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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