Wednesday, June 16, 2010
banking on it
I am in the mood for comments.
And nothing seems to stoke the furnace as much as Mexican banking.
Mention "Mexico" and "bank" in the same sentence, and just sit back to watch the fiesta.
A month ago I reported, in cruising the financial highway, I was following Felipe Zapata's blog advice to open an account at Banamex USA in Los Angeles.
I have seen several other blog references to Banamex USA's service -- with unanimous praise for the ease of opening an account.
For all I know, that was once true. I have no reason to doubt it. But, we now live in a world where banks are often used to finance terrorism and crime. Of course, that has always the case. The difference is governments are getting testy about both.
As a result, opening a bank account is not as easy as it once was -- north or south of the border. It can be every bit as difficult as getting a driver's license. (If you have not been subjected to the new driver's license requirements in The States, you have an entirely new experience awaiting you.)
To open my Banamex USA account, my initial contact with the bank was a familiar one. Fill out an application, over the telephone, with all the usual personal information the bank will need -- and will share with the Internal Revenue Service.
After that, I may as well have been applying for a job at the bank. The very nice man on the telephone said I needed to send a copy of either my passport or my driver's license (I opted for the license -- the one with the photograph that makes me look like an understudy for Porky Pig) and a copy of a utility bill with my name and address on the billing.
That is where I left the story last month. As you know from that post, none of the utilities for my rental are in my name. My land lady takes care of those details.
When I talked with the Banamex representative, he told me that a utility bill was the only way I could get an account.
Now, I know a bit about bureaucracy. After all, I was in the military, I have worked for a bank and insurance companies, and I am a lawyer.
I also know that bureaucracies seldom request something for absolutely no reason. There is always an underlying purpose -- no matter how vague or tenuous. The utility bill requirement was an easy one to decipher. The bank needs some proof I live where I claim to live.
I have two documents that fit the bill: my visa (an FM3) and a constancia de domicilio (a certificate issued by my local government showing my rental address). I sent copies of both.
And it worked. Substance won out over form.
Because the documents met the purpose of the bank's rules, the bank was flexible in not requiring a utility bill. That is good service.
On Monday afternoon I returned home to discover my shiny new check book. I can hardly wait to get to Mexico to open a companion Banamex account in Mexico.
The check book will do me no good. No one takes checks in my village. But I will have the flexibility of transferring money to and from Mexico. And I will have an ATM card from a local bank -- to avoid paying the new non-Mexico bank card fee when using the local ATM.
One unintended consequence (and a pleasant one it is) is that I will now be able to use bank statements in Spanish to renew my FM3 next April. That should make the renewal process that much easier.
The extra effort may pay off in future benefits.
But that is one of the conservative principles espoused by banks -- isn't it?