Schools First in Abu Dhabi, oh the horror

Schools First hasn’t worked well for my wife and me so far. We have had nothing but headaches while trying to manage our finances overseas. We get declined at the ATMs, online, and in store. If I could start this trip again, the one thing I would change is using Schools First.

You’ve reached your daily limit

You have no idea how many times we’ve been told that we can’t purchase something because we’ve reached our daily limit of $2500. Now, you’re probably thinking, BALLER!


Throwing out $2500 daily would be a dream. I’d cure starvation in a small country or something. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to spend $2500 before being declined.

So far, we have tried to purchase:

  • A laptop
  • Digital camera and lens (valued at more than the cost of everything else combined…my bad)
  • Cell phone (Bae dropped hers the day before we got here)
  • Three piece living room set
  • Washer and dryer
  • Organic fruit and vegetable delivery
  • Groceries

At one point, they declined everything except Bae’s phone and the washer/dryer. To pay for my camera, I had to choose Pay On Delivery* and withdraw $500** per day from my account.

*Listen, Linda. People out here trust you SO MUCH! They allowed me to purchase something and pay for it when it arrived. No lie, I paid for a ridiculously expensive camera in cash. The driver and I both had a hard time counting it!
**$500 is the daily limit for ATM withdrawals.

International Calls

I have called schools first more times that I have called my mom and dad combined. I’ve been on the phone with them more than Bae’s longest call with her dad or mom.

Yesterday, I snapped and started yelling.

Don’t get me wrong. I felt like crap. Rhonda was a very nice person, and I apologized a dozen times, but here’s what happened.

Schools First Story Time

Bae took a trip to the ATM to help me reach my $500 per day quota. She tried to withdraw 1800 AED (valued at $515 that day). Declined. She reduced it to 1300 AED and decided to cancel the transaction. (Here is where the problem arises). Then, she tried 1700 AED because she realized that the conversion fee on that day was too high, so 1800 AED was too much. All she needed to do was type 1700 AED. Still declined.

Why was she declined for 1700 AED? When she hit the CANCEL button, Schools First acknowledged it as a withdrawal. We lost $343.

And I lost IT.

Fortunately, Rhonda was super sweet. After I went all the way in for three minutes, she refunded my money. I still feel bad for going off, though.

Why did this happen?

Before we moved to the UAE, we contacted Schools First and let them know about our new adventure. We updated our address regularly, and we called constantly. Still, we were heard or saw decline everywhere we went. Unfortunately, this happened because they don’t have reliable systems set up for travelers.

On another note, none of this happened with my Wescom account.

Me: Hey, uh, bruh…I’m moving to a different country and I need to know that you won’t cut off my card.

Wescom Homie: Yeah? Where to?

Me: The UAE.

Wescom Homie: Nice! (Types) Have fun.

Me: Thanks. Do I need to give you an address?

Wescom Homie: Uh. If you want.

Me: You don’t need it?

Wescom Homie: Just swipe your card, bro.

Me: Thanks, man.

Wescom: Got you.

I’d like you to know that I haven’t been declined once with Wescom. My problems with Schools First started on the second day of our trip when I tried to order room service in the hotels, and the problems are still going strong. As a result, I plan to shift our money over to my personal account. Bae is just going to have to sign my signature on a few documents.

I’m sure people have had a different experience. I’ll try to find someone with a positive outlook and share that when I get the chance.

Oh well

Everything worked out in the end. We have what we wanted, though we still need quite a few things. Now that my camera arrived, I’ll be working to set up my photography studio and officially change careers. Tiyaanah starts work tomorrow, so she’ll write the next post. (I hope. Hey, bae!)

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