Currency Challenges

A few days ago we went to CI Banco, the only bank in San Carlos, to open an account. We realized we needed to start moving some of our money from the U.S. to Mexico when we were at the Chevy dealer in Guaymas. Don needed to put a deposit on the Colorado to reserve it. The salesman, Fernando, a funny young man who speaks pretty good English, told us the deposit would be $5400 pesos or about $300 dollars. We didn’t have enough pesos, and they wouldn’t accept a U.S. check. I tried to use my credit card, but it was rejected. (I contacted USAA later, and they said they had no record of any activity on my credit card.) We left to go to an ATM where we both tried using our debit cards with no luck. English was not an option at these ATMs so we had no idea why. I tried my BBVA Compass debit card since we were at a BBVA ATM, and fortunately it worked. So we went back to the dealership, gave them the pesos and went on our merry way.

The next morning we went to the CI Banco, checkbooks in hand, ready to do business. A nice woman named Norma, who spoke pretty good English, was ready to help us. The first thing she asked us was if we had our papers. Papers? What papers? Turns out we needed several papers. We needed our passports, the visa we got when we crossed the border, and a copy of a utility bill from where we currently live. She told us it didn’t matter if the bill didn’t have our name on it. Here we go again…

We gathered the required documents except for the visas since the lady who is helping us get our temporary resident cards has them. She gave us copies of something signed by an official of some sort which she said would serve as a substitute for the visas. We went back to the bank to give them everything, but the missing visas were a problem for them. Luckily, Georgina, our realtor, just happened to be at the bank, and she told them she made copies of the visas for our file, and said she would email them to Norma. Norma told us to come back the next day at four when she would have all the paperwork for our new account ready to go.

We returned the next day at four. Norma had not received the email with the copies of our visas so another employee decided to run down the street to Georgina’s office to get them. He was gone for a long time, and came back empty handed. He had taken photos of the visas with his smartphone, wasn’t that so clever. He spent several minutes trying unsuccessfully to get them off of his phone. At this point Norma asked if we had our passports, which we did. She looked at them and discovered the Mexican visas inside that we worked so hard to get before we left Albuquerque. Problem solved.

Norma then began generating the amazing amount of paperwork that is necessary to open a bank account in Mexico. It took some time since I guess their network is slow, or perhaps they use crappy equipment and software. Anyway, about 20 minutes later she says she is done, and it’s time to sign. There can only be one account holder so Don was the lucky one we picked, and he got to do all the signing. There were probably 50 pages, and he had to sign each page. They were in Spanish so we have no idea what he signed. My only thought was “I hope no immediate family members are in jeopardy.” Don told me that after he was done signing all the pages Norma remarked “Now I own your house, your cars.” I guess Don must have looked stunned because she quickly added, “Just kidding.”

Once the papers were signed we were ready to write checks to deposit into our new account. Norma told us not so fast, we needed to wait until the 50 pages were processed before making any deposits. I guess this will be Monday. We will get a checkbook with Don’s name on the checks, but that I can use too, and we will both get debit cards that will let us withdraw 3000 pesos a day. Oh, I forgot to mention that they will be taking a photo of our rental house to put in our file.

I remarked to Norma at some point how easy it is to open a bank account in the U.S. She said she had heard that, and that was pretty crazy.

In the meantime, Don has been getting email messages from young Fernando, the Chevy salesman. Turns out they made a clerical error on the deposit amount. It should have been something like 5840 pesos so when could Don come in to pay the difference? We decided to do that today. We went to the BBVA ATM to get some more pesos. There were about 20 people waiting to use the ATMs so we decided to walk around the corner to a different bank to use their ATM. We both got 3000 pesos then went to the Chevy dealer. Fernando was very happy to see us. He asked if we had successfully opened a bank account so we told him of our experience. He was surprised to hear about it, but turns out he doesn’t have a bank account so what does he know? He told us something like 52,000 pesos. Wait, what? Turns out the clerical error was a missing zero. They wanted 10% of the cost of the truck to hold it. Of course we didn’t have anything close to that many pesos, but Fernando told us it was all good. We can go back next week once we have our new Mexican bank account, and write them a check for the balance of the deposit. Can’t wait to see how we manage to write a check in Spanish for 44,700 pesos. Fernando told us to Google it.

On the way home we spotted these horses grazing along side the road. We see them frequently. There are several horses wandering about San Carlos. There are some that hang out around the golf course. I guess they belong to someone. Doesn’t look like they are neglected at all.


Grazing in the grass.

2 thoughts on “Currency Challenges

  1. I’m sure this has been frustrating for you, but I have literally laughed out loud reading this. It sounds all too similar to what Rebecca has experienced living in a variety of countries — minus the bank account fiasco (since she never had to open a local account)!



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