Under What Circumstances Can a Mexican Bank Account Be Considered Abandoned and the Money Seized?

Recently, I was talking with a friend of mine in Mexico — a fellow expat from the United States — and he was telling me about a problem that he had with one of his Mexican bank accounts.

He said that when he first moved to Mexico several years ago, he opened checking accounts at two Mexican banks because he wasn’t sure which one would work best for international transfers and online payments.

After using them both for a short time, he chose his favorite and started using that account for all of his banking needs. Instead of closing the other account, which had less than $1,000 USD in it, he decided to hold on to it — just in case.

As I mentioned before, that was several years ago.

Recently, my friend tried to use his ATM card to check that old account and it didn’t work. When he went to the bank to inquire, he was told that the account had been abandoned and the funds had been transferred to a general fund, in accordance with federal law.

Before I tell you how this story ends, let’s take a look at that federal law cited by the bank official.

Artículo 61 de la Ley de Instituciones de Crédito

The law applies to accounts that don’t have a set expiration date and/or automatically renew.

According to the law, if there aren’t any deposits, withdrawals or transfers for a period of three (3) years, the financial institution is required to transfer the funds to a combined global account. Once the money is transferred, the account holder will no longer be charged any fees or commissions related to the closed account.

The financial institution is required to notify the account holder by mail 90 days prior to transferring their money to the global account. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your bank has your correct address.

After three (3) additional years in the global account, account balances that are equal or lesser to 300 times the Mexican minimum wage will be transferred to a public fund called the beneficencia pública.

The money in the beneficencia pública is used to pay for health-related services and programs operated by the Secretary of Health.

In case you’re wondering how much that is in actual pesos, that would be 300 X $102.68 MXN = $30,804 MXN, or about $1,627 USD at the current exchange rate.

Account balances that are larger than that, will stay in the global account indefinitely earning interest.

Getting Your Money Back

If the money has already been transferred to the beneficencia pública, it’s gone for good. However, if it’s still in the global account, it can still be reclaimed by the account holder. This is normally done by filling out a formal request at the bank.

According to Scotiabank’s official website, the money should be returned to you the same day you complete the request.

If for some reason things don’t go smoothly at the bank and they seem reluctant to return your funds to you — and they haven’t already been transferred to the beneficencia pública — you can turn to the government agency tasked with protecting account holders, CONDUSEF, for assistance.

Let’s Wrap This Up

In our friend’s case, he acted in time to get his funds back from the global fund; however, we know other expats that lost their funds simply because they didn’t know what action to take.

Hopefully, this post will help them, and people like them, recover their hard-earned cash.

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

31 Comments on "Under What Circumstances Can a Mexican Bank Account Be Considered Abandoned and the Money Seized?"

  1. Larry lloyd Wall | February 25, 2019 at 12:10 pm |

    Thanks for this information. I have also an account at Banamex that I haven’t used for some time, as I opened a new account @ Scotiabank, as that’s where I Bank Trust is with. I’m going to Banamex today to check on my account… I’m so glad I joined your site, great information..

  2. About 5 years ago, when I was beginning to establish myself in Mexico, a coworker gave me advice that she experienced when her retired US citizen father passed away in Cancun, leaving a condo, car and bank account. She sent me a long detailed email if you would like me to pass along but essentially she was able to sell the condo and car but lost all the $10K usd in the bank because of no activity for what she said was 6 months. I like the idea of 3 years better but just to be sure, I always make sure there is some activity every month in my account even if it’s small.

  3. Hi Paul,
    What bank do you find is the best (transferring funds, rates, etc.) for an expat?


  4. That is pretty normal for most banks. If you don’t use the account they close it. But most banks will just steal your money. I like that Mexico uses it to help people in need. A lot of banks, if you don’t have any activity after a year charge you $50-60 dollars or euros. Thanks for the info!

  5. Great info. Thanks

  6. Great article. Have you considered an article on what happens when you die in Mexico? We attended a presentation and it is quite extensive what you have to do as a foreigner who dues without the proper paperwork. Scary if a person dies in your home and when a body is released.

  7. Good to know. Thank you!

    • You’re welcome, Janelle. 🙂

      • Another happy camper with Transferwise. I first transfered $100 USD to run the gauntlet. Ezy Pzy. Then the second transfer was large since we are building a house. That threw up some red flags and a series of phone calls along with supporting documentation to verify the various bank accounts, a foto ID of myself with US address, and the escritura of a property we had sold here 6 months previous. The second transfer took a week but all went well and they honored the exchange rate from day one. Sorry to hijack the thread, but thought this may matter to some if you have plans to move a large amount. Be prepared so call Transferwise or email first to confirm any issues.

  8. I found out from my bank, Banamax that there is a government law 115 ?? where they have to verify your information, where you live, where your money comes from, how much and how often you plan to put money in your account. The bank sent me a request for this information about 2 months after I opened my account and it came with a warning that if they did not receive the information in a certain amount of time my account would be closed. Well I did everything that requested twice and they even sent a person to verify I live at the address I gave.

    • There are strict money laundering laws in Mexico and those questions are often asked. Address verifications are common as well.

      One of our neighbors had to draw a map to their house and it was submitted with the bank file.

  9. Try a different bank.

  10. Did you deposit the equivalent of $50,000 US? That would open you up to FATCA reporting to the US. Banks must gather a lot of info to fill those forms and they require your signature.

  11. At CI Banco we had to email a photo of the condo facade in Cancun. Since then we have moved and were not required to do it again. As Paul has said many times consistency is not their strong suit.

  12. When we bought our place in Cabo we opened an account at Banamex because we could transfer money via Citibank. When we finally moved down 6 months later we were told our account was closed from lack of use. The bank said they refund our money, we checked in weekly for about 5 weeks no progress we were forced to go the Profeco and file a complaint. 3 weeks later got our money back

    • I’ve heard of certain banks closing accounts earlier as a result of their own internal policies. I’m glad to hear that you got your money back.

  13. Here in México there is an office called “Condusef” which is the equivalent of the (BBB) For banks in México and they will appoint mexican lawyers to your service Free of cost to help you recover any asset you may of lost, the Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador administration has gotten a great start from the beggining helping people and visitors from any injustice they may has or encounter.

  14. Linda Brousseau | February 27, 2019 at 5:12 pm |

    Hello. My question isn’t about a bank specifically, but I am hoping maybe you can direct me where I can go for the answer. My husband and I are in the processing of buying a condo in Cancun and want internet service at the condo. The internet provider is saying that we need temporary residency to set up services, but I have also been told that all I need is the deed to our property. Do you know the process for foreigners getting internet for their property?


    • That’s the first time that I have heard of a company asking for immigration documents. My recommendation would be to hire someone to set it up for you. People who perform these functions are called gestores, and generally speaking, they can get things done much easier than you can as a foreigner.

  15. Linda Brousseau | February 28, 2019 at 6:51 am |

    Thank you. Where can I find a gestore?

  16. Linda Brousseau | February 28, 2019 at 8:12 am |

    Thank you so much! You have been a huge help. It is a bit challenging to navigate the system in Mexico.

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