Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - When moving to a new location, how to do your banking is of top priority. Moving overseas adds a few more considerations, such as the language of the country you are moving to and the banking regulations that will be different from what you are used to. One thing for sure, at least here in Mexico, is that rules and regulations are constantly changing so what I am telling you here may be different in six months!
The following information is based on the US dollar. I need to research more on money coming from Canada.
At the present time, no banks in Mexico are accepting US dollars except by electronic transfers. I have heard there are two reasons for this: the instability of the US economy and the laundering of money from drug cartels. This situation happened a couple years ago and then the ban was lifted.
So how do you bring your money into Vallarta?
First you can bring in up to $10,000 US undeclared and exchange it for pesos at the numerous "Casa de Cambios" along the streets and in hotels.
If you want to open an account here, best to write a check on your home bank, deposit it into your account, and it will be here in 10 days as pesos. The exchange rate is determined by the bank on the day it receives your electronic transmission. There is usually no limit on the amount nor any fees for this type of transaction.
I donít recommend bank wires as the fees are high and may be charged on both ends by both institutions. If you need to transfer a large sum, say if you are buying property here, you might consider opening an account at one of the financial services institutions. They typically use a clearing house in the US to transfer the money and thus it is viewed as a domestic transfer - no fees, no taxes.
Once you have opened an account here, you need to know a few more restrictions: banks have a limit as to how much you can withdraw from their ATMís, usually $5000 pesos/day. If you use a bankís ATMís where you have an account, there is no charge. If you need to withdraw more, simply go inside to the bank cashier; there is no limit on withdrawals up to the amount in your account.
Regarding deposits, you can only deposit a total of $15,000 pesos/month accumulative. If you go over that, the federal tax commission, Hacienda, will charge you 3% tax on that amount beyond the $15,000. This will appear on your monthly bank statement.
Checks are not very common here. Most merchants and vendors prefer cash, credit cards, or debit cards. Bills such as electricity and phone can be paid at some of the merchants offices, or at stores such as OXXO (similar to 7/11 stores in the US) around town. Online banking is offered by most banks as are credit cards for use within Mexico.
There are several national banks in Vallarta, some of whom are affiliates of international banks. The most commonly known are: Bancomer (BBVA), Banorte, HSBC, Santander, and Scotiabank. There are also two international investment service companies: Intercam and Actinver. If your Spanish is weak or non-existent, then I recommend you use Bancomer.
When I first moved here, I opened my accounts with Bancomer because they have a very helpful service called Preferred Customer Units. These customer service folks speak excellent English and can help with all types of services including new accounts, business accounts, credit and debit card applications, money market accounts, online banking, transfers and wiring services, and more. Also, what I really like is that they have a special line to the cashiers so you donít have to wait in the long lines with everyone else. I always feel a little guilty walking past all those folks in line, but it is a service offered so I use it.
Sandra Cesca is the author of the book "Walking Puerto Vallarta and beyond" detailing her walking tours through her photography, and the owner of Learn Vallarta. To learn more about her work and experiences in Mexico, visit EscapeRouteVallarta.com, or send an email to sandra.learn.vallarta(at)gmail.com.
Click HERE to read Escape Route Vallarta articles by Sandra Cesca.