Thinking about buying land in Mexico? Maybe you want to buy a car? You’ll eventually get to the point if you’re staying here long enough, that you’ll want to open a bank account in Mexico and send money to Mexico to put in it.
Before I get into the details of how to open a bank account in Mexico, I’ll just make a side note about needing less than 200,000 MXN. If you are not buying land and aren’t in dire need for a bank account – for example, maybe you are traveling through and want to buy a used car, you can use ways (other than opening a Mexican bank account) to get money into Mexico. You can read my article about how I bought a used car in Mexico to see how I got money here before I had a bank account; the best ways to send money to Mexico from abroad and the regulations on how much you can send on each one.
How to Open a Bank Account in Mexico as a Foreigner and Send Money to Mexico (Transfer it) from the USA
So, why would you need a bank account in Mexico? Having a Mexican card means you can pay your bills online (no more standing in line at CFE), transferring money to your landlord to pay rent (fewer ATM fees), use apps that are restricted to Mexican cards only (like booking an ADO bus or ordering a cab from Cabify). You may also need a large sum of money to buy land or a home in Mexico.
You DO need to have you Mexican residency to open a bank account in Mexico. If you need to get yours, you can read my article on how to get one here. You can open a bank account in Mexico with either a temporary or permanent residency.
As I am living in Mexico for the unforeseeable future, I wanted a bank account but I rushed the process because I found land I wanted to buy and knew that I would need to put a large sum of money from my USA bank account into my Mexican bank account. Once you get over around 200,000 MXN, it would be crazy to use Western Union or any other way of transferring money.
There are several good banks in Mexico you can consider like Banorte, Monex, Citibanamex, Scotiabank, Citibank, HSBC, Santander. Many are banks that are connected to banks somewhere else. For example, Scotiabank is Canadian and Citibanamex connects with Citibank and many USA banks meaning once you open an account, you can simply transfer money.
If you buy land in Mexico within a certain limit to the sea, you need to buy it through a bank trust called a Fideicomiso. Not all banks have them, and most expats and lawyers will tell you to choose between Monex and Scotiabank. I chose Scotiabank simply because it was recommended to me so much and there is one on every corner. You will choose what kind of bank account you want to open like deposit vs. checking. I opened a no fees checking account.
Documents To Take With You to Open a Mexican Bank Account
As a foreigner, you cannot open an account online. You need to go into the bank. Don’t worry it doesn’t take long at all. Choose a branch which doesn’t have as big of crowds and give yourself 45 minutes to an hour for the process.
- Plastic immigration card
- Proof of address
- Cash to put in the account (most require around 5,000 MXN to open)
You must make copies of items 1-3 listed above and bring them with you.
3.* If your proof of address is not in your name, for example, your lease or bill is in your friend or family members name, that is okay. You have two options. If it’s your husband/wife, you can bring a marriage certificate. If it’s your friend/boyfriend/girlfriend, you need to go to immigration (ugh, I know) with your bill in their name and have them write you a letter that states your address really is your address. This letter will be an original and a copy. You will only be given ONE letter which is original. Try to keep it – they might want it for their records but ask if you can have them take only the copy. That has worked for me a couple of times, while at the auto registration, they did take an original. This letter is not a unique thing so don’t stress and is very common, so everyone will know what you mean when you request it at INM and when you show it at offices.
Opening Your Mexican Bank Account
You’ll give those papers over the bank teller. They will have you fill out a form about your personal information. You’ll also fill out a W-9 or 1099 I can’t remember! You’ll sign a paper that says you pay taxes in your home country, for me that is the USA. You’ll sign some things… mostly it’ll be done in Spanish but it’s really quite straightforward.
While there, you will wait to get your debit card printed. You will get some temporary paper checks and you can go back to pick up ones with your name on them. If you get a debit card from Scotiabank, don’t be shocked that there is no name on it! I found it odd but was assured it was their normal.
You’ll deposit money into the account and then head straight out to the ATM to change your pin. You will just click the options (ATM’s are in Spanish or English, your choice) to change the PIN, not withdraw money.
That’s it! You go home with a new debit card with your pin set. You can use those temporary checks to pay rent or your car to pay bills online.
Transferring Money to Mexico from the USA
I needed to transfer money from the USA to my new bank account. I bank with Charles Schwab in the USA, which I highly recommend as they have no ATM fees anywhere in the world. They do not link to any Mexican banks though, which wasn’t a problem.
When you transfer money, you usually will send US dollars to your Mexican account. They will then use their bank exchange rates to change it to pesos and put it in your account. Mexican banks aren’t going to offer good rates, and while they can wiggle a bit if you negotiate, even my bank teller told me it wouldn’t be a great rate. Charles Schwab offers currency change at really good rates, so I had them change the money to pesos, and transfer the pesos to my Mexican bank account.
You’ll want to watch what the currency is doing. It’s usually around 19 pesos to a dollar. It goes up to 20/21 sometimes and also drops to 18. It was just over 20 a couple days after I set up my bank account, so I sent money over right away. I will watch, and as it goes up, I’ll send more. The high 21’s are usually as high as it’ll go but I’m no money expert – just based on what I’ve seen with some research. In the end, I send around 800,000 pesos and paid a $25 fee to both banks and lost 4,000 MXN on the exchange rate using the bank’s exchange rate compared to what it actually is.
You’ll want to check what rate your bank in the USA will give and compare it to the rate your Mexican bank will give. You can set up online banking in Mexico so you can track when the money arrives.