If you are relocating to Mexico, or you spend a lot of time in the country and are considering investing in property or businesses locally, opening a bank account in Mexico might be something that you are looking to do. Bureaucracy and red tape can be a bit of an issue here, but whatever your situation is, opening a Mexican bank account is not necessarily as difficult as it may sound.
After visiting Merida, Mexico as a tourist and falling in love with the city, I opened a Mexican bank account, bought a house in Mexico, and I am in the process of applying for permanent residency and relocating to Mexico from Europe. Rest assured, you are in good hands here.
Opening a Bank Account in Mexico in 2023
If you are considering opening a bank account in Mexico, the first question to ask yourself is whether you really need one. As a tourist or a resident, unless you are setting up a business in Mexico or investing in real estate, you can easily get by here with an account from elsewhere.
To prevent yourself from having to pay high ATM fees every time you make a withdrawal or a transfer, you can open an international “borderless” bank account with Wise, Revolut, or Charles Schwab. However, if you are setting down roots in Mexico, paying for home renovations, etc, it can make things easier if you have a Mexican account.
The next question to ask yourself is what visa you will be on when applying for a Mexican bank account. Currently, Intercam is the only bank in Mexico that allows you to open a bank account as a tourist.
If you have temporary or permanent residency or Mexican citizenship, it opens up a lot more doors for you and you can open accounts with the likes of BBVA, CitiBanamex, Santander, Banorte and other Mexican banks.
Since Intercam is just okay, my recommendation would be to open an Intercam account when you are on a tourist visa, and then switch to BBVA or an alternative bank once you have residency.
Choosing a good Mexican bank
When you have residency in Mexico, it can be a bit overwhelming to know which Mexican bank is the best one to open an account with. Some of the key things that you might want to think about when choosing an account are:
- What (if any) monthly fees are associated with the account?
- What is the withdrawal limit?
- Will you accrue interest on the balance in the account and does the bank offer you the opportunity to build up your credit in Mexico? (Intercam does not)
Opening a Bank Account in Mexico as a Tourist
If you are opening a bank account in Mexico as a tourist, unfortunately, you don’t have a ton of options and you are essentially stuck with using Intercam. I got by here for a long time using just my Wise and Revolut accounts and only decided to open an Intercam account, on the recommendation of my Lawyer, when I decided to purchase a house.
Fortunately, it is pretty easy to open an account with Intercam. All you need is:
- Your passport
- Proof of address in your home country (can be a bank statement, utility bill, etc)
- Your tourist visa in Mexico (this is either a valid entry stamp in your passport or an FMM card. Both are valid, and which one you will have depends on where you entered the country).
- Two character references in Mexico
- An opening balance of around 5,000 – 10,000 Mexican pesos ($270 – $544 USD)
You need to physically go into the bank branch in Mexico with your ID and your paperwork in order to open an account. You cannot do it remotely or online.
Opening a bank account with Intercam
In theory, opening a bank account with Intercam was straightforward. However, in my case, it felt more stressful because I was opening an account purely to transfer funds from the UK to Mexico to pay a 10% deposit on a house purchase and I had a time limit of 10 days to pay the deposit after signing an apatado, which made everything more hurried and pressured.
Intercam is one of the smaller banks in Mexico and it has less than 80 branches across the country. There are branches in most major cities, including Merida, Mexico City (where there are 3 branches), Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.
You can call ahead to make an appointment at the branch, or you can simply stop by, take a numbered ticket, wait to be called, and say that you want to open an account. Since most Intercam customers are foreigners who want to relocate to Mexico or are purchasing houses here, virtually all Intercam staff speak very good English.
First appointment with Intercam
Your first Intercam appointment is fairly straightforward. You need to head to the branch with your valid passport and the required documents (e.g. utility bill demonstrating proof of address, tourist visa or stamp) and fill in a simple form.
The banking assistant will take photocopies of your ID and your visa. You will be asked to provide two non-familial character references.
These can be friends or official contacts in Mexico. I wrote my Mexican partner down as one, and my Real Estate Lawyer as the other. You will also be asked to name a beneficiary in case you die in Mexico. (The beneficiary can be elsewhere in the world).
Then, your account will be ready again within 2-4 days and the bank will call you when it is ready for you to finalise opening the account and pick up your debit card.
Opening an Intercam account
I returned to Intercam four days after my initial appointment. (The delay was mostly because I first went in on a Friday and the bank was closed over the weekend).
I was asked to sign a small mountain of paperwork to confirm the terms and conditions of my account, etc and interestingly (?), several Google Maps images and screenshots of my house in the UK to confirm I gave the correct address. I then had to queue up at the counter to put a cash deposit into the account and wait again for a different teller to complete the paperwork and online/mobile banking app signup with me.
For whatever reason, this entire process took over 2 hours, apparently due to some delay with obtaining authorisation that the bank needed to obtain. I needed to give fingerprints for every finger of each hand, and then sign some final documents.
You will be asked to download the Intercam Banca Móvil app on your phone in order to set up your mobile app and online banking. They don’t have wifi at the bank so it pays to download the app prior to your appointment (you might need to set your phone location to Mexico).
Setting up your online and mobile banking means first logging into Intercam online banking on the bank teller’s computer, and then changing your credentials to a username and password of your preference. To activate your phone app, you will have to repeatedly copy numbers from your phone to the computer, and vice versa so that the two accounts are in sync.
Unfortunately, because the bank was closing, they were not able to issue my debit card at this time, and I had to go back to the branch a third time for this.
Transferring funds to your Intercam account
The first payment into your Intercam account needs to be in cash, and ideally over 5,000 MXN. If you are transferring money to your Intercam account from international banks, only wire transfers sent by institutional banks are accepted.
If you need to transfer a larger amount of funds to Mexico (for example, for a house or car purchase), your banking advisor will provide you with instructions on how to do this and highlight what numbers and references are needed.
I learned the hard way that Intercam will not accept transfers from Wise or Revolut due to money laundering concerns. After opening my account, I transferred a small amount of around $500 USD over via Wise to check that the transfer would arrive okay.
Once it did, I sent around $12,000 USD for my house deposit. This flagged my account as suspicious and put a temporary block on my account which made it difficult to access the funds needed for my house deposit, and I was required to submit evidence and information about my earnings, my taxes, and where the money had come from.
I was disappointed that Intercam did not communicate this to me in the first instance. It was alarming to me because this money was my hard-earned savings and I had been apprehensive about sending it to Mexico anyway, I just thought that Wise would be faster and have fewer fees.
In their own words, Intercam sent me an email stating “We cannot continue to accept transfers from applications such as XE, Wise or similar as these are not regulated by Mexican authorities.”
They threatened to close my account if I did it again and submit a report to the tax revenue services in Mexico and the UK. Of course, I won’t be using Wise again.
You need to show receipts and reasons for transfers
To prevent fraud and money laundering, you need to provide receipts and reasons for all of the transfers that you make into your account. For example, if you transfer money for a house purchase, expect to show the promesa/contract for the purchase.
If you are building a home and need money for renovations, you will need to show the communications.
Managing your Intercam account
The unique thing about opening an Intercam account compared to opening an account in the UK (and perhaps elsewhere), is that you are assigned your own personal banking advisor. This is a nice touch and means that when you have a question or you need something, you can easily call or email your advisor.
It also helps with getting appointments to do things, etc as you don’t need to wait in line for ages in an impersonal queue. Both the app and online banking are pretty straightforward once you set them up.
You can log into your online banking using your User ID and password, and into your Intercam app using your registered mobile number and password. If you log in online, you are also subject to two-factor verification and will be given a token that you need to enter on the phone app in order to authorise your login.
Every time you make a purchase, or send/receive a transfer with your Intercam account, you will receive an email notifying you as such. This is good for your security as you can see exactly what is going on with the account at all times.
Opening a Bank Account in Mexico as an Expat
If you are an expat in Mexico, you have more options for opening a bank here. Some of the main banks that are used here are detailed below.
- BBVA (Mexico’s largest bank)
- HSBC Mexico
- Banco Azteca
- Scotia Bank
- Banorte (the second-largest bank in Mexico)
- Citi Banamex
Since it can be overwhelming to know which bank to choose from, it is worth noting that BBVA, Santander, and HSBC are arguably three of the best banks. I personally know people that have had issues with receiving transfers via Banco Azteca (even a small transfer takes hours and hours), and with Scotiabank (their account was closed abruptly for no real reason).
As such, I would personally avoid these two banks but I appreciate that everyone has different experiences, so you can do your own research and due diligence.
To open a local bank account as a resident, you need to show your residency card. In some instances, you will be asked for your RFC tax number, but you may be able to supply your US social security number or your British NI number, or equivalent if you do not yet have an RFC.
Depending on where you are in Mexico, and whether it is popular among expats or not, it may be difficult to communicate at some banks unless you speak Spanish.
Useful Things to Know About Opening a Bank Account in Mexico
I have summarised some useful things to know about opening a bank account in Mexico below. A lot of these are somewhat generic things that are applicable regardless of which Mexican bank you choose to go with.
Withdrawal limits in Mexico
Daily ATM withdrawal limits in Mexico may be different from what you are used to, and they differ from one bank to another. My Intercam ATM limit is 10,000 (circa $551 USD), whereas other banks like BBVA offer a maximum daily withdrawal limit of 9,000 MXN (circa $490 USD).
In the UK, most banks have a maximum daily ATM withdrawal limit of around £250-£300 so relatively low limits are something I am used to, but that may be a bit of a shock if you are coming from the US or elsewhere where you are accustomed to being able to withdraw large amounts.
Of course, you can withdraw larger amounts over the counter. Again this varies from bank to bank.
At Intercam, the maximum withdrawal limit is 50,000 MXN (Circa $2720) per day. At all banks, you are usually able to withdraw larger than the daily maximum provided that you give some advanced notice.
(This may be several days in advance so check with your banking advisor).
Some types of bank accounts in Mexico have minimum balances and minimum deposit amounts associated with them. This may just be as small as $50 USD but if your balance slips under a certain amount, you may have to pay fees, and the fees will keep being charged until they have essentially gobbled up all the money in your account.
It is a good idea to clarify what the minimum balance, if any, is when you open an account.
Using your Mexican account in Mexico and the world
Your Intercam debit card will be a visa debit and it can be used easily in Mexico and across the world both in stores, restaurants and other businesses and online. You can use your Intercam card to pay for things like Netflix, Spotify, etc.
There are also some Mexican websites like Mercado Libre MX which only accept Mexican cards, not international accounts. When you use any kind of bank card abroad, you are always subject to different conversion rates
Your pin number or “NIB”
When you have a credit or debit card in Mexico, you will be given a four-digit pin number which is known locally as a “nib”. You will need to use this when making cash withdrawals and when using the card at stores, restaurants, etc.
Additional security for purchases
Some Mexican banks offer additional security when you are making purchases online. For example, with BBVA, your CVV (card verification value) number changes for every purchase – meaning that if you buy something online and someone tries to steal your card details, they wouldn’t be successful in making another purchase because the CVV will have already expired.
Most Mexican banks send you app notifications and/or emails confirming what transactions have taken place after each and every use of your card.
FAQs About Opening a Bank Account in Mexico
Do you have any further queries or concerns about opening a bank account in Mexico? The answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic are detailed below for your consideration.
Hopefully, you will find the information you are looking for there. If not, please do not hesitate to reach out to me!
Can a foreigner open a bank account in Mexico?
Yes, a foreigner can open a bank account in Mexico provided that they are in the country legally and with the correct visa, even if this is only a tourist visa. Currently, Intercam is the only bank in Mexico that allows foreigners to open a checking account or a savings account.
With a residency visa, you have more options.
How much money do you need to open a bank account in Mexico?
The amount that you need to open a bank account in Mexico varies depending on the specific bank. Some allow you to open an account with just $40-$50 USD whereas others require larger initial deposits starting from $250 USD.
Is it safe to put my money in a bank account in Mexico?
Mexican banks are subject to financial laws and regulations just like banks in other countries in the world. I can understand being nervous about transferring money here since Mexico is a country that people often (and sometimes stereotypically/unfairly) associate with corruption, etc.
I was also nervous about moving my hard-earned savings internationally, especially since I was moving large amounts for a house purchase that I would be distraught if I lost. When you arrive in Mexico, deal with the bankers in person and see all the security protocols in practice, you may feel that your concerns have been assuaged somewhat.
Final thoughts on opening a bank account in Mexico
Opening a bank account in Mexico can be a worthwhile thing to do if you are relocating here or purchasing a property. If you are planning on living in Mexico, it makes a lot of sense to have your banking in the country where you reside rather than miles away or on the other side of the world.
As with doing anything in Mexico, patience is key, and you should expect that things don’t often run as quickly and easily as they may in your own country, but many efficient, reliable banks do exist here.
Do you have any further questions or concerns about banking in Mexico or managing your money in Mexico in general? Please do not hesitate to reach out to me and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I can.
Safe travels and enjoy Mexico! Buen Viaje! Melissa xo