Sunday, August 19, 2012

Do Finns trust foreigners?

Writing an expat blog has been generally a rewarding and thought provoking experience.   Every once in a while, it is good to explore more sensitive and perhaps even controversial topics.  My thoughts I write in this blog are based on observations, not stereotypes or rumors.  The subject of trust and rules will be the topic of this post.  Do you believe Finns fully trust foreigners living in their country?  See my examples below.

The first example would be applying for, an receiving, a debit/credit card from a Finnish bank, called S-Pankki.  I have tried and have been rejected in regards to my first application for a credit card.  First of all, I was initially not even eligible to apply for this card, because the bank felt that the identifications I provided were not sufficient.  I provided 3 different methods of identification:  my US passport, my biometric police department issued Finnish residency card and my Kela card (Finnish social security card).  All three of these cards were deemed insufficient to even begin the credit card application process, according to S-Pankki.  Two of these IDs provide a photo and the biometric card has fingerprints, both issued by the police department.  The bank told me that rules say, I need a valid Finnish driver's license.  :)  Well, first of all I think those rules are just plain ridiculous and quite odd, but whatever.  Finally after living in Finland long enough, I managed to get a Finnish driver's license which can be obtained after one has lived in the country for 6 months.  So, I went back to S-Pankki with the new driver's license as proof of my identity.  The S-Pankki representative was fine with this ID now, so he helped fill out my application and told me to wait approximately 3 weeks for the card and PIN numbers to arrive in the mail.  So, I waited patiently and felt good knowing that I had finally provided the correct identification that S-Pankki requested.  A few weeks later a letter from S-Pankki arrived in the mail.  Would this be my PIN number before my actual card arrived?  I opened the letter and to my complete disbelief, it was a rejection letter from S-Pankki.  I had been denied a credit card and there was no explanation.  All that trouble to finally provide the correct identification and then they reject me?  My background includes a solid work history, sufficient monthly steady income, and excellent credit history, including several credit cards (with never actually having used the cards for anything other than monthly convenience (i.e. not using them for the rolling "credit" function)).  I had just been rejected with no reason for a credit card with a 5,000 Euro limit?  I do not have any debts in Finland and I have a job, why was I rejected?  I guess we will never really know as my wife tried to call the bank and request information and all we received was "we do not have an obligation to tell you the reason".  So, you will not help me figure out what to do to get approved, including not being able to confirm if there was some information that the bank perhaps did not have that they needed, so then what I am supposed to do?  I am really at a loss for words.  I am not a student trying to get his first credit card, I have a long work and an excellent credit history and have been rejected.  Could this be that I am trying as a foreigner in Finland?  My wife had no trouble getting her card.  What could possible be different between the two of us, other than our citizenship.  You be the judge.

The next mistrust example comes when simply trying to verify my identity in regards to a potential house loan  application at Nordea bank in Finland.  We didn't get any customer service from S-Pankki in regards to the credit card fiasco, so how would Nordea bank respond when trying to confirm my identify for a loan?  So, I met up with my wife at the Nordea branch in Kamppi in Helsinki.  This time I brought my brand new Finnish driver's license, Finnish (biometric, police issued) residence card and Kela card.  So, would the Finnish driver's license which was lacking at S-Pankki be enough to simply verify myself?  Well, I presented my card and also the other ID's just in case.  The representative went to some back room with my driver's license and then came back and said "We cannot identify you with this, this driver's license was exchanged from a California license, so we now need your US passport as well to verify who you are."  Ha  ha ha, so in S-Pankki the passport was not good enough and they need a Finnish driver's license, now in Nordea the driver's license is not good enough and they need my passport.  This was becoming so ridiculous, and again the customer service person said, "sorry, there is nothing I can do".  So, I guess again, 2 valid ID cards with my picture and both issued by the Finnish police station is not good enough to identify who I am?  What gives?  I am still trying to figure out how to deal with banks in Finland.  Let me know if you have any tips, other than changing my citizenship ;)

The Finns, at least in banks simply have no customer service and do not trust.  Honestly, I don't think these ridiculous rules would be the same in the United States.  Were these simply their arcane rules, or other examples of mistrust of foreigners?  I just don't really appreciate that when I am simply trying to verify my identity or apply for a credit card that I am treated like a small child and have to jump through 5 hoops in order to take care of something so simple.  Hopefully, this will be my last example, as I wait patiently for my re-application for a credit card via S-Pankki.  Maybe the 3rd time is a charm?   :)

Update 23.8.2012 - I was just rejected a second time by S-Pankki again.  This 2nd application only carried a 3,000 Euro credit limit and I attached a full US work history and current employment to the application.  Considering I have worked for the previous 17 years and have solid credit history, this is definitely a case of this bank discriminating based on race or nationality.  If you looking for a bank in Finland, please do not support S-Pankki.

Update 19.9.2012 - Sampo Pankki granted my wife and myself credit cards, lines of credit and a home loan. The customer service rep was very friendly and it was an ease applying for the loans/cards.  Good to know that not every bank in Finland discriminates.  :)

*** Hint - If you are moving to Finland anytime soon and would like to establish a loan or credit card, try Sampo Pankki (recently purchased by the Danske Bank group).  ***

24 comments:

  1. I have had the exact same experience here in Ireland. My id is not good, the proof of address that I give them is not the right one, I don't bring them the right bank statements etc. I think there is a bit in of administration in there that is required for more scrutiny when other nationalities apply for something, but most of it I believe is just mindless bureaucracy. Unfortunately (especially Finnish people) cannot see beyond the rules. If something is not exactly what is requested it's not acceptable, even though it has all the required information. Often as a foreigner you don't have the exact same document to offer as a native person or you just don't know to bring the right one, which will at least slow the process down.

    I do not know, of course everything that might be behind it. It is very frustrating though, and such a waste of everyone's time.

    The business with S-pankki does seem very shady though, I wonder if you could do something about it. It seems ridiculous for them to refuse you

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    Replies
    1. Oh and the very best of luck with Nordea. Even as a Finn I usually always brought both my passport and drivers licence to these things.

      Delete
  2. Katri,

    Thanks so much for your comments. It is a surprise that you had similar difficulties in Ireland. I know what you mean about Finns not being able to see beyond rules. That theme has been frustrating in many other occasions, not just banking. I am still waiting for my re-application with S-Pankki with lowered credit limits, so I should soon get their decision.

    Thanks again for reading my blog!

    Mark

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  3. I know there's an issue getting a cell phone, too - they want you to have lived in Finland for 2 years (to establish credit history) or you have to pay a 500euro deposit. Which seems absurd to me - if I buy a phone outright, and pay for my usage month to month, why would I need to pay such a huge deposit?

    Luckily, my husband's employer has some sort of deal worked out with the local utilities - Nordea and DNA, at least. We were able to get a sim card without the deposit, as long as it went through the company, and we haven't had any issues with Nordea (although we haven't tried for a credit card, and we won't). However, another couple we know (same company) somehow missed the communication about setting up an account at Nordea, and set up an account at OP instead, without the company being involved. Now they have absolutely no online access to their account, and can't get it without have the two years of residence under their belt.

    I think the problem you're probably having is simply that you don't have two years worth of credit history in Finland built up that all the businesses seem to want.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Everybody,
      My name is Ahmad Asnul Brunei, I contacted Mr Osman Loan Firm for a business loan amount of $250,000, Then i was told about the step of approving my requested loan amount, after taking the risk again because i was so much desperate of setting up a business to my greatest surprise, the loan amount was credited to my bank account within 24 banking hours without any stress of getting my loan. I was surprise because i was first fall a victim of scam! If you are interested of securing any loan amount & you are located in any country, I'll advise you can contact Mr Osman Loan Firm via email osmanloanserves@gmail.com

      LOAN APPLICATION INFORMATION FORM
      First name......
      Middle name.....
      2) Gender:.........
      3) Loan Amount Needed:.........
      4) Loan Duration:.........
      5) Country:.........
      6) Home Address:.........
      7) Mobile Number:.........
      8) Email address..........
      9) Monthly Income:.....................
      10) Occupation:...........................
      11)Which site did you here about us.....................
      Thanks and Best Regards.
      Derek Email osmanloanserves@gmail.com



      Hello Everybody,
      My name is Ahmad Asnul Brunei, I contacted Mr Osman Loan Firm for a business loan amount of $250,000, Then i was told about the step of approving my requested loan amount, after taking the risk again because i was so much desperate of setting up a business to my greatest surprise, the loan amount was credited to my bank account within 24 banking hours without any stress of getting my loan. I was surprise because i was first fall a victim of scam! If you are interested of securing any loan amount & you are located in any country, I'll advise you can contact Mr Osman Loan Firm via email osmanloanserves@gmail.com

      LOAN APPLICATION INFORMATION FORM
      First name......
      Middle name.....
      2) Gender:.........
      3) Loan Amount Needed:.........
      4) Loan Duration:.........
      5) Country:.........
      6) Home Address:.........
      7) Mobile Number:.........
      8) Email address..........
      9) Monthly Income:.....................
      10) Occupation:...........................
      11)Which site did you here about us.....................
      Thanks and Best Regards.
      Derek Email osmanloanserves@gmail.com

      Delete
  4. I believe the reason why you didn't get credit/debit card was because you haven't worked a full year in Finland. At least I didn't get a credit card for that reason

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  5. Hi everyone, there reason wasn't a valid reason why I didn't get my credit card from S-Pankki. It shouldn't have anything to do with that I haven't worked in Finland for a full year. My wife applied for her S-Pankki card as soon as we arrived and they granted her a card. Our work situations are similar and neither of us have any credit blemishes. They simply are afraid to issue a card to a Non-Finn, and probably don't trust them or might think that they will use the credit card then leave the country. Another American friend of mine was rejected by S-Pankki.

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    Replies
    1. LOL I just came accross your post..im married and have all the proper stuff..s pankki can kiss my behind..they took forever..op let me open but no online services yet. i feel like they think im a criminal lool

      Delete
  6. Even some Finns have problems getting a credit card from S-Pankki. I hear they weren't very careful with credit cards and have since learned to have more strict rules for applying.

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  7. Hi Anonymous,

    I am not so sure how accurate that is. My wife applied for her S-Pankki card as soon as we got to Finland and was granted it with no problems. She has no better credit history or work history in Finland than myself. Sure, S-Pankki may need to start being careful issuing credit cards, but discriminating against foreigners is not OK. Well, good news is that Sampo Pankki issued me a credit card and a home loan now with no problems. Not every bank in Finland is ignorant.

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  8. Mark sorry to hear about your trouble! We (American couple) lived in Turku Finland for 4 years and just came home to Chicagoland this past summer. I had no trouble opening a bank account at Nordea and getting a credit/debit card from S-Pankki but my wife had a hell of a time with S-Pankki and never got a card there. I never went to Sampo but I heard it was pretty good.

    How long have you been there and will you stay a long time?

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  9. Hi Anonymous,

    Glad to hear that you had a good experience in Finland. We have been living here for 16 months now and will probably stay for 2 more years.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow, After living in Finland for 4.5 years and having a nordea account I confidently went today to Nordea to apply for a mastercard. I spent an hour answering questions while the charming lady filled in details on her pc. Then she called some Nordea Finance to approve and alas they rejected it pronto. I work at a restaurant and it is one of the oldest and most expensive ones in Helsinki. The reason given was that I don't qualify because the restaurant hotel business is not doing good these days economically. What should i do? A part of me says ask them for a written denial letter then go complain to FINE.fi for discrimination. Another part of me says apply again. I am just bursting with vexation right now at the bank's refusal to assist a customer whose salary goes to their banks every 15 days.

    It is such a torture that a foreigner has to be treated this way by Nordea in Finland. :/

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  11. Hey mate! This is just my opinion, but fuck S-Pankki. Really, they're not even an actual bank. The S-group generally is just an oversized grocery store as a result of decades of oligopoly in the Finnish retailing market. Now, they don't know where to put all their money so they got an idea to establish a bank...Ridicilous! Also, it seems very peculiar that they asked a drivers license for ID since it is now being debated that the drivers license should NOT be a valid ID and instead they are saying everyone should get one these "European ID cards".

    Anyway, aren't you able to get a credit card from Visa or Mastercard directly, without the Finnish banks interfering? The Other Me, I think you should make a complain about discrimination and same to you markcat. Because I think that's all discrimination. Finns get the credit card A LOT EASIER. Hell, even I have a credit card and I'm still just a student!

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  12. I just got rejected by S-Pankki. I will go and ask why. I chose S-Pankki just because there is no monthly fee. I even have another credit card in Denmark. I hope I could get the answer for the why.

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  13. Hi Qianting,

    It is unfortunate, but not your fault. S-Pankki discriminates against all foreigner no matter who you are. They essentially will not grant a credit card to anyone who is not Finnish. They don't care if you have 4 credit cards in different countries with huge balances, they just will not do it.

    Hi Aaron - I eventually got a credit card with both British Airways ( got it in 30 seconds on the web with no problems) and a Finnish credit card through Sampo Pankki, who are now Danske Bank. I find it interesting the only bank who gave me a credit card joined a Danish bank. :) I say screw the discriminatory Finns in the Banking industry. They are so ignorant about this stuff. The irony is that had several credit cards before in the USA with 20k limits and S-Pankki rejected me for 3k.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Problems faced by a non-EU foreign exchange student include:

    - Not allowed by S-Market to make a purchase on my foreign credit card because it was over €40 and I did not have a card with my social security number on it.
    - Refused sale of alcohol with my residence permit that is issued by the Finnish government, has date of birth and biometric identification details stored because it is not "classified as official ID"
    - Paying Sonera €500 in deposit to obtain a sim card on a contract because I was a foreigner with no Finnish credit history.
    - Nordea allowing me to have a bank account, but the Visa Electron card was not allowed for online purchases (e.g. for flights) because I was a foreigner and the same goes for being denied Internet banking so my only option to pay my phone bill was to go in to a Nordea branch, use the machine that was essentially a computer for internet banking and pay for that "service."
    - Being denied an ID card with a social security number which would've eliminated all of the above problems because the Mastraatti would not put my address down as permanent as an exchange student, and the police would not issue the card without a permanent address.

    These barriers are totally unacceptable in this day and age and in the developed modern society of Finland. It seems to be discrimination against anyone that is not part of the EU!!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. - In Finland many shops disallows payments of more than 40 or 50 euros without ID. Has happened to me although I'm Finn.
      - There is actually just two accepted IDs in Finland: Passport and Henkilökortti (Personal ID card). Even Finnish issued driving licenses are not considered as valid, because the of application process typically involving driving school, although commonly shops, pubs etc. accepts it as a valid ID (since for lot of Finns it's the only they have).
      - Just having a Finnish ID will not solve most of those problems. Since phone carriers, banks, insurance companies etc. are private companies who wants to make sure they get their money and don't get in the troubles.
      - Hitting the "law/rules says" barrier is not that uncommon, most of the times it forces you to file a lot of applications to different places so you get decisions that are required to process the other application and there are no shortcuts (you can't pay someone to push your application through without all needed attachments). Sometimes few people finds themselves getting stuck in loop, where you would need a decision from A in order to get decisions from B, but A requires to get the decision from B before they can give their decisions and there is noway out before the law/rules changes.

      Some phone carriers will not let you even buy a prepaid plan without ID, in order to prevent their contracts being used "anonymously" for criminal activities. Some insurance companies forces you to get official translator (or even refuses to sell insurances), to make sure you can't blame them from explaining things incorrectly.

      Banks, insurance companies, phone carriers etc. have HUGE differences on their policies and they effect both Finns and foreigners, so if you get rejected from the first try another. Luckily there is at least three big players on all above mentioned fields. Phone carriers: DNA, Elisa/Saunalahti, Sonera. Banks: Sampo pankki, Nordea, Osuuspankki, S-Pankki and tons of small ones. Insurance companies: IF, Lähitapiola, Fennia and quite a few small ones.

      General TIP for all (including Finns) living in Finland: First check you options and what they offer before making a contract. For example: Elisa/Saunalahti also requires deposit, but it's 200€, not 500€ like Sonera. Where other bank refuses to grant you mortgage, others will give it to you even with low interests. If you can't get the credit card from Finnish banks, try get the visa/master card combined to the Finnair Plus (One world mileage card) or SAS EuroBonus (Star alliance mileage card) you will even earn mileages every-time you use them, which will save you money when ordering those plane tickets.

      Delete
  15. I (as Finn with clean credit history, long career, good income etc.) couldn't get 3.000€ credit limit from S-Pankki, where Osuuspankki didn't see any problem on granting that for me. S-pankki is also very quick to cancel your cards without any notice if you cross the limit even by few cents. I bought some plane tickets on a next day after paying the last months credit and their system had not registered that payment arriving yet and I crossed the limit by 52 cents, no matter that I used to pay the whole credit depth (not just the bill) in the end of every month my card was canceled without any notice.

    My ID has been rejected of being wrong kind for applying some things in Finland. In past I have been rejected as being too young, having not long enough career, having wrong kind of working contract and having wrong kind of employee, not having right kind of education etc. from many many things. It's bloody frustrating, but they are private companies who have choose not to serve that kind of customers, since they evaluate the risks vs. benefits are not favorable, but usually there are others who will serve you (all can't afford not to).

    I lived a year in Japan and there my name and my signature was not acceptable to put in the contracts. They don't accept roman alphabets, just like we don't accept theirs on our contracts, so I needed to roughly translate my name to their alphabets. Also they don't sign contracts, they stamp them with personalized round stamp (which surprisingly where not available for my name), so it usually required a lot of time and phone calls before it was okey to use signature instead of stamp (of course it still had to fit to the tiny little square box designed for the stamp).

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  16. Omg, sooo sorry to read about your problems and rejections. I have been only rejected by Nordea, no problems with others banks.I don´t know about S-pankki, I only took s-etukortti from them Guess it was easy for me, because I´m an EU-citizen and married to a Finn. I´ve heard expats from outside the EU have much more difficulties here.
    Keep up your sisu, it helps quite often.

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    1. Hi Anonymous,

      After getting the rejections from S-pankki, I had a great experience from Danske Bank (formerly Sampo pankki). They gave us credit cards with good limits and a good home loan. They had great customer service as well.

      Delete
  17. Hi , I have also negative experience with S-Pankki. I live in Finland, 7 years work history as a senior global manager in a multinational company, EU citizen, solid credit history, have a Finnish driving licence, etc. They also rejected me. No reasoning. The credit limit I wanted was 2.000 EUR. Not a big money.

    I do not suggest S-pankki for the foreigners. They discriminate us. They do not have English website, lacking English speaker clerks, no English contract... so probably Danske is better, but I have Nordea for close to a decade. Even though after 5 years of being their customer they have changed their rules and did not allow me to access my own money with my passport that I used to open the account. Exactly the same they copied when I opened the account. This is why I have Finnish driving licence.. Ridiculous.

    I don't think it would be better in my own country, so real no hard feelings. Only annoyed.

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  18. Worth pointing out that Finns, international students, and other immigrants in Canada experience similar restrictions in reverse; unless you have nationally valid ID, and documented history, banks, phone companies, and housing are an irritating mess. It's part of moving to a different country; you are an adult blank slate, there are no records on you, and therefore you are not given trust until time has passed with you in the country. Welcome to being an immigrant anywhere, it's not endemic to Finland. The only difference is that immigration based countries like Canada and the US have more workarounds and pathways of guiding immigrants through the system; the hoops are basically the same.

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