Why is it so difficult to open a bank account?

Author : teriann

Recently I thought about changing my accounts to another bank. Since I was aware of some of their policies I had decided that the switch would benefit me and more importantly my pocket. I went to a customer service agent and inquired about the process.

The long sheet of paper he produced in response to my query did not look promising but I listened carefully at all that was required and after he reamed off the extensive list I asked myself was it really worth it to do the switch? According to the banking representative I also had to have a minimum of $5000 in order to open an account which was a little more than I had planned to use.

Minimum Balance

Be careful when choosing which type of account to open.  Some accounts incur charges if they fall below a certain amount while for others there is no  extra cost.  The amount of money needed to start an account also depends on which account you choose as well as the financial institution. The minimum balance varies from $2000 -$5000 for a regular savings account.

Other Requirements

Although requirements at various banking institutions  for opening accounts vary, there seemed to be a common request and that was for proof of address and identification. Banks want to be able to find their customers, which I understand that they need the information for their database. Not sure I want to be in a database but it’s certainly not a hardship to take in a utility bill.

So what’s the most annoying part?

It was when I moved to the next item on the list of required documents that I noted that I would also need two character references.  Some banks do not ask for letters of reference instead they only need the contact information for the referees.  There was also a list provided of persons who could be considered as suitable references but again I wondered at the level of scrutiny required to ask them to keep my money.

I suppose that’s what really got me thinking, shouldn’t we as the customers screen our banks instead of the other way around?  How do we know they won’t lose our money or over charge us? Where are their letters of reference?

That issue aside the entire process should really be digitized so that customers could save time than having to go into the bank for this purpose.  I noticed that one financial institution offered customers the option of starting the process online.

They were instructed to upload selected documents however after they did so then they would be contacted by a banking representative for a follow up visit in the bank and original documents have to be verified at the time of the visit.

My thoughts are that it shouldn’t be so difficult to open an account.  I think besides the ID and proof of address nothing else should be required.

That’s my take. What’s your take on the issue? Let me hear from you!

Teri Ann Paisley
Gleaner online writer

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33 Responses to “Why is it so difficult to open a bank account?”

  1. Sasha says:

    I think so too its to difficult, I go to school I live with my parents and I need an account to try and save from my lunch money come can I be obtaining proof if address, utility bill and job letter or pay slip but I like your point we all should be investigating the banks instead cause we are paying them to keep our money

  2. Christine Geddes says:

    Love this article.. I was just thinking the same thing. I live in the USA and would like to ensure that I have some spending money when I come home to jamaica. I find the process rather painful. All it requires here to open an account is an id, and your social security number. Jamaica has a national id and a trn number now. Why is that not sufficient to open an account? Why do I have to go through the hassle for them to hold my money?

    I am still wondering if it is worth the hassle

  3. Maxine Harris says:

    I totally agree with you. This is partly due to Central Bank requirements, but banks have found a way to exchange all kinds of information including about customers who could be deemed undesirable. It should not be a stretch to exchange information that would make all of this nonsense unnecessary for people already in the banking system.

    Maxine Harris

  4. Ron Vernon says:

    I am totally in agreement in every that this person writes and I will add, Why are the caharges so ridiculos.
    I think the Government has a duty to protect it’s citizens from this unslaught of charges, how can one has principal of say $10,000 yet the charges exceeds the interest and your new balance is now less than the principal, I would really love to hear from them on this.

    I believe this is no different than the scammers.

  5. Don says:

    Buy Bitcoin. The banks have a rude awakening underway. It’s weird that they always talk about banking the unbanked (people without accounts) but want to keep out the riff raff at the same time.
    If opening an account is more difficult than getting a Bitcoin wallet you’re already failing. Hopefully they see this before it’s too late

  6. Nello says:

    Reps can also be very intrusive in your personal business very uncomfortable experience.

  7. Ray says:

    I too wanted to open a bank account recently, and came up against the same issues. The amount if personal data required left me uncomfortable, so i aborted the process at a very early stage.

    I understand the issues with fraud, etc., and the need for banks to know their customers, but surely there must be more efficient and customer friendly ways of getting some of the data required. For starters, banks should be able to leverage information held by other banks on a prospective client, simply by getting their permission to do so.

  8. Lorna says:

    I think a lot has changed with the money laundering and other new legislation instituted by the B.O.J. In most cases to protect us. It can be frustrating but besides the rules from the BOJ , I think they are necessary evil put in place to protect the innocent and the hard workers. ID TRN REFERENCE PROOF OF ADDRESS AND SOURCE OF FUNDS. My two cents

  9. A. Samuels says:

    We live in a world of scams, fraudulent dealings, money laundering a and the list goes on. From my vantage point, I think that that is the reason why the banks go through such an extensive screening of their clients.

    It’s unfortunate that honest, law-abiding persons have to go through all that. But isn’t it better than the free-fo-all and hearing that your bank shut down because its clients are using it to launder money?

  10. teriann says:

    Hi Sasha,

    Thanks for reading and posting a comment. Keep trying to save your lunch money, depending on your age you might be able to use your parents to co-sign on the account. Keep visiting and leaving your comment.

    Teri Ann

  11. teriann says:

    Hey Christine,

    I think that the banks are trying to be ‘extra’ careful but they just end up making customers feel ‘extra’ frustrated. It is a hassle and the jury is still out on whether it’s worth it or not. Thanks for sharing!

    Teri Ann

  12. teriann says:

    Hey Maxine,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think there is an easy solution but the powers that be don’t seem to see it our way! In any case we really need someone to take a second look at the requirements.

    Teri Ann

  13. teriann says:

    Hey Don,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the issue. I hope that someone somewhere will be able to fix this situation,

    Teri Ann

  14. teriann says:

    Hey Nello,
    Thanks for replying to my post. I agree with you that having that kind of experience is totally unnecessary.

    Teri Ann

  15. teriann says:

    Hello Ray,
    I know exactly how you feel. It is such a pity as it should be a hassle free experience instead of a headache. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Teri Ann

  16. teriann says:

    Hey Ron,
    Strong words but I understand the level of frustration. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the issue!

    Teri Ann

  17. john says:

    Jamaica is still riddled with 19th century insecurities and the fear of failure. To counter this the level of bureaucracy here is staggering when compared with other countries. The banks just go along with it I presume. The new NIDS is supposed to wash this all way but I have a fear it will just put another layer on top of those already in place.
    A Government without fear and not constantly looking over it’s shoulder at the IMF could radically change everything for the better, but I can’t see that happening anytime in the next fifty years.

  18. Debi says:

    It’s even worse for people who are Jamaican but grew up abroad. If they want an account here it ain’t happening, yet I as a Jamaican who’s only visiting the USA can open an account with just my passport. They don’t even verify the address you use.

  19. Sher says:

    The requirements are absolutely ridiculous. It took me five visits to the bank with at least 45 mins wait each time to finally open an account. I have an issue especially with a specific bank that requires me to provide a job letter. Providing that proof was not the challenge. After taking in the document I had to physically wait for the clerk to dial the number for my workplace and get put on to someone in Accounting or Human Resources so they could verify the job letter. Unaware of this silly requirement I turned up the first time on a day when my offices were closed. I had judged that it was a good day since I wouldn’t miss work. After calling without a reply I was sent packing out of the bank. The teller didn’t even care if I came back another day. The second time I forgot to insist before I left work that the Accountabt was sitting at her desk ready to take the call the moment I got to the front of the line so after three failed attempts I was sent away again to come back another day. Other issues arose along the way which included requiring me to open the account at another branch some distance away. This was on my fifth such visit and it eventually resulted in successfully opening the account. I was required to have that specific bank account. If it weren’t for that I would not have been so persistent. I already have two other bank accounts that were serving their purpose quite well. These banks are unbearable and overly intrusive.

  20. teriann says:

    Hi Sher,
    Thanks for sharing your experience. It sounded really frustrating and I am glad you were successful after all that hassle. Keep reading and sharing your thoughts!

    Teri Ann

  21. teriann says:

    Hi Debbie,
    I didn’t know that you only need a passport to open an account in the US. That’s interesting. Thanks for sharing!

    Teri Ann

  22. Chana says:

    I absolutely agree with the author. I reside in the states and my husband lives in Jamaica. Although we have two accounts, we thought it would be a great idea to open another account. That was over a year ago. After I was faced with the process and the need to have a particular person verify my identity, we abandoned the process.

  23. teriann says:

    Hello Chana,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. The process can be very frustrating so many people opt for not opening another account. Can you imagine how many customers they lose that way?

    Teri Ann

  24. elsordo says:

    Thanks for sharing and I have always thought the same way you do about banks. It is really a big turn off for some of us. The banks act like they doing us a favor but in really we the customers are doing them the favor. It is far easier to open a bitcoin wallet therefore I will stick with that. Thanks again for sharing.

  25. Lanny says:

    This goes to show how stifling and backward the banking
    system is. This does not support growth and expansion.
    With these difficult systems we will be forever
    third world.

  26. Bee Gee says:

    We often make a comparison with the USA, but the fact is that your Social Security Number tells a lot about a person. So with that information, a bank or any other financial institution can obtain a multitude of information on you without asking you for this information upfront. In Jamaica, have no such wealth of data on any individual. Our TRN is just for income tax purposes and is no way connected to our Voter’s ID NIS or. So, banks have to request this information from us as there is no central database from which it can be obtained. The sooner the government moves to true National ID, the easier it will be for all.

  27. Mario says:

    The mere fact that the bank want these information and documents is for security reasons. I Agree with that they are too stringent on their requirements, but the good will always suffer for the bad but then I would like to know if this is the case why be good? Wonderful article though it makes a lot of sense.

  28. teriann says:

    Thanks Elsordo I appreciate that you took time and effort to share your opinion. Keep sharing!

    Teri Ann

  29. teriann says:

    Hey Lanny,
    We really need to re examine the system. Thanks for sharing.

    Teri Ann

  30. teriann says:

    Hi Bee Gee,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The issue you raised certainly provides room for further discussion. Keep sharing!

    Teri Ann

  31. teriann says:

    Hi Mario,
    Thanks for sharing Mario. I appreciate the commendation. It is an issue which affects all Jamaican consumers. Thanks again and keep visiting the site.

    Teri Ann

  32. Sandra Simmons says:

    The process for opening an account here is ridiculous. Plus, as a person coming here from the US I would not trust the banks. Also the archaic way they process transactions is unbelieveable to me in 2018. I drive up to the window in my bank in the US and I never wait more than 2-3 three minutes for anything I do there. And your comment about it being easy to product a utility bill – not so when you rent.

  33. teriann says:

    Hey Sandra,
    Thanks for taking the time out to leave a comment. I do think the wait for the drive up teller seems long, I have experienced over an hour wait in those lines. Keep sharing and visiting the site!

    Teri Ann

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