I've already written about the shenanigans I faced in getting a credit card from the Chinatrust Commercial Bank in Taiwan (中國信託商業銀行). I was told I couldn't apply because I was a "foreigner." As this happened just inside the doors of the Chung Ho (中和) Costco, the company Chinatrust was cooperating with on a particular credit card I wanted, I simply wrote to them in the US and asked them if they really wanted to have their brand associated with a bank that discriminates against out-groups. The full story is here: http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2009/11/foreigners-getting-credit-card-in.html. Obviously, Costco did not like the fact that the Chinatrust Commercial Bank was discriminating against out-groups in Taiwan and, a couple weeks later, I had a Chinatrust Commercial Bank / Costco credit card in hand.
Today, I experienced another hurdle with this silly bank. When I tried to purchase a Taiwan High Speed Rail ticket online, using my Chinatrust credit card, my transaction failed because I did not have a Chinese name on my credit card. Here's how it went down: After loading up the English Web site for the Taiwan High Speed, I input the required information: date, time, destination, name, ID and agreed to the terms. When I keyed in my credit card number and its expiration date however a Chinatrust verification box automatically sprung up, in Chinese. I found this a bit strange, especially since I was working on the English Web site for the Taiwan High Speed Rail, but I started to fill it out. The box called for my birthday, the expiration date of my card and my name, which I could not input. Why? Well, it told me to type in "all three characters of my name." This was impossible as the name on my credit card is in English. So, basically, this is it: the only Chinatrust cardholders allowed to purchase HSR tickets online are the ones with Chinese names on their cards.
I have already complained to Taiwan High Speed Rail about this. But the incident gets me thinking. After Costco forced Chinatrust to give me a credit card, the bank told me that it didn't discriminate against "foreigners." When I told them I could name lots of friends that had been turned down at their bank simply because they were "foreigners," the rep. handling my case informed me that I was imagining things. I'm still waiting for the statistics I requested on "foreign" credit card holders at Chinatrust Bank because I don't think I am. I don't understand this either: Chinatrust Commercial Bank says that it does not discriminate against "foreigners." If so, why doesn't their box, which automatically pops up on the Taiwan High Speed Rail's English Web site, allow for "foreigners" to input their "foreign" names? Why is it just in Chinese? Hint: it hasn't occurred to Chinatrust Commercial Bank in Taiwan (中國信託商業銀行) to have an English pop up because they do not have "foreign" customers. Cross out folks like me because we just don't count. We slipped through the cracks and are infinitesimal quirks in how they are rounding things out.
I'm going to check back with the Taiwan High Speed in a week to get this sorted out. The reason I don't bother complaining to Chinatrust is because I do not trust them. If you want results with this bank, you have to appeal to their partners, like I did when I wrote to Costco in the US. I'll just close by saying I've observed a trend:
1. If I point out that it is hard for "foreigners" to get credit cards in Taiwan to a "foreigner," the explanation I'll normally get is "that's because Taiwan's banks are racist, xenophobic, etc."
2.If I point out that it is hard for "foreigners" to get credit cards in Taiwan to a "Taiwanese person," the explanation I'll normally get is that the banks are absolutely not racist or xenophobic, but rather because "'foreigners' are a flight risk." I find this kind of reasoning disingenuous. Every single person who applies for a credit card is a flight risk. If you don't believe that Taiwanese people go bankrupt, run away from their debts, etc., then read the news. Or, talk to a local. Debt collection in Taiwan is just as big a headache as it is anywhere.
I also believe the flight risk explanation to be disingenuous for another reason. I think it's offered up because a majority of Taiwanese people want to categorically deny that racism exists in Taiwan.