When I started thinking about moving to Mexico, Nancy and Paul were still in Seattle. Cynthia and Mike were just beginning the steps toward a Mexico move. And American Mommy had not yet started her blog.
Back then, I went to a blog that I still visit regularly: Michael Dickson's La Vida Bougainvillea. If I remember correctly, he originally drafted the material in the blog as a newspaper article for people where were interested moving south of the border.
That blog (and all of his blogs, for that matter) are filled with all sorts of information. But the information I would like to put before the house are his observations on bank accounts. Here is what my mentor has to say:
Also open a checking account at Citibank (Banamex USA) located in Los Angeles. Toll-free number is 1-800-222-1234. You´ll get a recording. Say the word "representative," and a human will come on the line.
They have a special deal for retirees that includes checks and a debit card. This is the sole branch in the United States of Banamex, one of Mexico´s largest banks, now owned by Citicorp.
Tell your mutual fund company about your account at Citibank or whatever bank you end up with. Money can be transferred electronically via the mutual fund website to the bank´s dollar account.
Also, have pension and Social Security payments routed electronically to the same Citibank account. From Citibank, money can be transferred quickly and without charge by website or phone call to an account you will open later at Banamex after you arrive in Mexico. The money will arrive instantly in your Banamex account in pesos.
The only bank in Melaque is a Banamex branch. Michael's advice seemed to fit my situation perfectly. And I think it still does.
I have mentioned several times that I am a member of a Mexico message board that I have christened The Barroom Brawl Board. No further explanation is required.
On Saturday, one of the members was attempting to be helpful about Mexican banking matters. Another member fired back:
Other than for having utility bills paid by a bank or financial institute, Lloyds does this for you in Ajijic, why would you want a Mexican bank account? I have my money in a US bank and can set the daily ATM withdrawal limit with the bank. I don't think I've seen the inside of my US bank in years but I do all my banking through them.
Would someone please tell me what I'm missing by not having a Mexican bank account!
Message boards are a blunt tool. I could not tell if this was a request for information or a challenge -- even though the stray exclamation point gives me a rather helpful hint.
Either way, the question is interesting. Is there any need for an expatriate to have a Mexican bank account?
I can think of three reasons. The first is psychological. If I am moving from the United States to Mexico, why would I want all of my contacts, including financial, to remain in the country I have left? Several of you have pointed out that many Canadians and Americans are merely long-term tourists in Mexico. For them, it would make sense to keep everything in the old country's institutions. But, if you want to be Mexican, you will probably want to use a Mexican bank.
The second reason is far more practical. Twice while visiting Mexico, my credit union has temporarily terminated transactions with Mexican banks. Both times my access to ATM machines was shut down. If I had access to a Mexican account, I would, at least, have some money available.
The third is communal. When I opened my law practice, the first place I went was the local bank. I wanted to meet the president and the officers to get a loan. But, more importantly, I wanted to meet the tellers. Each visit, I would take along something: a piece of candy, a flower from my garden. They were small tokens that I appreciated the hard work that tellers perform. And, whenever I had a problem, I knew I had them on my side. Red tape could simply disappear at the touch of their deft fingers. If I am going to be a part of the Melaque community, I want to have a similar relationship with the people who live there. And tellers are a marvelous place to start.
But, I am interested what may be some other good reasons for opening a Mexican bank account? Am I missing something obvious?