This is a guest post by an American expat living in Cuenca since 2007.
When we first started to seriously consider moving to Ecuador one of the many questions that came up had to do with banking. Of course ATM cards and credit cards work fine here, but what if a card got lost or stolen? What if our U.S. bank card expired between trips to the U.S.? How would we access our money? Also, we are really not that comfortable going to ATMs to pull out several hundred dollars for rent and other monthly expenses so we started looking for an alternative to the constant ATM card use.
Here are a few things we’ve learned about banking in Ecuador.
First of all, before traveling to Ecuador, you will need to contact your credit card companies and bank and let them know that you will be using your cards out of the country. If you don’t make your bank aware of your travel out of the country, you may find that your card is blocked when you try to use it the first time here.
After living here for a couple of years we opened a bank account with one of the national Ecuadorian banks and we are now able to manage and access the funds in our U.S. bank account in a much more safe and efficient manner.
Here is what we do: we write one check a month from our U.S. account and deposit it into our Ecuadorian bank account and in about 10 days the check clears our U.S. bank. We only deposit enough money each month into our Ecuadorian account to pay our rent and buy groceries. We use our local bank card at the grocery store just as we did in the U.S. and don’t have to worry about constantly going to the ATM to pull out money. Also, our Ecuadorian bank offers on line banking which enables us to manage our account and even pay bills online. We have been pleasantly surprised at the level of service provided by our Ecuadorian bank and have had no problems what so ever managing our money in this way.
You will notice one major difference between the U.S. and Ecuadorian banks: armed guards with machine guns and tellers behind bullet proof glass. It can be a little unnerving at first, but you get used to the beefed up security at the Ecuadorian banks and to tell the truth, I feel safer in the banks here because they are so well protected. You don’t have to worry so much about being taken hostage in an armed robbery while waiting in line at the bank here. Maybe the banks in the U.S. could learn a thing or two from the Ecuadorian banks….