My last post talked about my sudden financial difficulties due to losing bank cards stupidly or by theft. I thought the problem was solved – the bank is sending two cards “in plain white envelopes,” (their answer to my asking for secure mailing), which should arrive (hopefully) next week some time.
In the meantime, I was going to pay the daily bills using my “emergency fund” of 10 Ben Franklins ($100). Today, I discovered this was easier said than done when I tried to exchange US$500 for rupiah.
I first went to the bank across the street (Bank National International), which had the best exchange rate at Rp13,000 per dollar. They looked at my bills, which have been folded and hidden for at least three years, and said they wouldn’t take them. I think the faded crease in the middle turned them off.
Not a happy camper at that point. If one of the biggest banks in the country won’t take my American money, what happens to my plan A?
Undeterred, I went across the street to a “money changer.” These places are everywhere, almost always a Chinese-owned company. Their rates are less desirable than the bank’s, about Rp12,500 per dollar.
The first place turned me down flat. Looked at my Franklins and shook their heads. I asked why and they just said no. Kind of rude, probably caused by us not able to understand each other.
Tried another money changer across the street, same result.
Then I walked into kampung bule to a 24-hour store I usually get liquids from at the end of my walks. They also have a money changer.
Here, they did exchange two of my bills, with an issue date of 2001. Seems the other bills have an issue date of 1996 and that’s too old for them to exchange. So I had a little money but not all that I would need to last another week.
So I kept trying.
A fourth place also said no. Finally, at Hai Hai money exchange, they took my three $100 bills, although the lady seemed unsure. At least now I have a little to keep me going until the bank cards arrive (cross fingers). If I need to exchange the final $100 bills in my emergency fund, I may have some trouble. Two are issue 1996 and one is issue 1993.
The message, obviously, is if you pack extra cash for emergencies, and you pack $100 U.S. bills, make sure they are issue 2001 or later (very small type in the middle of the bill under Ben’s mug). I don’t know why, and it might be limited to Indonesia, but it’s worth considering.