Fun with credit!

YES, I’M HAVING a grand time with my new Mexican credit card. Why, just this morning I renewed my account* with the Mexican credit bureau using that very card. Did you know Mexico has a credit bureau?

Alas, you can have squeaky clean credit in the United States, and it will do squat for you here in Mexico where you have to start all over again establishing credit. One would think that in today’s interconnected world, especially in the area of finance, that your credit history would follow you around, good or bad.

But it does not follow you to Mexico.

With my briefly held credit card via Banamex and a second via Banamex USA, also briefly held (I unwisely canceled both before FATCA stormed onto the scene), I established a bit of good credit here. Strangely, my report on the Mexican credit bureau is good but not spectacular. I am accustomed to spectacular.

sidewaysSince I never paid late on the two previous Mexican cards, my less-than-spectacular rating puzzles me, but I imagine it’s due to the relatively short time and scant usage involved.

Moving on to other financial issues, did you know that Mexico insures bank deposits much like the United States does with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.? Down here we have the Institute for the Protection of Bank Savings, but it’s not just for savings accounts. It covers most things.

The amount varies, but nowadays it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000 U.S. bucks. If you have more than that in one bank, I suppose it would be wiser to put part in another bank. Many Gringos living down here incorrectly think Mexico does not insure bank deposits.

I have more faith in Mexico’s financial future than I have in America’s.

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* To have easy access to your credit report, you need an account which costs about 18 bucks a year.

Credit card craziness

WHEN THE PRESIDENT called Barry signed legislation a year or so ago, he canceled my U.S. bank account and the U.S. accounts of many other U.S. citizens living outside America.

This colossally ill-conceived legislation goes by its initials, FATCA. You can look it up if you care. Basically, it was intended to nail fat cats who were hiding their riches in offshore accounts. What it actually did was hose innocent Americans, mostly retirees, who had the good sense to live elsewhere.

I was one of those hose-ees.

flagThe United States is the only nation on earth that taxes money held by its citizens in other countries. It is a desperation move due to the sea of bloody red ink the nation irresponsibly swims in.

Entitlements add up. Redistribution only goes so far.

FATCA did not directly cancel all those U.S. bank accounts. What it did was impose burdensome paperwork on banks in the United States with account holders living beyond the borders. And many banks, likely most, found it more convenient to just close the lower-end accounts.

Last July … with very little warning.

My U.S. bank was Banamex USA, the American branch of one of Mexico’s biggies, Banamex. Don’t let the name fool you. Banamex USA must play by U.S. rules. It’s owned by Citicorp.

WE DON’T WANT YOU ANYMORE

I opened the letter that arrived in my post office box in late June and read: After examining your account, we regret to inform you that we can no longer service your account. It will be closed on July 1.  I was mildly annoyed. It was only later that I began to think of all the fish I had in that sea.

The enormity of this event began to sink in.

I receive two pensions. One is Social Security. By pure luck, just months earlier I had switched the automatic deposit from Banamex USA to HSBC-Mexico where I had just opened an account due to dissatisfaction with the Mexican Banamex. But the other, corporate, pension was deposited in Banamex USA.

That corporate pension is distributed by an arm of Wells Fargo. I phoned them and was told they only did direct deposit to U.S. banks, not foreign ones, and the sole alternative was a check in the mail. The problem with Option Two is that you cannot deposit or cash a U.S. check in Mexico anymore.

Thank U.S. legislation again.

It is virtually impossible these days to open a U.S. bank account without a U.S. address and driver’s license, neither of which do I possess. So when Banamex USA dumped me, well, …

After lots of stress and frantic activity, I got Wells Fargo to initiate pension direct deposits outside the United States. I imagine I am still the only person they do that for.

When I moved to Mexico in 2000, I had just opened a checking account at Banamex USA, and I had three credit cards which were paid online from that account. Then the credit cards began to fall by the wayside.

The first to go was a Visa I used to pay for Sky TV in 2003. Without going into dreary details, Sky began to abuse the card. I asked the issuing bank to stop them, but the bank told me they could not, that only Sky could cancel the agreement.

Absurd. So, I canceled that card. Adiós, Sky TV. But adiós credit card too.

Two cards left. One was a Wells Fargo Mastercard, and the other was an AT&T Visa. I had my Mexican mailing address on both. Renewal cards for the AT&T Visa were express-mailed here with no problem. The Wells Fargo people, however, were much more ornery.

Their “fraud department,” before activating a renewal card, insisted I go to my local Banamex branch and have all manner of complex paperwork done to prove that I was the person I said I was. This paperwork would have been a real challenge at a Mexican bank where procedures are quite different.

WHERE THE SUN DON’T SHINE

I told Wells Fargo to put the card in what would have been a painful place had it been on a human being. There would have been no sunshine there. So I was down to just one credit card.

I consider two credit cards a minimum, so I went to my Banamex branch here in town and requested a credit card. They gave it to me with a limit of just 15,000 pesos, about 1,000 dollars. They absolutely would not raise the limit to something reasonable. And there was a sizable annual fee.

About a year later, I canceled it in a snit, and was left with one card. I use credit cards exclusively online, absolutely nowhere else, but online is important because I shell out not much, but regularly, online.

And then came last June’s letter from Banamex USA, canceling my account and leaving me with no easy way to pay the AT&T Visa card. I still have the card, but it sits idle and useless.

I returned to Banamex and asked them to reissue the card I had canceled. Nah, they said. FATCA was not mentioned, but that is without a doubt the reason they would not reissue the card.

My U.S. citizenship was mentioned. Thanks to Washington D.C., again.

I canceled my longtime account at Banamex in Mexico. It had always been a pain anyway.

TOO OLD TO TRUST

So I went into my local HSBC-Mexico branch and asked for a credit card. At age 70, I was too old, I was informed. Yes, age discrimination is alive and well down south. It’s an unfair world. But I don’t get huffy. It’s life.

As I consider two credit cards a minimum, I also consider two banks a minimum, so I opened an account with BBVA Bancomer. For a credit card, they require an account to be open a few months and that a minimum balance of 6,000 pesos be maintained. I did that.

On Wednesday, they gave me a nice, shiny, blue Visa card with a 50,000-peso limit, which is okay. My child bride has a high-balance account with HSBC-Mexico that came with a no-questions-asked credit card, and spouses automatically get one too. I got one last year, but it’s connected to her account.

No matter. My two-card minimum is fulfilled.

So what did I do the eight months between the time my AT&T Visa was sidelined and getting my own Bancomer Visa this week? I used my HSBC-Mexico debit card for online purchases, which is not wise. Debit card purchases come right out of your checking account. A credit card provides a security barrier.

LAND OF THE CHESHIRE CAT

catWeirdly, a week ago, every online account that used my HSBC-Mexico debit card found that charges were rejected. This came out of the blue.

HSBC-Mexico says there is no reason for this to be happening, but it is happening. I view this as part of the Alice-in-Wonderland tone of Mexican life.

Thursday, I switched all online charges to my shiny new Bancomer Visa. I am a happy boy. Everything works out if you wait long enough. It is the way of the Goddess.

(If you read all the way down here about my credit card situation, you deserve a medal.)

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(Update: About six months later, I got a phone call from HSBC-Mexico, asking if I wanted a credit card. Apparently, I’m not too old to trust after all. I accepted the card.)

Donating to Barry

I SENT MY kilo of carne to Barry yesterday. Yes, I filed my tax return.

Actually, I did not pay Barry yesterday. I paid him last year in the form of withholding when I took some cash out of an IRA. I pegged it very well, close to perfect, because I was due a refund of just $31.

turbineI imagine Barry will use my $4,969 to fund bald-eagle-killing wind turbines in Texas. My payment was nothing compared to the $13,000-plus federal heist that Steve Cotton suffered.

My tax return is a simple affair. We live on Social Security payments and a small pension from the Hearst Corp., my final employer. I toiled there 15 years. And occasionally we take money from the IRA. It’s when we take cash from the IRA that tax sometimes is due. The SS and pension alone is official U.S. poverty.

Thank the Goddess for the internet, which makes this yearly curse easy, labor-wise. Every year since moving over the Rio Bravo 15 years back I have used TurboTax, which is the most popular tax-filing website, it appears. However, a few times TurboTax has given me headaches, so I looked at alternatives this year.

One of the most popular options is TaxAct, and that’s what I used. It is far better than TurboTax. The only glitch, a temporary one, was when I neared the end of the process. What to do with the $31 refund? TaxAct showed only two options: electronic deposit to a U.S. bank or a check in the mail.

Neither of those work for me. Due to Barry (and this is true), I no longer have a U.S. bank. It was pulled out from beneath my feet last year due to fresh legislation known as FACTA, a poorly thought-out, Democrat-sponsored and Barry-signed piece of baloney that intended to catch fat cats with offshore accounts.

What it did mostly was torment retirees and other honest U.S. citizens living outside the United States.

A check in the mail is useless too because — also due to new U.S. legislation from the Democratic Party — Mexican banks no longer cash nor accept dollar checks for deposit. Unintended consequences.

When the U.S. bank closed my account — to avoid Barry’s onerous paperwork — I also lost my two U.S. credit cards that were paid in full each month from that bank account. I still have those cards, but I cannot use them because I cannot pay them. I paid for the TaxAct service with my wife’s HSBC credit card. HSBC will not give me a credit card because I am “too old.” I guess I could drop dead at any moment, and leave an unpaid balance.

Well, back to that $31 refund. I emailed TaxAct support because I was reasonably sure the refund could be applied to next year’s tax obligation. They answered the next day, pointing me to a rather obscure corner of the process where I could do that — and I did. Then I easily e-filed. I’ll be sticking with TaxAct.

Best of all was learning with certainty that I am exempt from Barry’s chaotic socialized medicine scheme due to living outside the United States. The advantages of living in Mexico keep piling up.

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I am not a fan of the president of the United States. I was borderline horrified today to read that a recent Gallup Poll showed his popularity had risen to near 50 percent again. Freaking incredible. Why?

BarryMany of the more rabid conservatives like to say Barry is a Mohammedan or that he was not born in the United States. I do not believe those things, but I do believe Barry is absolutely inept, a true child of the 1960s. Those of you who voted for him should do penance.

Re-education camps should be established for those who voted for him twice.

One of the best, most sober descriptions of the Barry situation that I have ever read is right here.