Banking in Mexico is not dissimilar from the US other than the potential exorbitant fees assessed for services rendered. Exchange rates are competitive; I prefer utilizing credit unions in the US for personal banking (ATM transactions) and commercial banks for transfer purposes.
One must be a permanent resident or citizen to open an account. Borrowing costs are higher thus deposit interest rates and credit card/loans/mortgage rates etc. are likewise.
Some folks fear depositing their $ in Mexico; I have banked with Banco del Bajío for years and been very satisfied.
Everyone we know here has problems with banks. We chose HSBC because we could maintain accounts in both countries with the same bank. As it happens, the Mexican version and the US version are not really related. We have found that transferring funds between the accounts (which was the main reason for having them) is not any easier than using a third party, and the third party gives a better exchange rate. And we have "premier" accounts with HSBC!
We have purchased CDs through HSBC at 8.2 percent, which is a very good rate. The minimum purchase was $500K pesos. Of course you have to factor in the risk of inflation or currency fluctuation, so it is not wise to keep very large quantities in the Mexican bank.
The worst problem is customer service. It hardly exists, and we spend inordinate amounts of time on the phone due to unpredictable problems with accessing the website, etc. And they are horrendous with informing customers about what is going on. We waited for months for debit cards and had to keep calling Mexico City to find out what was causing the delay. They kept asking for new copies of our immigration cards, which we provided at least a half dozen times, along with copies of passports, etc. It is very annoying! We have heard similar stories about most of the other banks in town as well.
We looked into getting a Mexican credit card through HSBC, but one has to keep a large sum of money in the bank for at least six months before that is available. It just wasn't worth it, and our US credit cards work with most (though not all) purchases here in Mexico.
On the up side, there are no ATM charges at HSBC, and that includes when we use our US debit card to withdraw funds. Also there is an English speaking private banker at the Mérida premier office that has been very generous with his time in trying to resolve the ongoing issues we have with the bank.
Banking in Mexico means changing your dollars to pesos. Yes they give a good return on your savings but the peso is volatile. It has lost 50% in the last 20 years. Seasoned investors are too afraid of this economy to put serious dollars here in their portfolio. I can get cash at the ATM 24 hours a day. I have my limit bumped up while I am under construction at my house. I can get $2000 USD/day. If I need $10K I go 5 days in a row. I am getting ready to buy a new car here in Sonora and don't know if I will take cash or do a transfer from the US. There is no reason to have a Mexican bank unless you have a business here, in my opinion.
Our experiences have been very different from yours. I'm sure it comes down to the quality of people we each deal with. We also had Premier accounts with HSBC US and Mexico. We opened a basic Mexican checking account, from the US, before we ever visited INM. To use their "Global Transfer" facility might be the worst way to exchange money. Right off the top they are going to charge you 3%. If there is an advantage using that service is that it is instantaneous and you will not have to wait 3 business days for your funds. We closed our HSBC US account shortly after moving to Mexico. At that point we had already finished our business with INM (RP), opened investment accounts and received a great credit card (all in Mexico). Our free HSBC credit card is about on par with a Platinum level American Express card.
In my life I have never paid credit card interest anywhere, nor have i paid un-reimbursed bank fees.
Yes at one point perhaps 6 months back HSBC changed their Web interface and we also had problems - as did our local HSBC branch employees. We all worked through it together and since everything is going smoothly.
I prefer to leave some money in a money market investment account at HSBC (gets around 6.3% at the moment). But it is much more liquid. I can sell a piece of the fund and it is immediately available - rather than locking up monies for a fixed term.
Just about everything we do in Mexico we do twice (for redundancy). So - we also have an account with Banamex. There we have a Pagare which we renew every January. That is the only time we visit that bank.
Before I forget - if you have a Mexican credit card or debit card and you do not use it - it may be closed. You need to at least use the card to check your balance once every couple months or so. My wife had an 'additional credit card' at HSBC she never used. First time she went to use it we found out the hard way.
We do have a US based brokerage which lets us wire money to HSBC. We haven't done that in quite some time. There are no fees and I have 'standing orders' - so I can just call them to execute a wire transfer with no new paperwork. That is kind of an interesting setup because in the past they have actually helped us get a better exchange rate while on the phone. A much better exchange rate than you might get at an ATM. They 'see' the market and can predict what is about to happen - kind of like - hold on, hold on, NOW ! When you buy a house in Mexico that kind of service can save you thousands. Of course in an hour the market might move against you :-)
I use Intercam Banco. They have a god online utility bill paying system once it is setup. They are after the gringo market so extremely competitive and geared to our expectations. Account and debit card system completed in 10 days with only 2 visits to customer service manager.
Valid point that the dollar/peso relationship has been volatile over the years - but not so much for say the last 3 years. For us - we have kind of cost averaged into our pesos - so take my wife's SS deposits. Some months we get more pesos than others. But also - the US Treasury gives that money to Banixco (who makes a very favorable currency exchange) which puts the pesos into HSBC.
The other point not touched on - and I will grant you that I am a worry wart - but is diversity. I actually sleep better at night knowing that if something crazy were to happen in our world, we do not have all our eggs in one basket...
We bought in 2001, our MX lawyer told us to never open a MX bank acct. We bank through Charles Schwab, bill pay and ATM free, refund end of each mo. MX banks have a lot of issues, most ex Pat's that do open bank acct, usually go back to US banking.
We lived happily for 13 years in Mexico, and became Residente Permanente, bought & furnished two homes and a new car, all with just our USA banking. Transfers are easy for the largest purchases, while 'plastic' or checks were also occasionally convenient. Local utilities can be paid at grocery & convenience stores; even at Walmart, or in person at Telmex or CFE cash machines, etc. Mexican banks are not very "user friendly", and you might benefit from visiting one, and just sitting in the lobby and observing the lines and waiting times. That is the easy part!!!
... Then I will just add this. If you have a normal bank account which invests in CETES, CEDES etc - the financial institution is going to withhold something like 1.24% in Mexican government taxes - which most people will never recoup. It is the cost of doing business. So a bank which purports 8.0% interest will actually yield something like 6.76%.
But wait - it gets worse. If you are a US citizen you very well may need to report the interest earned to them as well.
Someone should write the definitive book on expat investing in Mexico. And it should not be written by someone who once lived in Mexico years ago nor someone who has followed the advise of a lawyer (of all people) many many years ago. It also probably shouldn't be written by someone, who at this point, is starting to feel more Mexican than American.
Trouble is - virtually everyone's situation is going to vary.
I agree banking in Mexico is not overly “user friendly” but many of the complaints posted are a result not of the inherent nature of banking in Mexico.
A return of 6.76% from a MX T-bill (certainly a $ market account) even factoring in a tax of 1.24% is undeniably a superior rate of return. Any IRS compliance issues are not due to fault of the Mexican banking system.
Peso/dollar volatility??? This dialogue concerns banking in Mexico, NOT playing the currency market – big difference! Unless you are hedging against the dollar, what is the purpose of moving $ back & forth between foreign bank accounts?
Buy pesos with dollars when pesos are discounted & cheap. Who cares where it's trading at against the dollar if it's remaining in Mexico? If skittish about foreign markets, keep your dollars in the U.S. and sleep well at night.
I execute transfers between USBank and Banco del Bajío and the process is completed in minutes at a low fee and a very competitive exchange rate.
But many of the complaints ARE the result of inherent flaws in Mexican banking. When service personnel in a premiere branch cannot determine what a problem is when trying to communicate with Mexico City, there is an inherent problem. There are reasons why security measures are very strict in Mexico - fraud is a continual problem - but there is either inadequate training of personnel or a serious problem with communications at several of the banks with which I am familiar.
It is true that IRS compliance is not to be laid at the feet of anything in Mexico, but it is still (obviously) a consideration when depositing money in an investment vehicle at a Mexican bank.
As for the peso/dollar exchange rate, it is also (obviously) a concern to anyone who has accounts in both countries, and even to those who do not, since it affects them when they need to exchange. It has nothing to do with "hedging" or "playing currency markets", and no one said anything about moving money "back and forth".
But your comments about the exchange rate are not only snide, but absurd. Anyone who transfers money needs to watch the exchange rate. Obviously one transfers when the dollar is stronger, but it is essential to gauge how much to transfer, understanding that the rate will fluctuate. By watching the rate we can decide if it is more advantageous to pay by credit card or by cash or check from our Mexican accounts. That's why one would care what the dollar is trading at, even if money is sitting in the bank here.
Finding a different bank? (Another flippant and uninformed response.) We are still looking for one that does not have the issues we have encountered with HSBC. And we have lots of input - not just from friends, but it is a very common topic on local Facebook pages. There are pros and cons with each of the banks available.
To me it seems that many of your complaints are the result of inherent flaws in YOUR Mexican banking experience.
We have had two failed banking relationships in Mexico - and we moved on.
As for HSBC - we have had the same woman help us since we arrived in Mexico. Maybe we are lucky in that she has contacts in Mexico City on speed-dial. She has personal relationships with people there. If she is not available she has competent backup.
For us - we are on a first name basis with her. We have her cellphone number. Fresh zucchini bread can do wonders in forming strong bonds...
Where we live there is what I perceive as a small expat community. There is a Bancomer branch that has the worst parking problems. Cars are parked 3 deep. People wait in line simply to park. I asked on a local expat internet forum - why would anyone ever put up with that ? The answer I got back - well years ago there was an English speaking employee who took good care of non-Spanish speaking expats - but now that employee is no longer there - guess we are all just too lazy to look for alternative banking options...
Kikipit, do you happen to know if HSBC charges a fee for non bank customers to use a US debit card to get cash at their ATM's? Currently I am being charged just over 1% for using Ci Banko here in San Carlos and I am using their ATM to fund a serious remodel. There is a HSBC bank 8 miles away. Thanks
HSBC charges me - a premium account holder - a fee when I use my Schwab debit card to withdraw money from an HSBC ATM. It is in the area of $3 or $4 USD per transaction. I am prompted to accept at time of the transaction.
Schwab reimburses me immediately those charges (no waiting until the end of the month).
@LTL - I suspect you are kidding but you know - in our time here only once did someone suggest we pay them in dollars. It was the guy who sold/installed the solar panel system. The panels are Mexican but the inverter is Austrian and our guy had to pay his guy in dollars. I think at the time we declined. I haven't touched a dollar bill in maybe four years.
Yellowtail - what the hell is your problem, you condescending, self-righteous prick?
If there are problems between HSBC in Mérida and HSBC in Mexico City that hold things up for clients, then it is not MY experience, it is inherent to the bank itself. And when I hear the same sorts of stories from people using Santander, Banamex and BBVA, I don't think it is just MY experiences. Mérida has a large expat community so there is a lot of experience from which to glean information.
I would prefer not to resort to name calling, but your responses are totally out of order and someone needs to set you straight that you do not run the universe, and you do not know everything there is to know about Mexico. When someone writes and asks advice about other people's experiences, it would be nice if people could respond without having to endure someone being so smug and deliberately nasty.
Too lazy? Maybe those Bancomer customers understand what loyalty is or have other reasons to bank there. But of course you know everything that goes into their decisions and are in a perfect position to pass judgment. Just get over yourself! :(
LTL - Bringing such large amounts of cash across the border is fraught with issues, no? There are limits by law on what can be brought across without declaring it to the government. Then there are, of course security issues depending on how you are coming and through what areas.
Paying for anything in Mexico using US dollars is against the law. In the tourist zones it is likely more prevalent, but here in Mérida, the only thing we have been able to purchase using dollars was our house. And that went through escrow at a Colorado bank. Of course real estate all over Mexico is listed in dollars rather than pesos, in spite of the law, though the properties at better prices are always listed in pesos.
When we were renovating, we asked our contractor if would accept payment in dollars, and he looked at us as if we were totally stupid, then politely said "No!"
YT - No, I do not live alone, and I have a very large circle of friends - something that has been easier to accomplish in Mexico than anywhere else I have ever lived. I only post responses to other people's requests based on my own experience. I do not set about trying to belittle them from the start.
I see so much BS on this site from people who pretend to have the answers to every situation. Much of the "sage advice" given has proven to be incorrect, and some has ended up costing us time and money unnecessarily.
In the two years I have been following this site, I have noticed your posts becoming increasingly confrontational, and I wonder if there is a reason for it. I don't know of anyone here who personally wishes you harm, including myself, so it is a mystery why you chose to act this way.
This could be a very valuable site if people would just answer questions honestly and rationally without always having to take potshots at others.
You may bring any amount of cash you wish into Mexico. Anything over 10,000USD must be reported to the USA and Mexico governments.
When building my first home I paid for is all with cash with a combo of USD's and Pesos. My contractor was very willing to take USD's
On the Caribbean coast USD's are in wide circulation. In other areas not so much. Paying in USD's is not against the law. The "tipo de cambio" is posted in most stores here, right down to your local OXXO.
I am pretty sure the same can be said of the San Carlos area.
kikipt , with all due respect, if you want to engage in civil discourse ramp down the name-calling and disparaging remarks directed toward other folks
Other than lousy customer service and excessive fees we all agree upon, your issues & complaints are not Mexico bank specific, they relate to foreign banking in general. IRS compliance, disclosure, taxes all apply to any foreign account, not just deposits in Mexico.
Currency is traded and exchange rates set via global exchange markets, not at the discretion of any particular bank, investment firm, or dealer. Associated volatility risk is universal.
When pesos are locally banked & intended to be locally spent then future exchange rates are of not much significance other than a compass to point when to buy more. At times I keep sizable amounts on deposit in my business account at Banco del Bajío. So far, my $ has always been safe kept on deposit and is not subject to any exchange volatility risk. When I need to transfer $ back to my US account then risk mitigation of unstable fluctuating exchange rates convenes.
Your statement that my comments are absurd about exchange rates is unclear as I clearly recommend “buy pesos with dollars when pesos are discounted and cheap.” If one can’t strategically schedule currency exchanges when rates are most favorable but must trade as budgeting dictates then blame the currency markets for unruly barter rates, not the local banking system.
You write about investing in MX cetes with a good 8.2% return (I assume comparable to US T-Bills now paying about 2.40%) but caution against currency fluctuation????? - I assume versus the $US. Currency fluctuation is only a variable if the money is traded again… is this not speculative investing - playing the currency market?
Kikipt, I am visiting friends in Merida. I tested your statement about acceptance of USD's here. Last night we had dinner at La Parrilla in centro. I paid in USD's, and got a 17.5 rate. Across the street there was an money exchange. At Cheduari Selecto (fantastic store) I paid for some groceries with USD's at 18 rate. I guess it is not so "Illegal"
The 'legal tender' is the Peso, but that does not make other currencies 'illegal'. You may trade in anything that is agreeable to both parties. That seems to be true almost everywhere. Makes sense, too!
LTL - Good for you! How clever of you to be able to demonstrate American hegemony in such a subtle and brilliant manner. And what could show more brilliance than to pay a 9% higher price, since Santander was buying dollars yesterday at 19.2 (HSBC was at 18.7).
It is true that I misspoke about the acceptance of dollars, something for which I apologize, since I never wish to mislead anyone. On re-reading the 2010 law, there is only a restriction on the use of dollars in transactions greater than $100. The law was not mandated or implemented universally, however. In Quintana Roo and Yucatán it was supposedly adopted (though I would doubt that it is enforced), in Jalisco it was not. In compliance with the law, the Riu hotel and resort chain, for example, says on their website that they will no longer accept payment in cash using US dollars, though credit cards are still accepted.
The law also specifically addresses dollar deposits and transfers in banks along the border, an attempt, one assumes, to clamp down on money laundering. Obviously during the last administration no one took such restrictions very seriously, and it is unlikely to have changed much.
That a restaurant such as La Parilla in Centro would accept dollars is no surprise - though that is the center of the tourist area. La Parilla is a large operation with many branches. It would be interesting to see if they take your dollars at Altabrisa or Gran Plaza. We tend to avoid the place, however, since they are not very good in my experience, either with food quality or service, and Mérida has an extraordinary number of excellent restaurants at reasonable prices.
You don't mention which Chedraui you were at (they are a Lebanese-owned store, and are found all over town, as well as throughout México) but it is a little more surprising, though it is also a very large operation, and the transaction was likely below the limit.
When my son was here last month he did not exchange currency, and at the Sunday market on the Plaza Grande could not find a single vendor that would accept either his dollars or his credit cards. He left without buying anything! Just one more anecdote to add to the trolley.
When I started my remodel here in Sonora my contractor and I visited his bank....Ci Banko. The officer there told us I could write personal checks to my contractor who in turn would cash them at this bank. The exchange rate was approx 10% less than me going to the ATM and getting cash. There is approx a 1.1% fee at Ci Banko for me to use the ATM. My home bank returns their fees monthly to me. So I upped my daily limit and fund my project with pesos. I am also getting ready to buy a new vehicle. I have not figured out how I am going to fund that process.....wire transfer, debit/credit card or ATM. I guess when I show up at the dealer we will figure it out.
LTL As much as I hate to admit it but the information about bank employees ratting you out as to balance may be the single most important reason to not keep serious funds in Mexico. I have also always been concerned about declaring over $10K when crossing by any means legally. I figure if the customs agent knows I have it then his 'friends' may also....maybe at the next fuel stop... I know a guy locally here who crossed with 6 figures, declared it and was not worried about it....although I have not seen him in a while!!!
Kikipt, American hegemony? Really? Do you know anything about money and the world economy?
It cost me 3usd’s to see if the restaurant accepted dollars. Big f-cking deal. I tipped more than that.
It seems you don’t even know how to read the casa de cambio rates board. Santander wasn’t buying dollars yesterday at 19.2, they were selling dollars at that rate. Trading dollars for pesos, the rate was 18 pesos to the dollar.
As far as restaurant choices? We had a very good meal with good service. My Merida, born Maya friends chose the place and already knew what they wanted to order. I think they know their city pretty well.
Kikpt, you know nothing (except what Google tells you) about the 2010 Money laws and Quintana Roo. Were you here then? I was and in a tourist business, accepting all different foreign currencies. MONEY IS MONEY. Even bringing up what the “LAW” states is a joke. Here is something you still haven’t learned. Laws in Mexico are just suggestions.
Kikpt, complaining about poor customer service shows how naive you seem to be. You don’t get it. You just seem a little behind. I never expect to receive any customer service, then if I do get some I am pleasantly surprised.
Hrlee, way back then I was taking cash out of Mexico going to the USA. I filled out currency reports many times going both directions. You just got to report it to both governments. There are no limits and never was I questioned after my initial declaration. Why do you hate to admit I might be right about something? At least you seem to be able to learn, even if it is the hard way.
I just purchased a car for, paying a mixture of pesos and USD’s. This was done in a non-tourist, no retiree area of Mexico, one you would never venture to.
After living here for near 20 years, I finally opened a bank account to have my SS direct deposited too. That is the only money I keep in a Mexican bank and it doesn’t stay there long. I have been offered a credit card by Bancomer many times this last year for a yearly fee of around 1000 pesos. They will give me a 75,000 peso limit. I have turned it down as I don’t need more credit and another card. I know many working friends making 10,000-15,000 pesos a month with debit and credit cards. Everybody is swiping for stuff almost everywhere, even in Oxxo.
Why is it hard for you to get a card Kikpt with all your money in different banks? Could it be your superior attitude?
I have long-standing accounts at Chase and Schwab. My direct deposits into Chase keep those accounts fee-free, and I open a credit card or two there every year or so because their "welcome bonuses" can be lucrative. In the last few years I've flown to Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, Uruguay and the US with bonus miles I received from bank credit cards issued by Barclay, Chase and Citi. I transfer funds to Schwab for daily expenses, which I access fee-free from wherever I happen to be in the world. I get charged that day's Visa foreign exchange rate computed to four digits to the right of the decimal point for whatever currency I withdraw. Schwab repays my ATM charges from any bank on the first of the month, and Schwab imposes no fees of its own. For a Schwab account opened outside the US, those ATM fees are reimbursed daily. I also open new US bank accounts online at a wide variety of banks and make ~$2,000US per year in bonuses for doing it. These bank account bonus offers are updated daily at a website called doctorofcredit.com. I had Mexican bank accounts in the pre-computer age, but I don't need to have them now. And that's all I have to say about all that.
Sorry, but you are WRONG again. Santander was BUYING dollars at 19.2. I do know how to read the exchange rates and I follow them assiduously. They were SELLING at 19.65 at the same time.
I won't bother to give you my sources, since you would just dismiss them. You make up your own mind about basically everything without regard for other possibilities, truth or reality, and expect everyone to accept whatever self-serving nonsense you are spewing at the moment. Be my guest.
You misread what I write and then try to denigrate me. (I never said it was "hard for me to get a credit card".) I am not interested in anything you have to say. You are a pretentious, small and hateful person - and I prefer not to introduce such people into my life.
I first accessed this site trying to learn interesting and helpful information, but people like you have made that unreliable at best. That makes anyone else's input pointless as well, so I will now bow out.
For those who have posted on various topics with a generosity of spirit, a caring nature and a desire to promulgate useful information - thank you!
Wow Kikipt, full of such venom and bile. Why the hatred? (Trump????) I am just trying to help newbies like you, hrlee and others out. I have no agenda and I am not selling anything. I have made lots of mistakes, learn from them.
Just in this one thread you have posted a lot of mis-information. That doesn’t help people reading this site.
If I walked into Standander as a tourist off the street wanting to change $500 USD cash, the bank will NOT do the transaction. Ask your source? Download the “Dollar in Mexico” app and you see banks charging different exchange rates. Doesn’t mean you will get those rates.
Banco Azteca is one bank that will exchange usd to pesos, with proper ID, at any branch in Mexico
You don’t need to have a large sum of money in the bank for 6 months to get a credit card.
Most banks have and can issue ATM cards on the spot.
Since you are a recent immigrant, here is another thing you might not be aware of. Mexican, and most foreign, banks don’t want American customers. The more money in a bank the bigger the paperwork burden on the bank. Being a Premier account is a negative. Nobody wants your banking business. They won’t tell you why, just give you the runaround like all your American friends. Reason is FACTA.
BTW, a friend is in Merida today at a well know clinic getting her second laser eye surgery. She paid for the first one with her Cap One card and got a lousy exchange rate. This surgery is being paid with USD’s with a agreed upon exchange rate.
Professor Dr. Kikipt, I read some previous post on this site, spent 15 minutes on Google and found your blog Meridaexpat.net and others sites you write for. You might be intelligent, a university professor, teaching grad students for 30 years, and musician. You came with a bag of money to retire on. You have very little Mexican street smarts. You have 2 years living here. Professor Dr. K, there is a lot more to the world than living in academia. Can’t you learn some life lessons from a simple laity who has live in Mexico for just under 20 years?
Brace yourself. Put on your big boy pants. I am probably going to hurt your sensitive feelings. I am going to use you as an example of something you shouldn’t do.
Professor Dr. K, you should learn how to do business and take advantage of the fact that you have USD’s. Good discounts can still be had.
I hope, in all your travels, you don’t wear a lot of jewelry. But online you wear gold chains, ruby rings, and a diamond stud in your right ear.
You brag about having money and buying 500,000 peso CD’S. You bank at HSBC. There is a picture of your home (easy to get into), its location, and many posts while you are out of town. You tell the world about all your wonderful musical processions. A bank teller doesn’t have to sell your information to criminals, you give it away willingly. I suggest you edit your blog and quit flaunting your money and stuff. Keep your money in the USA , it is safer there.
Don’t be naive. Merida might have a low crime rate but there is still a lot of poor people and crime. There is also a very seedy side in the gay community, watch out for yourself and your partner. I would hate to read that you got rolled and robbed.
Someday, I would like to hear you play your Harpsichord.
With a generosity of spirit and much love, Longtimelurker
I could not (copy and paste) get that link to open up but on the Belize forum, which I also follow daily, has an active thread about Atlantic Bank. NO FDIC to protect your funds so kiss it good-bye. Why anyone would just bring funds to another country and expect good things is WAY beyond my scope of good reasoning. One poster is down $15K USD. Fools and their money are soon parted.
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