Saturday, June 13, 2015

finding financial salvation

Yesterday was a good day.  Any day that starts with a free breakfast and a resolution of financial woes cannot turn out too bad.

"Financial woes" may be an overstatement.  Let's just call them "logistical concerns."

Some of you know the background.  Others may not.  Even though I have plowed this field several times, I do not often get an opportunity to play the role of an aggrieved party.  So, I am going to weep once more.

Up until last summer, I thought I had a perfect system to get money to my Banamex account in Mexico.  My defined benefit pensions are generated in The States.  My goal was to have them deposited monthly in a northern bank where I could easily transfer dollars into pesos electronically.

I found a flawless system.  Banamex USA offered free accounts that could easily be attached to my Banamex Mexico account.  With a few quick keystrokes on my computer I could transfer pesos from one account to the other almost instantly.

All of that fell apart in July (the cash window closes).  White House-sponsored legislation (FATCA) went into effect that month.  The stated purpose of the legislation was to track the off-shore income of the wealthy (FATCA, fat cats, get it?) and narcos -- groups that have ready access to sufficient tax lawyers and accountants to make the law meaningless.

The largest effect amongst American expatriates in Mexico was to shut off their dollar transfers.  I was among a large group of people who had to scramble to set up alternatives transfer methods -- including bill payments from accounts that were now dead.

I reverted to my prior system -- an ATM card with my northern bank.  That meant I was restricted in how much I could withdraw daily.  I also started incurring additional bank fees.  I looked at some alternatives (such as a Charles Schwab account), but I decided to stick with a system that was dependent upon me not losing my plastic card.

This morning, a backup program appeared.

We have long had a branch of Intercam in Melaque.  But its services were limited to currency exchange and investments.  And even though Intercam would convert cash from personal checks, it stopped accepting US dollar checks as the result of FATCA.  That is changing.

Intercam is now a bank -- with checking accounts backed up by ATM cards.  And, best of all, Intercam now accepts US dollar checks.

That means I can open an account with a $5,000 (US) initial deposit, and then have access to pesos at Intercam's exchange rate.  I am not yet certain if that exchange rate is better, worse, or the same as I get from the ATM.  That is something I need to investigate.

But this is meant to be a backup (or top-off) system for my northern bank ATM card.  And, for that, it looks like a good solution.

I have also looked at the possibility of having my checks directly deposited to Banamex.  But there are a number of reasons I do not want to do that -- none of them germane to this essay.  If we had a choice of banks here, I might do that.  But we don't.

The bottom line is this: I have an alternative to being a captive of my ATM card.  That alone is a good reason to celebrate -- in Puerto Vallarta, where I am for just one night.

No comments: