Another cord cut

IT SAT IN my email folder at dawn on Monday. Your account has been canceled. Your credit card, that is.

My last Gringo card. Zapped for inactivity.

I moved south 16 years ago with four credit cards, all issued by U.S. institutions and all paid in full every month via the checking account I opened in 1999 at Banamex USA,* the U.S. branch of the Mexican behemoth Banamex.

I’d been a longtime Wells Fargo Bank customer, but I was planning my move to Mexico.

sailor-knot-9-ana-maria-edulescuThe four cards were a Wells Fargo Mastercard, an AT&T Universal Visa and two other Visas from another bank, somewhere in the Dakotas, the name of which I have long forgotten.

The two Visas from the Dakota bank were the first to go. I had to cancel them both 12 years ago after one was skyjacked by Sky cable television down here. Never give Sky your credit card number for recurring charges.

That is very good advice for most Mexican firms.

That left me with two credit cards, which didn’t concern me.

A few years later, Wells Fargo sent a renewal card to my post office box here. But due to living in Mexico — a shady land, you know — they insisted I go to a bank here and jump through all manner of hoops to prove I am who I am.

Screw that, I muttered to myself as I cut up the card.

That left me with just one card, the AT&T Universal Visa. I was starting to get a little nervous. To have a backup, I went to Banamex here where I had a checking account and requested a credit card. They gave me one with a $10 limit, only a slight exaggeration, and there was a fat annual fee too.

About a year later, I got a hair up my keister about something, and I canceled the card. I hadn’t used it much.

So, back to just one credit card.

THE LETTER

Then the letter came in 2014 from Banamex USA. Your checking account will be canceled shortly. That happened due to a new U.S. law known by its initials, FATCA.

It’s all Barry Obama’s fault, of course.

Banamex USA was my only way to pay off the U.S. credit card. No other option existed.  I do not now qualify for another U.S. bank account. No U.S. address or driver’s license.

That effectively nulled my last credit card. But I never canceled it because, I thought, maybe one day I might need it, though I could not imagine how, where or why. I held onto the account, my final Gringo credit card, a lifeline.

There was no annual fee.

For many months, I was left only with a Banamex debit card, which is not as secure as a credit card, especially online.

I asked for my Banamex credit card again. They wouldn’t reissue it. It was due to FATCA, but they danced around that fact. Irked, I canceled my Banamex account that I’d had for 14 years. They didn’t seem to give a hoot.

Heartless, greedy capitalists!

HUNTING ALTERNATIVES

I opened a checking account just up the street at HSBC-Mexico. I asked for a credit card. Not just yet, they told me. Later maybe. Later came and went. No credit card.

So I went even farther up the street and opened a checking account at Bancomer, still keeping the one at HSBC. Again, I requested a credit card. Wait three months, they said. I waited, and they gave me a credit card. Yipee!

And another for my child bride. For this and other reasons, I’ve become a yuuuge** Bancomer booster.

I requested a credit card from HSBC many times, and they always said no with little explanation. I gave up. Months later, out of the blue, they asked if I wanted one.

I said sure. Go figger.

So now I have credit cards at both Bancomer and HSBC. I also had my AT&T Visa, the Gringo card, till this week, useless as it was, an emotional tie to the old country.

Gone now, like so many other cards and cords.

FORGET AMERICA

My goal these days is to have as little to do with that troubled land above the border as possible. The norm, it seems, for Americans living in Mexico is the opposite, to keep connected to the greatest degree possible.

They keep bank accounts, addresses, homes, relatives. You name it, they keep it. Their Mexican ties seem tenuous.

They’re always visiting up north. They’re always having friends bring down “stuff” they can’t find here, stuff they think they can’t live without. Someone recently posted on a Yahoo forum catering to local Gringos a list of “essential” stuff one needs from above the Rio Bravo. I guffawed.

  1. Workshop tools, as if you cannot find tools in Mexico.
  2. Down comforters, as if Costco doesn’t offer them, and so does Bed, Bath & Beyond.
  3. Mosquito nets, as if they’re not easy to find here.
  4. Smartphones. We Mexicans still use tin cans and string.
  5. Up-to-date laptops. Best Buy, Walmart, Sears, etc., in Mexico just sell crusty Commodores and dusty Ataris.
  6. Linens “to fit your bed.” Somehow, my Mexican linens always fit my beds, both king and queen.
  7. Walking sticks. Certainly, no walking sticks can be found here. I wonder where I found mine?
  8. Good binoculars. Only defective binoculars are sold in Mexico, of course, leftovers from pirate times.

That’s just some of the stuff I saw on the list, all of which is available in Mexico. Do they cost a bit more at times? Sure, but factor in your minuscule electric bill and fresh, cheap veggies and low restaurant tabs, you’re way ahead.

And the beautiful women.

I don’t go north anymore, nor do I have things smuggled down. It ain’t necessary. You can live quite well here with what’s available, and that’s what I try to do.

And now I have no Gringo credit cards at all.

If you read all this, you’re a better man than I am.

* * * * *

* Banamex USA is closing entirely this year. There has long been talk of its involvement in money laundering. HSBC’s reputation along those lines isn’t much better.

** Trump allusion.

(Note: There is a Mexican credit bureau. It has no connection with credit bureaus in the United States, so you start from scratch below the border no matter how good or bad a credit rating you had in the United States.)

27 thoughts on “Another cord cut”

  1. In our 3-month travel the only thing that we missed was affordable dog food. Our Lab is a tender soul and must have grain free. It ain’t cheep SOB, but as you said, we’re still ahead considering how little we paid for food, etc. Oh, we brought stuff NOB! For instance, Mexican saltines are amazing! We have two big boxes. We found European delicacies that are very difficult to find NOB.

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    1. Steve: So your pooch is a tender soul? I bet what he actually is is a spoiled soul.

      Years back a woman I knew who was planning to move to Mexico told me she would be bringing tires down with her because, well, you know, good car tires just can’t be found down here. I’m still chuckling at that one.

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      1. Actually he gets bad skin problems from the grain and scratches non-stop. But, yes, he’s also spoiled. Tires: we found it amusing how one finds tires right in the middle of stores like Wal-Mart. Not in the shop area. Right there with the toilet paper.

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        1. Steve: I’d never paid any attention to the placement of tires in Walmart, but you’re right. We Mexicans march to a different drummer. Anyway, tires are just as necessary as toilet paper. Why separate them?

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Nelson. I appreciate the kind words. Future comments here will not be moderated. I see you signed up to follow my other site The Pearls of Zapata. Be aware that it’s fairly static, rarely changing. It’s like a library of things that appeared elsewhere hereabouts. But I appreciate the compliment implied.

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  2. Always interesting to read your notations of US affected international banking systems. My friends in a certain Central American country are shocked and saddened that their move to paradise included cords to the US banking system which were suddenly disrupted. Actually the USers, I for instance, have problems with security and plowing through all the screens put up to avoid having unauthorized transactions on bank cards and accounts. I have to wait for a texted number from Wells Fargo to get into my accounts there when I try to log in. Have to talk to them about that but I don’t want to get my knickers in a twist.

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    1. Carole: Always best to keep one’s knickers untwisted. Your mention of security matters reminds me that HSBC Mexico is so freaking security obsessed that they end up angering their clients big-time, far more, I imagine, than they upset cyber-criminals.

      Major inconveniences for their customers. Another reason I far prefer Bancomer.

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  3. Congratulations on the last cord. I have a family financial obligation that keeps one of my northern accounts open. I kept two credit cards to earn air miles — something that was far more important before Barco arrived and stopped my frequent travels. Well, all of my travels.

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    1. Señor Cotton: While it was my last credit card cord and my last U.S. bank cord, I still have cords. I get SS and a corporate pension, both of which sail electronically to my Mexican banks. And I still have investment money in The Vanguard Group, which I am gradually moving south and into my wife’s name. I should be out of Vanguard entirely in about 3-4 years. I have a game plan.

      Yes, yes, your air miles!

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  4. Credit cards are a cancer. Avoid them if at all possible. Go with cash whenever possible. Nobody turns down cash; they may wonder about you and your sources of income, but they still take the money.

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    1. Señor Gill: Credit cards do get lots of people in trouble, irresponsible people, and there are plenty of them. They get what they deserve. I pay off my balances in full every month, and it’s programmed to do that at my banks. I don’t even have to think about it. I’ve paid my credit card balances in full for decades. I loathe debt.

      Credit or debit cards are necessary, especially online. I pay Netflix with it. I get my Kindle books with it. Other stuff too. And credit cards are significantly less vulnerable than are debit cards. I love credit cards.

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  5. I stayed to the end.

    The lists of gringo items is a hoot. I often brought items to my gringo friends in Honduras back in the day, but they were very specific in nature. One guy loved “Cinnamon Toast Crunch” cereal, so I always made sure to bring a box or two. One lady liked a certain brand of coffee (can’t remember the brand, but it was something like Maxwell House), which I always thought was especially crazy when you can buy really good coffee in Honduras very cheap

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    1. Ray: In all honesty, the woman who wrote the list — someone who’s lived here as long or longer than I have — did not say all the items were unavailable here because they are not. For some that are available here, she cited much higher prices as the reason to have them muled down. While electronic things did cost considerably more some years back, the price difference often is not so wide nowadays. At times the difference is minuscule now.

      One item on her list that amused me is Benadryl anti-itch sticks.

      She cited quite a few specialty items. In my first couple of years here I also would bring such stuff back with me on my yearly returns up there when my mother was still alive, but with time I simply weaned myself from lots of habits and developed new habits with things easily available here. It simplified life.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott: Yep, but I never was much of a catch for the U.S. credit system, at least as far as credit cards go. I always paid them off in full every month. I never purchased a motor vehicle on credit either. I did buy the one house on credit, but I had no choice on that. The three residences we have down here were not bought on credit either. All paid in cash up front, or in the case of the Hacienda, little by little as the construction progressed.

      I do not like debt.

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  6. That list of things is a hoot. There are some things here which are hard to find at a suitable quality level, but most of what you listed doesn’t seem to fit that description.

    And then there’s Amazon. After suffering in silence for months, I ordered a pair of Beoplay S3 powered speakers from Amazon.com, and they were delivered to my door in Mexico City in three days.

    Yeah, I paid another $45 in import tax and some shipping, but these speakers would have been hard to find here and probably would have been priced double what I paid including the various taxes and fees.

    The only thing I’m having a hard time finding these days is “sweet & low.” But I’m managing to live without.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    CDMX, México
    Where good cookware is also hard to find.

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    1. Kim: I’m assuming you ordered from the U.S., not the Mexican, Amazon. I’ve been ordering from the U.S. Amazon since I moved here, not often but now and then. A decade or more ago it took a good while to arrive, but now it’s amazingly fast, even to my mountaintop. Yes, three or so days is common. Does it cost a bit more? Sure. Is that a big deal? Not to me. I’ve ordered a thing or two from Amazon Mexico. My camera, for example. Gets here even quicker.

      Sweet & Low? I’ve seen Sweet & Low. There are lots of other brands too.

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      1. By Sweet & Low, I specifically mean saccharine. Unfortunately aspartame and acesulfame potassium are the artificial sweeteners available.

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          1. Actually, I couldn’t get Amazon to send me Sweet & Low either. However, I have bought one of those mosquito zappers and now live in a fume of insecticide. I figure it’s better than getting Zika.
            All in all, I’m doing well here. Saludos.

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