When arriving in Tbilisi, Georgia for the first time, we were astonished by the number of payment machines everywhere in the city. Every bank has a lot of their own machines and there are also bank-independent pay-boxes everywhere. All of them looked much less sturdy and secure than the ones we have seen in other countries, but obviously quantity matters here over quality.
Before using the payment machines, we thought it's great that paying bills in made so easy until we paid our first utility bill: gas for 4.5 GEL. The machine took 0.5 GEL for every transaction, which in this case was more than 10% of the charge. On top of that, they charged some kind of tax.
Today we had to make the second round of payments. This time there was a communal garbage collection fee of 2.5 GEL and GWP water charge of 3.15 GEL. The transaction fee would have been 20+ percent, which feels more like a mafia cover fee than a service charge.
Can you combine all bills and pay them at once? Yes, but each bill is charged the same 1% fee or minimum 0.5 GEL. How about going to the bank and paying the bills there or using online banking? All these options work, but the charges are exactly the same, like in every good cartel.
Utility costs are relatively low in Tbilisi, but paying the bills is a total rip-off. Locals don't seem to mind and they keep repeating that it's just 0.5 GEL. Well, if it's 0.5 GEL per bill every month for the rest of your life, it's quite a lot, eh?
We tried to pay the bill directly to the companies to avoid the fees. With KazTransGas-TBILISI it worked. You can go to their office in Mitskevichi str.N18a and pay it there in cash using their own, customised Bank of Georgia payment machine. Just select Utilities, then Air (yes, they have translated Gas to Air), insert your bills into the machine and voilà.
Paying the electricity bill was more complicated. We barged into a Telasi office telling them we would like to pay the bill in cash. Their answer was "not possible", but they seemed to understand our argument that there should be an option to pay the bill without extra charges, or otherwise the charges must be included in invoices and price lists. We stopped by in many banks checking their fees, and finally discovered that Telasi electricity bill can be paid in cash and without fees in TBC bank, but it has to be their own automate inside a branch, not the ones they have on the streets.
For other bills (water and cleaning), there is a way to minimise the charges by paying several months in advance. Each company has an account for all of their customers, and you can check the balance of your accounts from any paybox or bank payment machine using your customer number that is printed on your bill. Simply deposit a sum of your choosing to your account, and they will use the money to cover your future bills. The minimum transaction fee is 0.5 GEL, so if you pay up to 50 GEL at a time, you will minimise your support for the local payment mafia. This means that you will be paying 20 months' of waste collection or water charges at once, but you lose only 1%, which is pretty acceptable at least compared to the standard 20% fee.
Have you managed to pay your water or waste collection fees without extra charges in some other way? We would love to hear about your experiences!
Last bumped by Anonymous on Wed Jul 26, 2017 6:09 pm.