Thursday, May 05, 2022

Test trip to JB !


It's been two years since I travelled, so after the long public holiday, my brother in law drove me and my mum into JB to settle some banking matters which have been stuck for close to 30 months. We've collected rent for over two years and because of the old bank setup, the money was stuck for a long time and we had to endure the currency depreciation of the ringgit over the past 2 years. 

I just want to highlight some points of my trip so that readers can avoid the mistakes I experience today.  A lot of unpleasantness when resuming travel can be avoided if you read my blog.

a) PR's need to update re-entry permit.

Because I am not a PR and deal with matters for my mum online, I misunderstood how re-entry permits worked, I thought it's something that is based on dates and it just needs to be renewed. Today we had issues with ICA because while we have a recent re-entry permit, but it was keyed to the older passport and I did not transfer it to the new passport. ICA was very patient with us and let us through but I have to resolve that issue online after I came back. 

If you do not valid re-entry permit as a PR, the electronic gateways will not admit you and my mum was ping ponged a couple of times in Singapore customs, so please respect and follow the rules. Best thing is every time you renew your passport, just update the re-entry permit.

b) Touch and Go card.

Our troubles did not end there. Having a Touch and GO card is vital to get into Malaysia but we did not have a card with credits. We got stuck after our passport was cleared in Malaysia customs. Lucky, my plucky BIL managed to seek help from a customs officer and we were able to clear customs, but if you don't rely some some persuasion, I really would not know what would have happened to us.

This is, apparently, a major issue for drivers. 

Of course, my troubles did not end there.

c) Breakfast was good.

The only good thing that happened today was Storia Cafe, their mee siam and Otak is out of this world. Go google for details before your next trip. The boss has a reputation for being a damn nice guy and he rounded down the bill. In the end, I paid $3 SGD per head for a full breakfast !

I'm grateful to my BIL who researched that place thoroughly and it was his first meal there too.

d) ATM card fails after long absence

So all I wanted to do was some banking. We could not withdraw money because the ATM card expired and undoing it would mean an hour of wait. There are two manual forms to fill but lucky the staff we had was super steady. Bank was obviously understaffed even though they should expect hordes of Singaporeans to come down to make withdrawals. 

One poor Singaporean uncle I met actually could only complete his work on his second visit. It was just a long line of sad looking Singaporeans at the bank today because they can't withdraw their cash.

e) Bank probably cut into a new database, so may not have your records.

Oh it did not end there. My mum has been banking with the same branch for 30 over years and they claimed not to have my mother's PR status, so we had to fill more forms to update the database.

f) Strange questions asked during TT of cash to Singapore. 

The thing about TT to Singapore is that AML measures need to be taken, but this was not the first time we did this. We had our Singapore bank books, but staff wanted to confirm whether the joint account can be acted upon independently and this confused my mum and I could not recall what the right answer should be. I had to be there to answer some questions for the paperwork to clear.

For noob, make sure you copy down the SWIFT codes for the local bank and account number manually before you go and bring an account statement or bank book with you. I panicked because I had no data plan in Malaysia and had to use Wifi until I realized my mum had the Singapore bank book along. 

Naturally we did the paperwork successfully but it will take a few days to figure out whether we succeeded. 

I think there are probably a lot of savvier guys who can think of better ways to go about doing what I did. I'm largely constrained by the systems setup by my parents 3 decades ago and most of the paperwork is not under my name. This is not sustainable, so starting tomorrow, I will be actively trying to decouple my mum's current bank from our family's financial operations and building a better one that works online.  

Overall, the trip was worth it because it solved a lot of ongoing issues with family finances. Otherwise, it was really sad to see the devastation of City Square, MPH Bookstore is gone but fortunately, I got some really good Malaysian finance books in Popular bookstore. 

It's one thing to feel powerful because your dollar is worth more than three of your neighbors currency, but if there are only a few shops to buy stuff from, what is the point ?

City Square will probably heal in six months. I will take few more surgical trips to Malaysia on weekdays to visit other areas like Midvalley Southkey, but I think a bus trip to KL is in order.

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