Bank question...and a rather dumb one

I opened a bank account at BAM recently and brought along a Guatemalteco to vouch for me as requested (required). He is a trusted and long-term employee where I am currently living. All went well...I must have answered a million questions to which there seemed no clear answer (like how much do I plan to spend per month. Um, really?) but finally walked out the proud owner of a shiny new Guatemalan bank account.

Only problem is, after the fact, doubts set in and I wondered if my overconfidence in my Spanish had failed me - and I had unwittingly agreed to allow another person to have full access to my account. Yes, you can laugh.

I signed almost all the papers, whereas he only signed a couple of papers in the end (which I should have perused more closely), along with producing his DIP (bank made copies of), and answering a couple of questions about his work and where he for the most part it was me sitting in the hot seat in front of the bank officer answering all questions, while he was behind in the rows of other seats, so no joint account vibe there.

And I'm not in too deep at this point (about $50), so of course I will ask the bank directly if he has access, and if he does, change the person to someone else whom I trust more, etc....but...what do you think? Lol. I may be a gormless gringa at times, but ultimately a fast learner. Please advise before I return there to pick up debit card, etc. - and potentially make a bigger fool of myself.

And don't try to sell me any swamp land, just yet.

You are fine. It is not a joint access account. He actually is vouching for you. Never heard of anyone ever having consequences because of a gringos bad bank behavior.

Well, thank you for that, Antiguanian. Apart from the first concern that he might now be capable of ruining my life, its also true that my second thought was...'try not to ruin his, either'. So I won't overdraw (nor marry him) and everything should be fine, karmically speaking.

What this process is about is having a "legal entity" in Guatemala related to your account. If you don't have residency (my must not or you would not need this person) then the bank needs to have something/someone they can file their claim against.
That said, when I was first here I had my residency but was waiting for my DPI. The banks said "you need your DPI to open an account". COLUA, a "credit union" was the amazing exception. They realized I had residency and a paper that said my DPI was applied for and they let me open an account. They were "there to help" and I will never forget this.

It's nice when banks are nice to us, no? The smallest ones generally are. Thank you for your reply.

If your account is open with your guarantor.. you can get him out of it as it is not necessary to open the account that he has signature in it.. I help lots of clients for this and I "back them up" but don't have necessarily the signature.. The danger would be you leave for a long period of time and he empty your account.. or you die and he does the same

2 things
to have a legal entity you don't need to have a dpi as a tourist you can own shares of a Guatemalan C Company.
Colua let you open without a DPI maybe because they are not a bank but a cooperative and their rules might be less stringent than a real bank.

I have a DPI as I am here on a pensionista visa.  I can open an account of quetzales y dollars.  I didn't need a Guatemalan co-signer.  I would worry about your Guatemalan friend having access to any funds in your account.  Thanks to newer USA laws if your account has over $10,000 the bank has to report your account to the USA every year.  Re: other issues you can only deposit $3000 a month into a checking account in Guatemala, if you find a USA bank that will open an account for you there are charges that you may not be aware of until you get hit with them.  The USA has made it more and more difficult to live outside of the USA.  Never assume that USA law and Guatemalan law are the same.  It is likely that if you receive a debit card so can your friend.  Each bank can be different as well.  Do your homework!  Your Guatemalan bank account is either a checking account but never a savings account as well.  They are considered separate and not related to each other.  It is also dangerous to use ATM's especially  around holidays.  Card readers may be installed and the next thing you know someone in Panama is using your debit card information to purchase ?  It costs me about $100 for me to wire money to my bank each time. $20 charged by my bank to receive a wire, $50 from my bank to wire the money to Banco Industrial as well as $30 for BI to receive the wire here.  Never go to the bank on the 15/30th or the 31, as those are the dates they are paid by check so the line is long. Never go before  a holiday.  Get to know  the tellers and managers.  Hope that helps!

A couple of corrections.
* You have pensionado *residency*, not a visa. Calling it a visa could confuse someone.
* The deposit limit you are talking about is for cash. You can deposit a check or receive a wire transfer for any amount.

Also, bank wire fees vary all over the place. They tend to be expensive in the U.S. because they are not the norm. I pay $40 to my U.S. Credit Union for such a transfer but fees for European banks tend to be in the €6 range. BankRural and COLUA have never charged me fees for receiving a wire transfer. COLUA (a "credit union") banks with Banco G y T. G y T seems to do OK with U.S. dollars but BanRural does not. For example, you cannot get a U.S. $ cashier's check at either branch in Panajachel and only at one in Sololá.
Within Central America there is a new system for money transfers. I don't remember the name of it (as I remember, a 4-letter abbreviation) with very low fees. If you are going to do a transfer within the region, ask about it as an alternative to a traditional wire transfer.
As for using Cajeros (ATMs), your warnings are right on -- but, of course this is nothing unique to Guatemala or the region.

We, well technically my husband just received his pensianado residency we finally go back today to get the final paper from immigration then the trip to RENAP. My papers were put in the same day last April and somehow were not done. They should be March 21, right?  Which bank pays the highest interest on your funds? We will probably wait to go to RENAP when my papers are done as well. Save trips and days sitting around government offices. Can you go to any RENAP office or does it have to be in Guatemala City?

Most of what you said doesn't really make sense to me -- like "your husband's residency". But, as this is a bank thread, let me sorta answer that.

First, it is unlikely a bank will let you "independently" open a bank account. They will tell you that you have to have your DPI. I went through this when I had residency but was waiting for my DPI. The exception was COLUA, a "credit union". I talked to Carlos, the branch manager in Pana, and he said as it was clear I had my residency they would let me open an account at that time. COLUA was amazingly helpful on lots of things. I highly recommend them if you are in their "area".

As for which RENAP office, just go to the one closest to where you live/are going to live.

As for interest rates, I would suggest it worth your time to look into bank stability, capitalization and lending policies. The maximum government insurance on a bank account is not very much -- I am thinking a few thousand Quetzales so making sure the bank is stable is far more important. Again, I recommend COLUA, they offer CDPs (when we bought one for my daughter it was at something 4.25%) and they look financially good with a 50 year history.

Citibank is paying 5% on checking Azteca 7% any ideas in banrural or banco Industrial?  I won't be leaving much in the account it will never reach 10K   or if it will I will have to find out what all reporting will need to be done and do not want the hassle now.

Anyone know what banks are paying on deposits?

But we do know of at least one expat from Chicago who is a scammer. She is living in Antigua at this time. So beware of other "expats" willing to "help" newbies get info or acclimated to the country... scammers come in all sizes...shapes...male and female... so don't take just one person's word for anything. Get more than one opinion and do your own research.

Regarding the credit union COLA and regular banks; would you let us know the difference in services and requirements for opening? Sounds like the COLA account is the best one so far...

What are the main reasons to open an account in Guatemala? Would using another off shore bank card be a problem?

Thanks :)

First, a correction. The name of the credit union is COLUA.
The relationship/differences between a bank and COLUA is the same as the bank/credit union relationship in the U.S. Credit unions are basically member owned. Accounts are only for individuals. They loan to members. To do "banking" they have to work with a bank. For example, if you wire money to them, you actually wire it to a bank (in there case, G y T Continental) where it is deposited in their account and then they credit you.

As for plastic, all so much is done with cash here so the reason you want to bank here is so you can get cash. While there are ATMs (called Cajeros) there are sometimes problems with using foreign cards and, in general, transaction fees.

Related, the limit on converting cash of some other flavor to Quetzales has just been lowered to US$2000/month. The definition of cash includes transfers between a US$ and Quetzal account. But, that limit does not apply to checks or wire transfers. So, for example, you could deposit a check for say $5000 into your Quetzal account. (The reason for this limit is to prevent money laundering.)

if you utilize the COLUA is there a time period where you have to wait when depositing funds? I assume that if the deposit goes to a bank first then credited to the credit union then your account. So wondering about delays in availability of funds.

is there any benefit to having an attorney open a bank account for you?

Thanks for your expertise and time :)

All banks put holds on funds. I know BanRural is 15 business days and expect others are similar. It sucks as the money is usually taken out of your account within three days.

I doubt an attorney could open an account for you as you need to show your DPI and sign the forms. And, in general terms, there is really no reason to even have an attorney involved in anything unless it is a legal document which must be notarized.

Note that if you don't have a DPI yet, you will need "someone" with a DPI to effectively be your representative. They don't have any rights to your account -- it is just required so there is a "Guatemalan legal entity". If I needed that person, I would probably have picked my favorite waitress.  In my case, COLUA accepted a copy of the paperwork that said I had residency rather than making me wait for my DPI.

Regarding COLUA, they serve the Lake Atitlan area but are a membor of a country-wide organization of financial cooperatives called MICOPE. ( I believe their web page lists the various member cooperatives throughout the country. (I say "I believe" as their web site is down right now.)

Thanks again for your patience and knowledge! :)

No problem. After 15 years in Central America, I know a lot of stuff. The most important is that I know what I don't know. I used to run a web site called NicaLiving. An amazing number of questions (and answers) passed through there. I shut it down because I needed to do a very complicated software update and it just wasn't worth my time. While not specific to expats, I am now concentrating on plus a couple of local sites, and which is for out B&B.

Hi everyone,

sorry for interrupting and for being off topic a couple of minutes.

@nicafyl, have you already registered your blog in our directory ?

Regarding your B&B, I invite you to register it in our business directory under the guesthouse section ( … esthouses/) you'll be the first one and you can register for free ;)



Yeah that was definitely off topic.... but this time it was worth the interruption.