Opening a Bank Account in Mexico: Benefits and Requirements

Source: Q-Roo Paul

If you’re planning on calling Mexico home, you might want to think about opening a bank account here – just to make your life a little bit easier.

I’m not saying that you should close your account back home, I’m just recommending that you open a Mexican account that you keep a small amount of money in.

There are numerous benefits to having a Mexican bank account, here are a few of the ones that top the list:

1) No fees for ATM withdrawals

2) Easily transfer money from your bank account bank home

Anytime you need funds added to your Mexican account, you can accomplish this electronically without ever having to go to the bank.

This is safer than wiring yourself a large amount of money and having to physically pick it up.

3) Pay for goods and services in Mexico with bank transfers 

This is extremely common here in Mexico — especially with larger transactions.

Many small businesses don’t take credit cards. When we had a screen enclosure put up around the patio, we were given two payment choices: cash or bank transfer.

4) Easily obtain a replacement ATM card in case of fraud

By keeping an account back home at the same time, a Mexican account will provide a buffer of protection between the bulk of your assets and fraud.

If you’re using a debit card from home, any theft or fraud will affect that account directly. Even though your funds will be returned to the account later, that only occurs after completing fraud affidavits and there is often a substantial delay. In that period of time, you may have had checks bounce without your knowledge and that may take weeks to resolve with the individual businesses affected.

I was a law enforcement officer for 25 years and I’ve seen debit card fraud in the U.S. cause the problems explained in the last paragraph. That’s why I prefer to have the buffer of a Mexican account while conducting business here.

Requirements

The requirements to obtain a bank account in Mexico are pretty much the same no matter which bank you choose. They are also similar to the requirements to open an account in the United States, with one exception – the immigration status requirement.

Don’t worry, I’ve dedicated an entire section to covering that one. For now, let’s just cover the basic requirements:

1) Official identification (a valid passport works for this one)

2) Proof of address in Mexico (utility bill, property tax receipt)

3) Minimum deposit (this varies but it’s usually around $1,500 pesos or about $75 USD)

Immigration Status

Before we had our temporary resident cards, we tried – and failed – to open a bank account at several different locations. Every bank employee that we spoke to was very adamant that we have at least a temporary or permanent resident visa (formally FM2 and FM3) in order to open an account.

Since a lot of the expats that we know only have tourist visas, I wanted to see if this was still the case, I contacted five of the major banks in Mexico to ask if they would allow me to open an account with just a tourist visa (FMM).

It was an adventure – to say the least – and I frustrated more than one customer service representative when I asked them for a simple yes or no answer to this question.

Here are the results:

Banorte

Tourist visa (no)

Bancomer

Tourist visa (no)

Santander México

Tourist visa (no)

HSBC México

Tourist visa (yes)

HSBC was the bank to specify that they would accept the “forma migratoria múltiple”, which is the FMM or tourist visa.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you will actually be able to do it when you go to the bank. We had previously gone to an HSBC branch and they told us no.

Scotiabank México

Tourist visa (maybe)

The customer service representative told me that I would have to have an immigration document proving legal presence. When I asked if the FMM or tourist visa would suffice, she merely repeated the vague requirement. When I asked for some clarification or a list of documents that would meet the requirement, she directed me to visit the nearest branch.

By the way, there were significant pauses in our conversation which led me to believe that she was asking her coworkers and they didn’t know either.

My advice is to go to the branch and just ask — you might get lucky.

Let’s Wrap This Up

It’s very beneficial to have a bank account in Mexico; however, that doesn’t mean that you should close your account back home. I recommend that people keep the bulk of their assets in their accounts in their home country and to merely transfer small amounts of money to their Mexican account as needed.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul

Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years and retired at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He moved to Mexico with his wife six days later to enjoy a laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle on a tight budget.

In 2016, Paul started a blog to share information with other people who may be thinking of making the move to Mexico. The blog, Two Expats Living in Mexico (qroo.us), has been viewed over a million times and Paul’s articles appear in periodicals across Mexico.

49 Comments on "Opening a Bank Account in Mexico: Benefits and Requirements"

  1. CI Banco opened a account for us prior to us receiving permanent residence. The branch in Playa on 10 & 14th is the most helpful bank Inhavr ever dealt with.

  2. Paul, I believe you mean “formerly known” rather than “formally,” as the FM2 and FM3 designation have been discontinued.

    • Since many businesses and even banks still use the terms FM2 and FM3, I usually include the information so people will know that that means when they see it. But I do see your point — changed 🙂

  3. Paul, dealing with financial matters, it is important for expats to know that they can buy CETES here. They are a form of government bonds that renew every 28 days. They currently yield almost 6% interest. Try getting that return in Canada or the USA

    Thank you for a great blog. I am a volunteer on the Information Desk at the 3,000 member, non- profit Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic on Lake Chapala. I often use general interest info from your blog to answer questions asked by people who are considering retiring in Mexico. This area has an expat community of 10,000 to 20,000 expats (seasonal variations).

    Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for the information, Bud.

    • As a Financial Advisor there are a plethora of alternative Investment options open to ex pats (U.S excluded in some cases) I have many options that net between 9-12% annually with a minimum 2 yr contract. I’d be happy to discuss further with you and or members without obligation. Alternatively I can send further information for review.

  4. Thank you for sharing the bank information. Each bank has different requirements for foreigners and even Mexican citizens. When we moved to Mexico last year, my wife, a Mexican citizen, tried to open a bank account with Banamex, Banorte and Scotiabank, but could not meet their resident requirements. We eventually opened accounts with Inbursa.

    The Mexican authority often changes the banking regulations. Mexico used to have the IDE tax (Cash Deposit Tax) due to the common tax evasion issues. The IDE was a 3 percent tax on the sum of monthly cash deposits in a client’s bank account above 15,000 peso. I used to have a Banamex account but couldn’t deposit more than 15,000 pesos without paying the 3% tax. It was painful. The IDE was lifted a few years ago though.

  5. Hi Paul
    Because our trust is with Scotia bank in Playa does that make it easier for us to open a bank account there?
    Sandy

    • I’m not sure. Scotiabank was the only bank that couldn’t give me a definitive answer about their own requirements. I still find that odd.

  6. We had our Citibank representative in Los Angeles schedule an appointment with Banamex in Merida and were able to open an account with a tourist visa.

  7. had no problem opening an account at Intercom on a tourist visa

  8. Another great piece guys! You are rocking this! 🙂

  9. I opened an account with Scotiabank in the Plaza Maya mall in Playa some years ago with only a tourist visa. Next year a neighbour was told he couldn’t, but last year he could (same bank). If at first you don’t succeed…wait a while, it’s Mexico 🙂

  10. Terry Pattenden | January 15, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Reply

    Unless the rules have changed; you cannot obtain CETES with a tourist visa. You require a government issued RFC number. The interest paid is taxable in Mexico.

    HSBC will give tourists fake RFC’s.

    For your own piece of mind, avoid dealing with HSBC in Mexico. I have complained to HSBC International several times about Mexico’s incompetence, but HSBC Mexico is not backed by their head office in London. Mexico is treated as a seperate entity.

    The unprofessional way they do business was once again demonstrated to me last Thursday, in Playa del Carmen. I had a 12;30 appointment to see the bank manager. I was told he was in the bank, but not available. I waited for half an hour. I went back to the teller and she told me he left the bank.

    I’ve had enough. I am closing out all of my HSBC investments.

  11. Elizabeth Gorman | January 15, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Reply

    I don’t know about other banks but Bancomer in San Jose del Cabo duplicated 20 charges on my account since July, 2016. Even though the debits on my statement match up to the the charges, dates and business, they still have retained almost $600 and to date have only returned $178 pesos or about $8 USD. Countless hours trying to fix this has been a nightmare. At first I thought this was a “technical glitch” but now I’m convinced this was a money grab and I don’t think I’m an isolated case. Banks are also not insured here like they are in the U.S. Also if you have let’s say $500 in your account and with no activity for at least six months, they can and will close your account and keep the funds. After this is resolved, both bank accounts here will be closed.

  12. And how do you maintain your bank account in the US if you are declaring permanent residency In Mexico? Do they just use your Mexico address?

  13. Ms Suzanne Nye | January 15, 2017 at 6:36 pm | Reply

    Hi Paul… Same question as another reader. I have my trust with Scotia Bank. If I go to Scotia with my paperwork and a tourist visa are they more likely to grant me an account?? Also on the comment about Bancomer; a friend of mine lost $800.00 with them. They claimed there were “charges” ??

    • $800 U.S.? Wow, that’s a lot. I’m not sure if the trust will influence Scotiabank’s decision or not. I think it will depend who you talk to at the bank. There are a lot of inconsistencies out there.

  14. Miguel Tapia-Díaz | January 15, 2017 at 9:14 pm | Reply

    Hello Paul:

    This is Miguel from México City. I suggest an account bank in Banamex because now belongs to Citi Bank with all the benefits, prestige and rewards of an American Bank. I don´t suggest HSBC because 4 years ago there was rumors about cleaning of money and I believe in that idea: suddenly Hong Kong Shangai Bank (HSBC) is an international Bank??? Come on!
    Just by coincidence: my last girl and my actually girl works in a HUB´s against cleaning of money. The villian? HSBC…

    Have a hug amigo.

    Miguel.

  15. Good information, but I wanted to say that I was able to open a bank account at Santander using a tourist visa myself. I now have my documents but was able to. Maybe because I look the part, Mexican!

  16. Garrett Klassen | January 15, 2017 at 11:57 pm | Reply

    I would love to hear your observations about obtaining a Mexican credit card in order to establish a credit rating in Mexico. We have been working on this for several months now, after establishing accounts at several different banks.

  17. I actually have two accounts with Bancomer with a tourist visa only, a Peso-Checking account and a USD-Savings account, no problemo here in Los Barriles, Baja Sur

  18. when we wanted to open a bank account for the trust to buy the land and such at scotia, we only had a tourist visa. They told us we had to have the business option checked in order to open the account. Our relator phoned around and CBanco in Playa would do this for us, as our relator vouched that we were good people lol, but it is not a true bank account…only a transfer account. There is a branch in Montreal to work thru so that made things a bit easier in our panic to close the deal in the time we had. Now, we are going to go down soon, business box checked on the visa card Title of the lot and builders contract to see if works this time. I do understand the caution. They have no clue who we are and so many regulations to follow.

  19. good work again Paul. Seems like the food here, the menu varies. looks like lots of different “experinces” have happened. someone mentioned your money is not insured, sound like at times you almost need insurance from the banks themselves. crazy , benvinedos a mexico hahaha, gracias otra vez Paul

  20. If you need a bank account in Playa to transfer money to use while you are there, there is always the option of a Bancomer Express Debito card from Bancomer. It is a card that had Visa Debit built in. I got it to pay my phone bill since it is from AT&T Mexico and they only accept Mexican credit cards to pay your phone bill online. The account only allows small deposit amounts per month though. I think somewhere around 15000 pesos per month deposit. So it’s not great if you need large amounts but if it’s just a small amount of spending cash or to pay bills or something then this card works great!!

  21. 6 months prior to leaving the uk we opened an account with HSBC (UK), with the sole purpose of opening one in Mexico. This we actually managed to do from the UK. They have an international set up to do this. However we did have a house here already so I don’t recall if that made things easier.
    With regards to getting a credit card….before you can get one you have to accumulate a credit rating. One way us by having a Telcel plan fir at least 6 months. After that you can apply. I have an inbursa credit card.

  22. I agree with everything stated and I do everything stated. The only exception is I didn’t have a resident status, Temp or Perm to open my account with Banco Azteca. I did have a house with CFE bill and water bill even though they were not in my name. The wire transfer from my US account gets a better exchange rate than all other options.

  23. We almost got an account open with Banamex in Progreso. They were ok with our tourist visa but the other shoe dropped when he said we needed a Mexican phone number to receive the confirmation text. We ended up going to Merida and successfully opened an account with Intercam Banco.

  24. Jerry cassie | April 26, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Reply

    Has anyone opened an Ck acct in Guadalajara? Thanks, Jerry

  25. Transferwise saved my sanity being able to send funds directly to vendors for large purchases. We own property in PDC, travel several weeks a quarter but still on tourist visas. We tried to open accounts through various banks over the past year and got the same story on residence visas. So we use Transferwise.

    A note on HSBC – they are a nightmare…Last year, I opened an account in the US after getting confirmation that they could “assist” with opening an account in PDC. The US account was the standard process and I was then turned over to their call center in India for International Assistance. It took us over 6 weeks and 60 hours on the phone (I still had to prove my identity even as a US account holder) to get the application completed. Then we had to drive 4 hours to Miami (we knew this ahead of time) sign our papers. That was on a Friday – the papers were faxed to one of the branches in Playa and I Tuesday, the US branch called and asked us to “come back in” so we could resign the (9 million) documents. Apparently my husband’s signature on one page to did “match” the other 8.99 million – yes, I’m still bitter. There was no flexibility, no ability to FedEx – nothing. We declined their offer.

    I kept the US account so I can use their ATMs. This also turned out to be a nightmare because even after calling them to inform them of travel, their fraud department has shut my account down. Funny thing is my card number was stolen (twice) from their in-bank ATMs and they never caught that.

    Folks have recommended going to Santander with a “local account holder” to get an account but we’re just going to wait to we move there full time.

  26. From what I understand s that we get a sticker on our passport from originating country once we are approved for temp residency status, then we complete the process once in Mexico. Will the banks allow you to open an account prior to receiving approval in Mexico?

    • They wouldn’t allow us to open a bank account until we had the actual card in hand. We showed several banks the “sticker” and they said it doesn’t prove that the final application will be approved.

  27. Profession Plum | October 8, 2017 at 6:28 pm | Reply

    so what banks in Mexico, do you recommend?

    • We don’t have a particular recommendation. All of the major banks (e.g. Bancomer, Santander etc) have excellent online banking systems; however, if you don’t have a Mexican phone number, you need to make sure that you can still do online banking. Many of the banks are going to digital security tokens which require a Mexican cell number to operate. Make sure they still issue a “physical token”.

  28. Went to Banamex today to open a checking account. It’s close to my house. Had the Temporary Residency Card and what I assumed to be everything else. Although my gut told me ‘They’re going to want ONE MORE THING.’ Bingo. Banamex said I had to have the Temp Res Card and an F2 (available at the Consulate in Guadalajara). I live in Morelia. However, I am going to Guadalajara next week so, it’s not that big of an inconvenience, but still….After reading other comments, it seems maybe my bank clerks are misguided???? And that there are other options. That’s what I love about Mexico–There are always other options!

    • The F2 and F3 are old terms. They have been replaced with the temporary and permanent visas; however, some businesses still use the old terms in their paperwork. The person you dealt with at the bank is obviously unaware of this fact. There is nothing for you to pick up at the consulate. I would recommend speaking to someone more knowledgeable at the bank or finding another bank.

  29. Great article! I have gone to two financial institutions and both said that I requiered either a FM2 (Temp Res) or FM3 (Perm Res) and a desposit of 2500 mxn pesos. I only hold the FMM for now, planning to apply for my residency later on,but would still like to open an account. Is there ANY financial institution or its just that I MUST have either residency status? Again awesome post!

    • HSBC’s customer service at the help line specifically said that they accept an FMM. Whether or not the particular branches know that is another matter.

  30. And if you lose your Mexican Bank ATM card, it’s easily replaced. Not so, if you lose your American Bank ATM card. I’m so paranoid about losing the American ATM card, I always just leave it at home.

  31. so, I keep running into this: i live in an off the grid house and as such I have no utility bill and I kept my US phone company. has anyone had luck with another doc? i had my lease rejected, probably because it doesnt look formal enough (my landlord asked me to provide the lease so its just a general form downloaded from the internet)

  32. Do you get charged excessive transfer charges from your US bank when you transfer to your mexican one? Would it be considered and international wire?

    • Yes, that’s why we use a third party service with lower fees like Xoom. Then it’s only $4.99 per transfer and they give a better exchange rate than the bank normally gives.

  33. Hey there Paul – just wanted to say a sincere thank you for taking the time to do what you do. This thread on banking has been particularly informative and enlightening. I live in central Florida and bought a condo in Cabo last year. Just now starting the process of getting educated as to what it will take to be able to spend 6 months or more a year there and your site/info has been extremely helpful. For example, and as a heads up to anyone else considering dividing their time between the States and Mexico, my power and water is currently off in my condo there because I can’t pay my utility bills online from here without a Mexican bank account. Can’t get a Mexican bank account without a temp or permanent visa. Can’t get a temp or permanent visa without driving an hour and change to the Mexican Consulate in Orlando (probably 3 times) and going through the preliminary application process and to prove I’m qualified for either a temp or permanent resident visa, then traveling to Cabo and going to the immigration office in LaPaz to complete the process which I understand can take more than a month and you have to be there to pick up your card when it’s ready, so you have to stay there the entire time or make two trips within about 6 weeks. All to get my lights and a/c back on lol.

    In order to keep my sense of humor and my sanity I seem to finish almost every conversation about this stuff with the same phrase;

    Hey – it’s Mexico lol =)

  34. Almost forgot – thanks for your 25 years of service in the law enforcement community. We appreciate you guys.

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