she confirmed that the deposit was made. So I asked her what my present balance was. She said $102,000.
I said, “so where did the $13,000 go?” She said that there are “payments on hold” and that my account went into “overdraft.”
Here we come to a genuinely difficulty, because I don’t have a credit card with Republic Bank, I have a debit card. That means I can’t spend what I don’t have. The teller then proceeded to give me the same round-about explanation involving “payments on hold” and “available balance versus actual balance” etc. But after I refuted all those explanations, the teller left me and had a discussion with her superiors in the bank. A few minutes later, she came back to tell me that the “system had an error,” and that made it possible for me to be charged an overdraft…or something of that nature.
Time, Business and Money Lost
The truth is, the time it would take to investigate this discrepancy might cost me more in time and business. I’ll just have to let it go, and I will just have to ease up business with Republic Bank until they can get their act together.
I didn’t quite believe all the stories I was hearing about Republic Bank in Guyana, South America, however, I’m now cautioning all Guyanese to be scrupulous with your Republic Bank Account. Remember your last available balance and check it regularly to make sure it is correct.
For those doing numerous online purchases, keep monitoring your bank statements and look out for discrepancies.
And to Republic Bank, I would like to say that “that is just not good enough”…to say the least.