Friday, July 18, 2008

Traveller’s cheques put NRI into trouble

When people go abroad they prefer travellers’ cheques rather than carrying cash with them as travellers’ cheques are considered to be things of convenience. But recently there has been a case where a non-resident Indian (NRI) who had cme to Nagpur on a long vacation had to face difficulty.

Sameer Varma, a research scientist who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, had converted $ 3,000 (over Rs 1, 30,000) to travellers' cheques in the United States. On Saturday (July 12) on reaching Nagpur, he went to the Nagpur branch of Standard Chartered Bank for depositing them in his account.

Bank staff told Varma that as the bank's foreign cell was closed on Saturday, he should come on Monday. Varma deposited the travellers' cheques with the bank and returned home.

But on Monday when he went to the bank to withdraw money from his account, a big shocked awaited him. He was told by the bank staffer Ambarish Saraf that the cheques had been sent to Chennai from where they would be sent to United States for physical verification.” I was told I would get my money in a month," Varma recalls. Therefore he met some senior officials but in vain.

After some time, Amrut Bhalerao, Manager (Customer Relations) of Standard Chartered, rang up Varma and told him that the bank staff did not explained the issue to him properly. Bhalerao assured Varma that the encashment process will not take a month but will be done between three to nine days. He accredited the delay to strict norms in India about encashment of travellers' cheques.

Unhappy Varma then contacted The Times of India and narrated his story to them. Varma in an interview to TOI said that he had used travellers' cheques many times and they have been encashed within minutes.

Verma said, "Thankfully, my father had some ready cash at hand otherwise I would have been totally cash strapped. However, the banks' inexplicable mishandling of the case has spoilt my holiday mood".

Verma added, "If the bank encashes the cheques in a month's time, it will be of no use because I will be back in US by then. What I fail to understand is that last time when I had come to Nagpur, I had opened an account with Standard Chartered using travellers' cheques. At that time there was no problem".

When contacted, the correspondent contacted the bank official Amrut Bhalerao about the issue he said that he will explain the issue to the customer. He refused to elaborate as this correspondent does not have an account with his bank.

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