If you are not planning on working in Mexico or living here long term you may not want or need to open a bank account. Lots of snowbirds access funds through ATMs and manage quite well. Mind you, there are limitations to the amount of funds you can take out per day and per transaction. Personally, I had my Canadian bank account changed to allow a much higher daily and weekly cash withdrawal which made getting larger amounts of cash a lot easier.
Now you might be wondering why there’s such a need for cash. Unlike up North, Mexico is primarily a cash driven economy. Yes, many businesses accept foreign debit and credit cards but there are some who do not. And unfortunately there are times when our foreign cards are not accepted by the point of sale terminals for a variety of reasons.
There are going to be some instances where you could need a lot of cash. For instance, to pay a private individual for a used car or boat. Without a Mexican bank account you might have to become a frequent flyer at the ATM kiosk. I don’t know about you but there is something just a little unnerving about walking around with $10,000 pesos in my pocket. Repeatedly . . .
Undoubtedly the most likely reason that you would need a Mexican account would be big ticket items like purchasing a car, property or doing a major renovation. Technically, you don’t need an account to buy a home because you can wire the funds from your home account into an escrow account set up by the lawyer who is handling your sale but that may not be possible depending on various factors. If you open a Mexican account you can transfer in big amounts of money from your “home” bank. Then from your Mexican account you can make larger withdrawals from a teller than would be possible at a bank machine.
Opening a bank account in Mexico. The requirements tend to be the same across the major banks. To open an account as a foreigner they say that you need to apply in person and bring your:
- Valid passport
- Temporary or permanent residency card (not a 6 month visitor visa)
- Proof of address (recent utility bill)
- CURP number (you receive this number when you get your temporary or permanent residency and it appears on your residency card). You can also print out a certificate for free.
Having said that, there are always exceptions. Like our neighbors who were visiting La Paz in 2018 but had not yet purchased property nor had residency visas. They were given a bank account at Santander using their 6 month visitor visas, passports and our utility bill!
I was also recently approached by an agent from Intercam bank who said that they are offering bank accounts to foreigners without a long-term visa. Most online information says that this is impossible and yet . . . it happens. At least in La Paz and likely other places as well.