Banking in Guatemala

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Banking in Guatemala

Postby bajasur » Sat Apr 23, 2011 5:51 pm

Moving to Guatemala later 2011 for retirement. Will spend time in Xela for school and intend to travel the country, and on to El Sal. Nica, etc. Guatemala will be my home base and I understand I shall need to make Visa Runs to MX./Belize, etc. I have a retirement income deposited directly to my Bank in the US and would like to open a Bank Account in Guatemala and have those monthly funds directly deposited to the Guatemalan Bank. Do any of you fine folks know if this is possible to do, or does one need to be a "legal Resident" to have a Gautemalan Bank account and have funds from the US direct deposited to that account. If possible, can anyone recommend a Gautemalan Bank that is present throughout the country and one you would/are comfortable dealing with. I thank one and all in advance for any information you can supply.
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Re: Banking in Guatemala

Postby xelawho? » Sat Apr 23, 2011 9:23 pm

Far as I can tell, Banco Agromercantil only requires a passport, a utilities bill and a photocopy of your birth certificate plus some forms filled out. See here:
http://info.bam.com.gt/index.php/ahorro ... e-ahorro-q

why they want your passport and birth certificate is the first of many Guatemalan bureaucratic mysteries that you will encounter.

BAM is OK. One of the biggest and reasonably stable, quite a few branches around Xela and Guatemala.

I know for a fact that many of the other banks have lots more hoops they expect foreigners to jump through. Search this forum for "bank" or "banco" and you will find plenty of discussion on direct deposits from the US, etc.
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Re: Banking in Guatemala

Postby dbuzzingham » Mon May 02, 2011 7:05 pm

Thanks, xelawho?

This afternoon I opened an account with Banco Agrimercantil. Here's what they required:
1. Your passport - for I.D.,
2. A utility bill to identify your address. It doesn't have to be your utility bill. I'm renting an apartment in Antigua and the landlord gets the utility bill and divides it according to usage (each apartment has a meter, but the complex only has one bill). In my case, the utility bill had his name on it,
3. A letter stating the source of the money I'd be putting in my account. In my case, I'm a volunteer development director who receives a living stipend, not a salary. I also receive Social Security and used a copy of my latest benefit letter (I have a digital copy with me),
4. A telephone number, so that they can contact you,
5. The name of my beneficiary (my wife),
6. The names and phone numbers of two people who can verify you. I have no idea if they will be calling them,
7. About a pound of paper, about six signatures, and
8. Q300 to put in the account.

On Thursday I can pick up my debit card.

It took about 45 minutes and three trees were killed to make the paper.

All in all a relatively painless process, except for the Partido Patriotica rall taking place in front of the cathedral across from Parque Central in La Antigua.

Buzz
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Re: Banking in Guatemala

Postby xelawho? » Tue May 03, 2011 12:50 am

thanks for the update, Buzz and sorry to hear about the rally. If it's any consolation there should only be another 7 months or so of that, taking into account the inevitable runoff :shock:
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Re: Banking in Guatemala

Postby dbuzzingham » Tue May 03, 2011 8:14 am

7 months sure beats the four years of political campaigning that takes place in the states. :0)
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Re: Banking in Guatemala

Postby bajasur » Tue May 03, 2011 5:58 pm

Also, thanks xelawho? and dbuzzingham. Like you d, i'm on SS and want the monthly payment paid into a Gua. banking account. d, are you haing your SS deposited to BAM?
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Re: Banking in Guatemala

Postby dbuzzingham » Wed May 04, 2011 9:01 pm

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!"
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Re: Banking in Guatemala

Postby dbuzzingham » Thu May 05, 2011 3:48 pm

Got my tarjeta de debito (debit card) from Banco Agromercantil today after lunch. The card is quite colorful and features a Visa logo, which would imply that it offers the same protections if stolen or hacked. I was surprised to see that it is valid through May 2015. Now that's optimism. My debit cards from the states are never valid for more than two years. I guess no one told them that the world is going to be ending on December 21, 2012. Just kidding!

I tried to use the on-line banking feature, but realized that while I have a temporary password, I have no idea what user name to use. Of course, there are no instructions on-line. I tried a variety of choices, but none worked. I tried contacting their on-line chat service, but they just told me that they couldn't give me that information. I guess I'll just have to stop by the bank on my way home and ask there.

One other thing, as I was trying to login to BAMnet, I noticed something very interesting. On the login screen, there are two choices: Ingresar and Cancelar. Usually, it's been my experience, that where there are two choices, the positive choice, in this case Ingresar, would appear on the right. Not so on BAMnet. The right most choice on their login screen is Cancelar. For now, in my case, that's as good a choice as any.
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Re: Banking in Guatemala

Postby dbuzzingham » Sat May 07, 2011 8:02 pm

Finally had time to try my tarjeta de debito (debit card). I had to use a 5B ATM, which aren't hard to find in La Antigua. After inserting the card, it greeted me by name and instructed me on how to change my pin number. It was quite easy and once done, ended my session. I immediately inserted my card again to check my balance. To my relief, all my funds were still there...all Q300!

When I got home, I tried to login to BAMnet with no luck. After lunch on Friday, I stopped by BAM and discovered that I had to complete more paperwork to have BAMnet access. It didn't take long and I left with a sealed card including my new Usario (user name - a 10 digit number) and a temporary pin number hidden by one of those silver scratch off coatings. I was also advised that it would take 24 hours for it to become active. Silly me, I assumed they meant 24 hours. Since I'm still not able to login (Saturday night), I'm coming to the conclusion that they meant 24 hours during the business week. Hopefully it will work on Monday.
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Re: Banking in Guatemala

Postby xelawho? » Sun May 08, 2011 11:28 pm

dbuzzingham wrote:The card is quite colorful and features a Visa logo, which would imply that it offers the same protections if stolen or hacked.


I would check that if I were you, Buzz - that's not my understanding of the way things work at all.
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