Thanks, bajasur, for the thanks. Unlike you, I have no interest in having my Social Security check deposited in a Guatemalan bank. I prefer to have it deposited in a bank back in Iowa that I've used and am known at since 1993. Also, I don't use a debit card for that account in Guatemala, as there have been some incidents here and probably in Xela where ATMs have been rigged to collect information so that thieves could steal from your account. One fellow here in Antigua lost $1,600 in such a con on the day of the annual U.S. Embassy meeting.
Here's how I handle ATMs. I have two other accounts, another bank and a credit union. Now, both of these institutions issue debit cards affiliated with Visa, which is the preferred credit/debit card in Guatemala. My main bank only offers Mastercard. When I know I need to make an ATM withdrawal, I transfer the funds to one of these two accounts. Other than the funds I transfer, there's only about $10-15 in either of them. After I've made my withdrawal they don't have enough funds to be of any interest to the criminal classes. Of course, this method requires that I think ahead, as it takes about three days to transfer funds. I can also alternate the accounts, so that the one I haven't used recently is loaded and ready to download funds from.
I haven't actually done much with my Agromercantil savings account, since I don't have my debit card yet. I'll pick it up tomorrow. One of the things I want to do is to determine what it costs to transfer funds directly to it from the states. Withdrawing Q1,000 last week cost me $1.31, which is cheap insurance. I say "cheap insurance," because if my account is hacked (how can it be since there's no money in it), Visa will make it good.
Now I have to admit that my situation is somewhat different than your's, since I'm serving as a volunteer development director (fund raising) for a Guatemalan NGO and receive a living stipend (not a salary) for my services. The stipend is sufficient to pay the rent and utilities on a beautiful, botique hotel-style apartment on Alameda Santa Lucia, the nerve center of La Antigua. Despite the close proximity of the mercado, the chicken bus terminal, a futbol field and the busiest street in town, we hardly know any of that is anywhere near us because of the sound insulation our apartment complex enjoys. My wife absolutely adores the apartment and can walk to the grocery or the mercado for anything she needs in five minutes.
There is one final warning you need to think about. If you use an ATM with a Guatemalan bank account and it gets hacked, what you lost is what you lost. Guatemalan banks have no protection on their accounts, like in the U.S. There's no FDIC and, as far as I know, no Visa-branded ATM cards (I'll find out tomorrow). As far as I'm concerned, I'm going to keep doing things the way I've been doing them. It works for me and, as has been said, "if it ain't broke, don't break it!"