What I Like About Online Banking in Mexico

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When my wife and I moved to Mexico from the United States back in 2015, one of the first things that we did was open a Mexican bank account.

The bank account comes in handy whenever we need to pay someone for a product or service. For example, if we hire a carpenter to do some work at our condo, we pay him electronically through the online banking portal. This is much safer than taking a large quantity of cash out of the bank.

The thing that I like best about online banking in Mexico is that is more secure than what I was used to in the United States. I know that line will come as a surprise to many of our readers, so I’ll explain further.

Tokens

One of the things that makes online banking in Mexico so secure is the use of a security device called a token that is requied to complete any online transaction. The security token issues a unique code that expires soon after issued.

My first token was a small plastic device with a button on it. I could access my online account without it just by entering my username and password; however, if I wanted to move money or make any changes to the account, I had to push the button on the device and enter the eight digit code quickly before the code expired.

As an additional security measure, transfers over $8000 pesos can only be done during business hours.

Over the past few years, banks have been replacing physical tokens with digital ones that are stored on your cellphone. To access the token, you have to enter a separate password or PIN.

It’s important to note that you have to have a Mexican cellphone number to use the digital token. This has been a source of frustration for many foreigners who open bank accounts in Mexico only to discover they can’t do any online banking.

The digital token is not only linked to your Mexican cellphone number, it’s also linked to the specific phone you installed it on. That means that anytime you get a new phone, you have to take an hour or so out of your day to visit the local branch of your bank to get the new token activated.*

The purpose of the face-to-face visit is to verify your identity, which is not always as simple as it sounds. I had to do it last week, so I decided to share my experience so you could see what I mean.

The next section is a little long, so if you really don’t care about my little side trip or you’re just running short on time, feel free to skip to Let’s Wrap This Up.

* This requirement varies by financial institution

My Experience Getting a New Token (Optional)

When I arrived at the bank, I was able to get right in to see one of the account executives. I told her why I was there and she asked to see my passport for identification purposes.

She made copies of the passport and printed two documents out. The first one cancelled the old token from my broken phone and the second issued me a new token for my current phone. I signed both documents and she rejected one of my signatures. She said it wasn’t identical to the one in the passport.

Anyone who has been in Mexico very long knows that whenever you sign an official document, the signature better exactly match the one on the identification you presented.

The account executive reprinted that document, and I signed it. Apparently, my second attempt was as bad as the first because without saying a word, she hit a key on her computer and I heard her printer sound again.

As she placed the document in front of me for the third time, she told me to carefully look at the signature in my passport before signing it. I have to admit, I was starting to feel some test anxiety by this point.

I slowly signed my name as my eyes darted back and forth from my passport to the document. I focused hard on recreating each loop and swirl.

I’m not sure if it was a case of the signature looking perfect or she was just afraid that she would run out of paper, in any case, she accepted it. I was tempted to ask her for a copy of it to hang on my refrigerator at home.

But, I wasn’t done yet. She said that since I didn’t open my account at that particular branch, she couldn’t physically inspect my file and that meant a few more steps — this time on the phone. She made a call to the main call center for the bank and I had to answer several security questions for the representative on the other line.

Once the phone representative was satisfied that I was who I said I was, she gave me a code that I entered into my cellphone to activate my digital token. From the time I sat down with the account executive, the whole procedure took about 20 minutes.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Even though it was a bit of a pain to get my new token, I do appreciate the banking security measures in Mexico. It makes me feel a lot better about keeping some of our money here.

This article focused mainly on the use of a token for personal banking accounts, but that is not the only security measure Mexican banks will be using in the very near future.

In 2017, the Mexican government enacted new banking regulations via la Comisión Nacional Bancaria y de Valores (CNBV) to mandate that banks use biometric data to prevent frauds and identity theft.

The primary method will be through fingerprints checked against government databases; however, many banks are also implementing other technologies such as facial recognition, voice recognition, and even iris scans.

On the flip side, I can still access my U.S. bank account easily from almost any computer or device with just a username and password. Although that’s certainly more convenient, it’s definitely not as secure.

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About the Author

Q-Roo 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 for to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

36 Comments on "What I Like About Online Banking in Mexico"

  1. Ingrid Royle | May 5, 2018 at 4:46 pm |

    Thank you for this interesting information. Who would have thought that Mexico has better security when it comes to banking than the US.

  2. Lisa Wilson | May 5, 2018 at 4:52 pm |

    Agreed – it is a pain timewise but very secure.

  3. Monica Peloquin | May 5, 2018 at 5:08 pm |

    HAVE YOU INFOS ON THE % BANKS GIVE FOR INVESTING LET’S SAY $ 100,000 US FOR ONE YEAR
    I WAS TOLD THEY GIVE 7% INTEREST AND THEY TAKE OFF 4.5% DIRECTLY FOR INCOME TAX AND WE DO NOT HAVE TO FILE INCOME TAX REPORT IN MEXICO AS IT,S TAKEN OFF THE MONEY MADE EX 100,000 WILL GIVE 7% WHICH IS $7000 US (CONVERTED IN PESOS) MINUS 4,5% SO ACTUALLY 6.55 SO $6550 US IN PESOS??

    • Q-Roo Paul | May 6, 2018 at 6:17 am |

      There are investment options offered through several banks that you can do on a short term basis (or leave your money in longer) that are pulling fixed rates near 7%. One of the popular ones is CIBanco. You can contact them directly for information about how it works and the requirements.

      http://www.cibanco.com/es/cibanco/estrategias

    • I have one of the accounts you are referencing at CI Banco in Cancun. Your US Dollars have to be converted to Pesos upon deposit. I am receiving 7% annual for 28 day investment periods. There is only a few points more for yearly – 7.2% maybe. They bank takes 6% of the gain for tax and fees. So your $7K gain would become $6,580 for the year. If you just keep rolling the 28 day investment that is where you would end up. Although they pay every 28 days so you have the benefit of compound interest.

      • Q-Roo Paul | May 6, 2018 at 3:10 pm |

        Thanks for taking the time to reply, Walt 🙂

        • Ana Higginbotom | May 6, 2018 at 3:42 pm |

          CIBanco sends me texts to my American phone number. Also they called me the first time that I made a transfer for 80.000pesos, but I didn’t answer and they put the money back in my account. After that time they have not call me again. They only send me texts

          • Q-Roo Paul | May 6, 2018 at 3:54 pm |

            Do they issue a physical token or a digital token?

          • Paul – Physical tokens at CI Banco. Regarding texts – any time we use the debit cards the bank sends a text with the details of the transaction usually before we exit the store.

      • Is there a minimum amount? I have CI Banco accounts, and could carry that much money, and then just use it gradually for expenses. That is a pretty good rate of return. Any idea how volatile that is over the course of a few years? Any other risks? I would think business risk (bankruptcy, government nationalization) with CI Banco should be minimal.

        BTW, I have hard tokens for online banking, but a CI Banco app for my American based phone allows me to do online banking on the phone without the token.

  4. Monica Peloquin | May 5, 2018 at 5:10 pm |

    OUPS MADE A MISTAKE BANKS TAKE .0.4,5 % SO 100,000 WOULD GIVE 6550.00$US IN PESOS

  5. Stephanie L Sales | May 5, 2018 at 6:40 pm |

    Wonderful info! Thanks. Side question for which I did not find a blog reference (though no doubt you have covered it): which online service have you found to be the most cost effective to transfer USD from US bank to Mexico bank? Any tips are appreciated.

    Thanks again for your terrific blog
    A regular reader & permanent resident (with a Mex bank account & cel) in Guanajuato – Stephanie

  6. Christy Fleck | May 5, 2018 at 7:02 pm |

    Where is the best place to set up a mobile phone upon arrival prior to going to the bank? Since you said you need a cell phone.

    • Q-Roo Paul | May 6, 2018 at 6:10 am |

      AT&T has a plan that allows you to pay for 12 months and get 12 free. It has unlimited calls to the U.S., Canada and of course Mexico; unlimited texts, and up to 3 gigs of data (you can opt for more). So for around $240 bucks, your set for the next two years and won’t have to pay anything else.

      • I have CI Banco, and the app on my American based phone works without a hard token, I believe it has encryption built in.

    • If you would prefer a pay as you go plan TelCel offers the Amigo Sin Limite. There are different levels of service and prices. My wife uses the 200 plan. 200 Pesos for 33 days, unltd calls US & Mexico, texts, 1000 MB of data. Stop by any OXXO to recharge the plan monthly. With WiFi at home and free WiFi almost everywhere data is not a problem. I use the 100 plan for 21 days which is even cheaper. Not as convenient as Paul’s plan but I like paying as needed.

  7. Brian Andrews | May 5, 2018 at 9:19 pm |

    I am hooked your blog. So much valuable info for someone like me that is planning move to Mexico full time. really would love to hear more about moving some of my processions from CA to the Puerto Vallarta area and buying a home. Friends living in Mexico say buy your linens in the US due the cost of finding decent sheets and towels.

    • Q-Roo Paul | May 6, 2018 at 6:06 am |

      Thanks for following the blog, Brian. Your friends are right about the linens and towels, it can be difficult to find great quality ones but not impossible. Stores like Liverpool have a good selection. Also, don’t forget that the mattress sizes are different down here and that will affect how well the fitted sheet actually fits.

      I’m sure that I’ll get around to some articles about moving items down. There seem to be so many topics that I often wonder if I’ll ever get to them all.

  8. Paul, 20 minutes in the bank and you accomplished your task is great. It took me 3 times and at least that long each time just to get my address changed and one time I had a native speaker with me. Regarding the token. Yes I use mine regularly but I couldn’t get them to give me an answer about what happens if the battery dies? I take it with me when I travel because I found that if I don’t access at least monthly my online account, I get blocked. I also need to transfer funds for various reasons. Hopefully, it will continue to function without an issue.

    • Q-Roo Paul | May 6, 2018 at 3:07 pm |

      I was super pleased with 20 minutes. It is now my best time to date…lol.

      When I had a physical token, I asked what happens if the battery dies and they told me I would have to go to a bank branch to get a new token issued.

  9. Mark in Merida | May 6, 2018 at 10:24 am |

    So funny and true, our adventure to open a Mexican Bank account almost resulted in a in starting a reforestation project. Each time the banker presented the form to sign, then rejecting it (in our case) 4 times, she finally found a signature she would accept. We learned a valuable lesson; unlike the US in which we scribble down a signature that looks like a 1st graders art project – this is serious business. I haven’t written a check or even used our MX Bankcard in fear of getting slapped with another ruler on the knuckles for getting my signature wrong — jet again.

    • Q-Roo Paul | May 6, 2018 at 3:10 pm |

      I never even thought about writing a check — scary! 🙂

    • I have had to open three bank accounts, one personal, one for my corporation and one for our condo association. Every time it is several hours in the bank, as they work the compute, printing out stacks and stacks of papers with probably 20 signatures. And then trying to add an ATM card (tarjeta), checks, or online access is another process.

  10. One time at Scotiabank in Playa del Carmen, it took me over 3 hours to change my address from one Playa apartment to another. An hour to be seen, and then 2 hours of the bank rep just repeatedly disappearing off into the back. Might have been copier issues. At one point he took lunch, and someone else appeared. Then he came back. It was a Twighlight Zone, time warp, head shaking experience. I wasn’t even mad, just amazed. You just have to chill out in Mexico and assume that any errand that includes a bank could take hours.

    • Q-Roo Paul | May 6, 2018 at 3:05 pm |

      Going to the bank is a true test of one’s patience, that’s for sure.

    • That sadly is the norm. Rental cars, banking, even hotel registration takes soooooo long in Mexico with so much paper.

  11. Lyle Gregory | May 6, 2018 at 7:57 pm |

    Paul I have two accounts – one accessible by my property manager and one for me. Any insight into linking property mgr f

  12. Paul – CI Banco uses a physical token at this time.

  13. It’s my understanding that in order for me to open a Mexican bank account I need to have at least a Temporal Visa, i.e., I can’t do so with a tourist visa. Is this true?

    • Q-Roo Paul | May 7, 2018 at 8:27 pm |

      That’s generally how it works; however, tourists still manage to open bank accounts everyday. It is a very inconsistent system.

      • Yes, I am still on tourist visas as I enter and leave the country, and I have three accounts open.

  14. CIBanco’s token isn’t a problem (You do need it to log in). The fact that the web-based system blocks the right-click button and doesn’t allow Google Translate to work, does, unfortunately, make things harder…

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