I was going to write a post about the complexities of Swedish personal banking but then I noticed that Kate (the previous Expat blogger) wrote on this very subject a few months ago. She wrote about how advanced the Swedish personal banking system is. I have to agree with her, it’s pretty cool and sophisticated but it’s only now that I am starting to understand how to access my money and pay bills. Up until lately, I have found it rather frustrating.
Kate wrote “Internet culture defines the world of personal finance here. You do everything with your online banking site, from paying bills to sending money to friends to authorizing governmental forms. And you do it all with a little instrument called the “dosa” (due-sah).”
I had never heard the word “dosa” because my bank calls it a “kortläsare” (card reader). I thought at first that the word Kate used was a regional word, one that they use down in Skåne, where she lived before she moved back to the US. But my friends here in Stockholm said the word is also used here. Guess I just never heard it.
The card reader is given to you by the bank when you open your account. It’s a small gizmo that you insert a card into, with a numerical keyboard and a USB cord. It’s about the size of a small cell phone, only thinner.
As Kate pointed out, everything is done online here. The fax machine and paper checks are things of the past; all paychecks are paid directly into bank accounts; and I rarely even see people play cash for anything anymore. Even the person in front of me buying a soda at 7-11 for 20 kronor is most likely to use her debit card. You even pay back your friends for that night on the town by sending money directly from your account to theirs.
Kate thought it easy to use the card reader to conduct banking transactions. For my part, only recently has it finally become easy for me to do this. This, after 10 or so months of frustration at not understanding how to access my own money.
Here’s what’s confusing: You have both your bank debit card and a special bank card that goes in the card reader. Sometimes you use the latter in the card reader and sometimes the former. To access your account on a computer, you need to follow a number of steps. You don’t just casually log in online but must also use the card reader and the special bank card to prove that you have the right to access your account. It’s all in the name of security and I am grateful my money is safe but…it just feels like it is sometimes safe from me as well.
To start the process for accessing my bank account (I imagine different banks have slight variations), I go to my bank’s internet site. Then I enter my Swedish personal number. Kate noted that this is “a 12-digit number equivalent to a Social Security number.”
Except that sometimes it’s not.
Sometimes the personal number, which starts with the year you were born is written with the century numbers (for most of you readers, I am assuming it is “19” and sometimes it is not. In other words, sometimes it is a 10-digit number and sometimes it is a 12-digit number. I find that 50% of the time it isn’t clear when entering your personal number how many digits they want and you have to rely on trial and error. My bank wants to have 12 digits.
So…I navigate to my bank’s website. Then it asks me whether I am going to use my card reader with or without a USB cord attaching it to the computer. Tech Support has explained to me the different numerous times the impact this has—something to do with how much functionality you can affect once you are allowed onto the site—but I never seem to fully understand. No matter. I tell the site that I am going to use the card reader wirelessly.
I enter my personal number on the website. The website generates a code. I enter the code in the card reader. The card reader asks for my bank card code (this is different from my debit card code. Whah! Then the card reader generates a response code that I must enter onto the website, after pressing a special “login” button on the card reader.)
And finally…I am onto the bank’s website and can see my account. On the website I can enter payees that I can then pay from either the website or from my cell phone if I approve that functionality for that payee.
Kate wrote that she likes there being “no password to remember, which I like because I tend to forget them. I know it sounds stupid, but I have two bank accounts in the US, one in Sweden, two Social Security numbers, two blogs, a credit card, and four email addresses. I get confused.”
Maybe her bank had a different process than mine (though they sound similar) but I find there are a whole lot of pin codes, etc. to remember and one must remember which code goes to which card. This requires more brain cells than I usually have available while trying to pay a bill!
Wait! What’s my password again?
It’s a different process when you pay for something with your debit card online. There you must also bring out the card reader but use your debit card in it instead of the special bank card. The codes are different and instead of using the “login button on the card reader, you use the “buy” button to confirm that you are authorized to make a purchase. The bank is ensuring that you are the debit card’s owner and can rightfully make your purchase.
So…now I understand how to use the dosa or card reader and I can access my bank account and pay for things online. It’s a relief. I am grateful for the bank’s security of my account. It’s interesting to remember that it was quite challenging for quite some time to understand how to make it work….