Pitfalls of a Developing Cash Economy

by Dual Income No Kids on October 23, 2008 · 0 comments

Most readers of dinksfinance know that I’m working abroad in Afghanistan. Well, its probably less clear to most of you that between I’ve blogged in the past about the cash economy when traveling. This has had it’s inconveniences over the last year of living in Kabul. With moving over to my new position, along with a new place, this has just been bumped up a notch.

Now this means that I will join the ranks of other friends who have had to deal with getting large amounts of cash in a place where it isn’t easy to get money.

Here are some of the things fighting against me:

1) Many banks, including ING Direct, don’t offer international wire services on standard checking accounts. (We are looking into PNC in case I can direct funds through James’ account)

2) I could set up an account in Afghanistan, but I couldn’t actually get money to that account; most accounts won’t do money transfers in or out of Afghanistan for security reasons. Thus, if I was able to set up an account, I might not be able to get my money out if things turned for the worse. My office tried to wire me funds from their Afghan account and it was rejected.

3) In the end this means that I’m likely to have bring cash in with me, for three months of rent up front. At $1,800 a month for rent, this means I’ll need about $6k – minimum – for three months.

4) Getting $6k here also isn’t that easy, as I have an ING account that doesn’t have a physical branch. That means I need to figure out what my daily limit is, where free ATMs are here in Portland, and then pump the machines.

5) Traveling with cash. This is never fun. I’ve traveled with up to $25k in cash, so it won’t be a first, but always a bit nerve racking. At least once I get to Kabul I’ll be handing it all over to my housemate, so I won’t have to worry about cash there.

6) Doing all of this still doesn’t solve it all. Once I arrive in Kabul I’ll need to start pumping the ATM there. Machines there often don’t have money, and have a limit of $200/day as a result. This means that to pay for my rent I will need to go to a machine 10 days out of the month, resulting in both $4 ATM fees for each withdrawal, and the added security risk of going to the bank every day. This both makes it quite apparent to my driver and so forth that I’m getting out lots of money, but also to those in the area of the ATM. There are only two ATMs that my card works at, so there isn’t much switching things around.

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