Banking, Mexico-style

As my driver’s license was expiring recently and had to be renewed, my bank debit card was in the same boat. Today, I went to the nearest branch to renew, something that should have been simple, right? In a sane nation, yes, but not where I am. Latinos.

My bank is BBVA, one of the largest banks in Mexico, but it’s a global bank headquartered in Spain. I’ve had accounts over the years in a variety of banks below the border: Santander, HSBC, Banamex, Banco Azteca and, of course, BBVA.

On entering the bank, I was told to go to a teller, and he would give me a new debit card. That sounded great! This won’t take long, I thought. I handed over the card to the young fellow who also requested an ID, logically. All going fine so far.

He asked me to put my index finger atop one of those fingerprint readers. Uh oh, I thought. Those things do not like me, and today was no exception. After about 10 failed attempts, he handed my debit card and ID back to me, and pointed me to a bank officer.

On sitting at her desk, she requested the ID again. I gave her my Mexican voter ID, which is the most frequently used ID. She asked if I had additional IDs. I handed over my driver’s license and the old-folks’ discount card, which is a government-issued ID.

So she had three government-issued IDs and the debit card, which still had not expired. She tried to do the fingerprint thing again with a fancier gizmo than the teller had. No dice.

Clearly, I could be a hit man for the mob, and would never be convicted. Some crooks sandpaper their fingertips. I just got old.

She asked if I had credit cards. Yes, I said, but they were at home. She said she needed four methods to nail down that I was not some shady shyster. She did not phrase it that way, of course, but that was what she was getting at.

I pointed out that she had my voter ID, my driver’s license, my old-folks’ discount card and my BBVA debit card which was good till the end of the month. Four things.

Ah, but the debit card had been canceled by the teller before he realized my fingerprints balked at the machine. So the debit card in her hand with my name on it, that had worked for years, was useless since about five minutes previously because of the teller.

You’ll need to bring one of the credit cards, she said.

So I drove home, got both credit cards — considered bringing my Mexican passport too, maybe my birth certificate — and returned to the bank. Thankfully, she had told me it would not be necessary to wait again, that I could jump the line directly to her, which I did.

At last I have a new debit card. It’s good till January 2027. I will be 82 and could be dead by then. At least I won’t have to renew the card.

A better Mexico

MY CHILD BRIDE spent six months in Spain in the late 1990s doing postgraduate studies.

She often got her panties in a twist due to European attitudes toward Mexico, that it was a backward nation where most roads were still made of dirt.

When I arrived below the border about four years later, most of the roads were not dirt, but the highway system certainly needed some improvement.

That has happened in spades. Many of our highways now are better than what one finds above the Rio Bravo.

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Nice chains

We have lots of great stores from above the border. Sears, Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club. And chain restaurants. Chili’s, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, IHOP, Sirloin Steak House.

Plus many more.

Recently, Bed, Bath & Beyond opened in the nearby state capital. It’s indistinguishable from its stores in Houston or Atlanta. I love that place.

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Checks and water

Years ago I wrote hereabouts that there were no public water fountains in Mexico. At least, I had never seen one.

I was quickly corrected by a reader who said he had spotted one way over in The Yucatan.

Just this week, I saw water fountains in two stores. One was Costco and the other was a supermarket here on the mountaintop. I was surprised.

But I would not use one. I have formed habits.

Another surprise occurred last week. Our local Bancomer branch was totally renovated, and new ATMS were included. They accept both cash and check deposits!

While I recall such things in the United States, I’d never seen an ATM here that did anything more than dispense cash.

(By the way, if you’re going to open an account in a Mexican bank, I highly recommend Bancomer.)

I recently read a report that about 80 percent of Americans feel that Mexico is a dangerous place to visit. Most Gringos have never set foot here and base their opinions on hysterical reports from the media and State Department.

Fact is you can visit here quite safely. You can go to Walmart, Costco  or Dairy Queen with confidence, and you won’t be mugged or murdered in the parking lot either.

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Bonus material

While on the Hacienda roof a couple of days ago to photograph the water tank for the post Agua! Agua! Agua! I snapped a few other shots just for fun.


Looking down the circular stairs on the upstairs terraza.


Street out back to the right.


The same street to the left.

And thanks for joining me here today.

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.