Whether it’s for a change of lifestyle, work, or the amazing food, there’s been an increasing number of people moving to Mexico from other countries. While it may be easy enough for a tourist to get around by giving their bank a notification of their travel, banking in Mexico as a foreigner becomes more complicated the longer and more permanent the stay.
In the first part of this two-part article, find out how foreigners bank in Mexico with local banks and three crucial tips to keep in mind as you learn to navigate the Mexican way of life.
If you’re working remotely in Mexico but getting paid from a business in another country, you’ll want to tune into the second part of this article which will discuss the best way to transfer money from a foreign account and vice versa.
For longterm residents, Schwab only goes so far
Kick starting your adventures in Mexico with a Charles Schwab Bank Visa Platinum Debit Card is certainly the most optimized route for Americans, but you will quickly feel the pain of not being able to bank with a local bank. Having a foreign bank account that you use for all of your banking means that you might – or, rather, you will – run into difficulties paying for utilities by using company apps. This will inevitably result in lots of walks to convenience stores to do transfers, and too many hours wasted on the phone trying to get your payment to go through.
A local bank gives you the ability to pay locals, utilities, and rent. What used to be done in the States through online banking, bill pay, PayPal, and Venmo are much less accessible unless you learn how to do local banking in Mexico as a foreigner.
How to Bank Locally
The details of how to do banking in Mexico as a foreigner will require that you’re at least a temporary resident. Temporary Residents can go to Banamex with their temporary resident ID utility statement from wherever they are renting, and a passport.
Many banks require an RFC (the Mexican tax Identification number, or Registro Federal de Contribuyentes) that you receive through an SAT appointment (the SAT is the Mexican version of the IRS). Talk to your immigration lawyer if you need assistance with banking in Mexico as a foreigner if you choose not to bank with Banamex.
What if I don’t have my residence?
Get your paperwork submitted! It’s only a matter of time before not being a formal resident is going to catch up to you. Otherwise, we recommend banking with Intercam if you do not have your residence established yet.
How can I transfer money?
As of June 2023, Citibank killed the feature for external transfers to Banamex. This makes banking in Mexico as a foreigner a bit more complicated, as this method was a popular choice for many who were collecting their retirement benefits in the States and depositing it into their Citibank checking account.
Let’s be honest though, Citibank likes to apply fees to everything beyond that. They are simply not a good institution to bank with. Establish a Wise.com account if you haven’t done so already and perform scheduled transfers from your non-Mexican bank account to your Mexican Bank account.
If you want to learn more about banking and transfers through Wise.com, check out our upcoming article next week!
Important Banking Tips All Foreigners in Mexico Must Know
Tip #1: Open a Schwab account
American tourists can absorb a lot of fees associated with Mexico ATM withdrawals, AKA cajeros, by utilizing a Charles Schwab checking account. This account refunds many of the fees you accumulate from ATMs all around the world. As Schwab mentions on their website,
“Unlimited ATM fee rebates apply to cash withdrawals using the Schwab Bank Visa Platinum Debit Card wherever it is accepted. ATM fee rebates do not include fees imposed by merchants or ATM operators for POS transactions, or fees for stamp purchases, balance inquiries, non-local ATM currency withdrawal fees, or any transaction other than an ATM cash withdrawal from your Schwab Bank account.”
Some of the issues with owning a Schwab checking account come with Sunday and after-hour transfers; the transfers simply do not happen until the next day. This leads us to tip #2.
Tip #2: Have more than one credit card on you at all times
Banking in Mexico as a foreigner means knowing the potential problems that you might have to face. Always carry an extra credit card to avoid these incredibly awkward moments of being unable to transfer money from one account to another. Also, please do not accept the conversion prompt at the ATM – it’s an unnecessary fee that you are accepting for no real benefit.
Tip #3: Have multiple checking accounts
Why? Because ATMs in Mexico tend not to be the best at notifying you of your lingering card in the machine. You lose your card, you lose your life.
Therefore, it is a really good idea to have backup debit cards. You may even want to assign different uses for each checking account. For example, I have three Charles Schwab checking accounts: one for food and entertainment, another for the house and utilities, and the third for my rainy-day savings. Better safe than sorry.
Bonus Resources for Foreigners in Mexico
Got other questions about living abroad in Mexico? Check out these articles below:
How to Do Banking in Mexico as a Foreigner Plus 3 Important Banking Tips Summary
Moving to a foreign country comes with a lot of excitement and a lot of challenges, and these obstacles can shift the longer you decide to stay. Being able to do basic banking and receive money is a must no matter where you are. Make it easy on yourself and make sure you follow the tips we’ve outlined above and get yourself signed up with a local bank. If you need extra help, let us know!