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Unless you are legally employed, you do not need to open a bank account in Mexico. ATMs are easy to find throughout the country, and by using an official ATM from a bank (not a private ATM) you can withdraw money from your home account with minimal fees.

Once you begin working, however, having an account in a Mexican bank is essential. Many companies pay by direct deposit (called “nomina”), and if not, then they will issue checks that you’ll need to cash. Also, you can use your bank account in Mexico to pay your electric and internet bills automatically.

If you are paid by direct deposit, then the company you work for will typically open the account for you. If not, you can choose your own bank.

Different banks in Mexico

Major banks in Mexico with branches countrywide include Bancomer, Banamex, Santander, Banorte, HSBC, and Scotiabank. They are all quite similar, but you can download documents from their websites that show their services, benefits, and different types of accounts.

Of these major banks, Banorte is the only one that is truly Mexican-owned. For instance, Banamex recently became part of Citibank, Santander and Bancomer (BBVA) are Spanish, HSBC is British, and Scotiabank is Canadian.

Aside from reviewing their policies on their websites, the best way to choose a bank is to find one with a branch close to your place of employment. If there are several banks nearby, then pay attention whenever you pass them. Which are the busiest, and which have the most ATMs?

When to visit the bank

Mexicans are paid twice a month; on the 15th and then the final day of every month. On these days, banks nationwide have huge lines, both for the tellers and the ATMs. Try to avoid visiting the bank on these days, not only to avoid long lines but to avoid trying to withdraw cash from an ATM that may have run out of money.

Types of bank accounts in Mexico

Besides your nomina (direct deposit) account, you may choose to open a different type of bank account according to your needs and preferences: a savings account, checking account, fixed deposit account, or an account in a foreign currency. Before you open any of these accounts, review the bank’s policies carefully so you understand what you may be charged for.

Checking and nomina accounts provide a debit card linked to either Visa or MasterCard, which can be widely used in Mexico at supermarkets, restaurants, and elsewhere. In most cases, you will need to visit an account executive to set up online banking, which is helpful as it allows you to check your balance and download statements. Be aware that you will be charged for other online services, such as money transfers.

Procedures

Documents to be produced to open a bank account in Mexico are:

  • a valid identity document (for foreigners, use your passport)
  • proof of residency, usually an electric bill from where you live. It does not need to be in your name.

 Good to know:

Mexican banks typically charge fees that are not charged in other countries, such as for printing your bank statements or if the money in your account goes below a certain number, often 4,000 pesos (about $240 USD). This limit does not apply while you are being paid in a direct deposit account, but if you change jobs, keep an eye on your balance to avoid these fees.

Another nuisance is that once you open an account, telemarketers who work for the bank will regularly call you offering credit cards and other promotions. This can be quite confusing if you don’t speak Spanish, because you may think that there is a problem with your account. In general, you can assume that when the bank calls, it is simply a promotion. You can try to visit your bank and ask them to take you off their call list, but unfortunately, this does not always work. So, if at all possible, do not provide your phone number when opening an account.

 Useful links:

Banamex
Bancomer
Banorte
HSBC
Santander
Scotiabank

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