|That's right! It's a Caught Being Good entry!|
The Bank Alexandre and I use here has a special VIP banking department, akin to the high roller tables in Las Vegas, I think. American banks might have this too; I'd always been too poor to know for sure. Anyway, the special VIP banking department here is called "Van
For clients enrolled in this Van Gogh banking, there are special employees who only work with them; there are special areas to wait (and there's hardly ever anyone in line); there are even special customer service phone numbers. In order to be treated with these luxuries, you basically have to be rich. I'm not sure what the exact rules are (the website won't tell you -- they make you bring a proof of income in to a branch to see if your salary's high enough), but I'm almost positive that we wouldn't normally qualify.
I think the bank's logic comes down to four words: Weed. Out. The. Masses. Treat the rich people at the bank the way they'd be treated at a first-world bank (for example, don't make them wait 3 hours just to fix some problem that you probably caused in the first place), and they'll leave all their money with you. Isn't that amazing?
Anyway anyway. One of the branches here in town did something pretty clever. They went to the medical residents at Alexandre's hospital and offered them the chance to enroll in this VIP "Van Gogh Banking" program. It's basically like, "OK, we know you guys aren't rich now....but you will be in a few years, and by then, you'll be tried and true customers!"
Alexandre took them up on their offer, since we already had accounts at this bank anyway. He went in and met with "his account manager" -- possessive adjective style! The woman told him all his options with the fancy Van Gogh account, including credit cards and the first-rate service I just mentioned. He liked what he heard, so we went back together to make the change. We didn't even have to make an appointment -- we just showed up, waited 5 minutes for the lady to finish with a previous client, and then we went into her office.
We told her everything we wanted to do, and asked if she could help us with it.
*Transfer our accounts (Alexandre's checking and my piddly savings) from Caipirópolis? Yes. (The branches love to pass the buck with this: the people in Caipirópolis said we need to do it in Springfieldee, and the people in Springfieldee said we needed to do it back in Caipirópolis)
*Open a joint checking account with joint checks and international credit cards? Yes. Alexandre's legal working status combined with our marriage certificate can carry the both of us.
*Fix some little problems and take away some "mystery charges" that Alexandre had been getting on his account? Yes.
*Make it so that our debit cards aren't automatically canceled if they are suspected of fraud, but instead temporarily placed on hold until we can call and verify? Yes.
*Send stuff in the mail since our apartment complex has a trustworthy mail system, instead of making us physically go to the bank to get stuff? Yes.
These changes, once suspected to be miraculous in caliber, obviously required a lot of paperwork. But I'd brought everything I could think of that we might need, and our account manager (see how I did that?) met me halfway. She was on the ball!
"Here, just sign here, here, here, and here. I'll fill out all the data -- I've got it here in the computer. You don't need to write your address 20 times." Efficiency for the win! You all know how much I love efficiency, how I fantasize about Dilma hiring me as the Minster of Efficiency and giving me a magic wand to go around and fix stuff with. I think this calls for a Caught Being Good Award, Ms. Account Manager:
The Q&A and the signing (get it? Because we're like celebrities!) took all of 15 minutes, and then today, about 10 days later, we got our new stuff in the mail! My first Brazilian checks, my first Brazilian credit card, plus the cute couple milestone of a joint bank account with checks with both of our names. :)
If you are able to get one of these Van Gogh accounts, I highly recommend it. (You may have to be willing to risk the shame of taking your or your partner's paystubs to the bank, only to have them reject you, but I think it's worth it!) If you're not able to get one....sorry! Sucks to be you. Something to shoot for, right? :)
Congrats, Fancy Van Gogh banking! It'd be better if the bank treated all of their customers with this level of respect, but for now, I'll take what I can get, and I'll feel grateful and lucky that I got this much.