Friday, February 19, 2016

"Relax home banking" not all that relaxing yet, but it's very secure

I spent nearly two hours in the Banca di Pescia yesterday, applying for a bank card and learning how to use my online “home banking” account. That’s what they call online banking in Italy—not “banca da casa.” They use the English words, perhaps because they only have a word for bank (banca) but not for banking. My bank has partnered with a service called Relax Banking, and it should be convenient to use an online account, because I will then be able to access my account when I am in the States.

Security at Italian banks is taken very seriously. To enter any bank, one must pass through a machine operated glassed-in entryway, often a revolving door, that only allows one person at a time. Presumably, if a thief tried to rob the bank, he would have to wait in the revolving door to get out, and then an alert bank manager could lock him in and call for the polizia.

Online banking also has extra security features. I essentially have to use four different user-name and password combinations to log in a pay a bill. This caused some confusion the first time I tried it at home, because the initial log-in page only has fields for three entries. I had meant to try this out last fall, when I was in Italy for two weeks to finalize our home purchase, but I ran out of time. When I tried it in Gig Harbor, I wasn’t able to get in. The first field was for user name, which was clearly marked on my instructions. However, which of the three passwords that I had should I enter in the next two spaces? I tried various combinations but didn’t get it right, so the program locked me out.

How could I get a new temporary password to try again? My Italian banker said he could ask online services to send me a new password, but it would come on my Italian cell phone, which didn’t work in the United States. I decided to wait until I came back to Italy so that I could get some one-on-one help.

Cell phone in hand, I met with Sara, a clerk at my bank, who showed me which three codes went in which three fields. She also told me that all letters must be in capitals, which is probably the reason my earlier attempts failed. The fourth password, the password disponitiva, is only needed when I actually make a transaction, such as paying a bill or transferring money. We tried it out by paying two of the utility bills which I had found in my mailbox, and even Sara came up with an error message when she entered the password disponitiva.

She tried several times and then called online services. After some time, the technician on the phone said he would send a new temporary password to my phone, and we could start from the beginning. I had to come up with new passwords, but this time it worked. I was glad to see that I was not the only one who had trouble using the system. I took careful notes, so I think I can do it all myself when the time comes again.

After that, she filled out the forms so I can get a bank card, and I withdrew money to pay for some electrical work Lucy and I had done on our house. It’s a time-consuming process to establish all the services needed for living in another country. Living here is definitely not all dolce vita. But I did all the banking and contracting for the electrical work without the need for an interpreter, so I can mentally allocate the hours I spent as language lessons, making it seem like a more worthwhile use of time.

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