Complete Guide to Ecuador Travel & Relocation (GringosAbroad)

How To Do Your Banking in Ecuador

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….

How to do your banking in Ecuador

An article by

Bryan is a journalist, photographer, expat and dad. He writes for Gringos Abroad (Ecuador travel & living) and Blogger Abroad (run an online business abroad). He also enjoys living in Southern Ecuador (South America) with his wife and daughter. Connect with Bryan on LinkedIn. Work with Bryan & Dena

More about: Living in Ecuador

{ 35 comments… add one }

  • Glenn November 22, 2014, 1:16 pm

    Thank you

    Reply
  • Frank August 23, 2014, 10:55 am

    Just curious as to the effect of FATCA on Americans doing banking in EC?

    Reply
    • Ron Watral September 29, 2014, 8:00 am

      I am curious as to your answer to Frank’s question. This thing has created a lot of confusion here in the staters and in EC. And they wonder why so many people are leaving the country. Thanking you in advance.

      Reply
      • Bryan Haines September 29, 2014, 10:31 am

        I actually didn’t respond to Frank’s question – I don’t know anything about FATCA. Sorry.

        Reply
        • Ron Watral September 30, 2014, 7:39 am

          Hope this helps:
          Foreign banks must hand over the details of American account holders with over $50,000 on deposit or face serious repercussions

          After foreign institutions identify U.S. account holders, FATCA requires the institutions to impose a 30% tax on payments or transfers to any who refuse to step up and get into full U.S. compliance.

          For those who transfer money between the U.S. and Ecuador, the important thing is to make sure that your FFI is on the current IRS list of those with a valid GIIN.

          Here is the approved list of Ecuadorian banks that have complied and have obtained a GIIN from the IRS for FATCA compliance.
          Note: This list can change as a new list is published each month by the IRS.

          DELBANK S.A.
          AFP Genesis Administradora de Fondos y F
          ContiSea Holdings Cia. Ltd.
          Banco Internacional S.A.
          Akaoasesores Cia. Ltda.
          Banco de la Produccion S.A. Produbanco
          Banco Promerica S.A.

          BANCO PICHINCHA C.A.

          Banco de Loja S.A.
          Banco General Ruminahui S.A.
          Diners Club del Ecuador S. A.
          INTERDIN S. A.
          Banco ProCredit S.A.
          Banco Bolivariano C.A.
          BANCO DE MACHALA S. A.
          Banco del Pacifico SA
          PACIFICARD SA COMPANIA EMISORA Y ADMIN
          BANCO DEL PACIFICO S.A.
          CORPIFEXSA Corp de Inversiones y SA
          Cititrading S.A. Casa de Valores
          VectorGlobal WMG Casa de Valores, S.A.
          Banco de Guayaquil S.A.

          EXAMPLE: Here is their situation:
          They are in the process of purchasing a new house for $350K, here in Ecuador. The sum total of all their EC bank & financial accounts here is always kept below $10K total at all times, so worries about the FBAR reporting requirements, … right?

          So when the house purchase paperwork is finalized, they plan to pay for the house by writing a paper check for that entire amount from their US Bank account, in the name of the seller, which is be deposited into the seller’s EC bank account (Banco Pichincha, which is on the approved list).

          And this money will never touch the expat couple’s bank account in Ecuador at any time. (and yes, they are protected from real estate fraud and all that, so no worries there). It will be going straight from their US bank account into the seller’s EC bank account.

          The questions is:

          Regarding FATCA compliance, (and with Banco Pichincha being on the approved list,) will their US bank withold the 30% of that money simply due to FATCA rules?

          I told them no it won’t , but they just want to confirm this is correct.

          gyuris: Under the circumstances that you presented, your friends should have no concerns whatsoever. As long as Banco Pichincha has a valid GIIN then there will be no withholding. The FBAR reporting requirement is a separate issue from the FATCA withholding requirement.

          I am required to submit an FBAR report annually as I have 7 bank accounts outside the US and the total exceeds reporting requirement. It only takes me an hour to complete and submit the report annually. I have been filing FBAR reports since the beginning of the requirement. So far, I have had no issues with black helicopters landing on my lawn with shadow government officers dressed in black suits climbing out and directing chemtrails towards my house.

          FATCA and FBAR are not the same. FATCA places the burden of reporting on FFI’s. FBAR essentially requires that all US citizens who have a combined total of $10,000 or more in a foreign bank at any time during the year file a report. The report is now filed electronically. The report is fairly easy to complete as long as you have the records. The penalties for not filing are rather severe. More information can be found at: http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Report-of-Foreign-Bank-and-Financial-Accounts-FBAR.

          The FBAR “self-reporting” threshold is $10K, and the FATCA “self-reporting” thresholds are: $200K for single individuals *residing abroad*, and $400K for married couples *residing abroad*, and $50K/$75K/ if *residing in the US* …, so what happens when someone deposits, say the required $25K into a CD or a savings account in an Ecuadorian bank in order to qualify for their residency Investor’s Visa here in Ecuador?
          Say he/she does not report the FBAR, thus violating the provisions of the FBAR, how will the US gov’t find out about it to enforce the FBAR, when the Foreign Bank’s reporting requirement for FATCA purposes is only when their foreign financial assets /accounts exceed the $200K/$400K thresholds (for expats). Will these expat retirees, who are decent folks not bothering anybody, just wanting to be simply left alone, suddenly become … oh my God, SCOFFLAWS! , … or will they fall through the cracks?

          Yes, if you are depositing the $25,000 in a CD for Ecuadorian residency then you are required to file an FBAR. It takes only a few minutes and is done electronically so nothing needs to be mailed. Not the end of the world. I have been doing it for years now. The deadline is June 30 to file an FBAR for the previous year.

          Reply
  • Terry RURAK July 28, 2014, 8:13 am

    My wife and I r moving permanently to Ecuador Sept 6 my wife is from Machala I spent 5 years thier Special P that was 19 years ago now we r ready to make the big move we sold our company homes and my Q is would it be advisable to invests our money in Ecuador r the banking systems secure or more secure then they were 19 yr ago??
    And on a side note I believe u know Brian Nauss. Correct?

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines July 28, 2014, 8:42 am

      The banking system is more stable than before the 1998/99 crisis. Lots of expats bring some funds – especially for the investment visa, but I don’t know if it is a good idea to bring all your money…

      Reply
  • ANGEL G BRITO May 6, 2014, 9:56 am

    I have been receiving a SSA monthly benefits in Ecuador, using Banco Pichincha but since 3 months ago I have been having problems with my wire transfers from Chase in USA. Up to January 2014, I usually I received my wire transfers in a few hours but since February 2014, it is taking more than 5 days and perhaps more. Please advice me

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 6, 2014, 1:45 pm

      From my experience with wire transfers they say that it could take up to 5 days to arrive. I wouldn’t worry about it.

      When we wired money we would usually receive in less than 1 business day.

      Reply
  • Carlos April 2, 2014, 6:02 pm

    Which is the best bank to transfer money to Cuenca Ecuador

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines April 2, 2014, 6:58 pm

      You should just check with your bank – likely they can do it. I haven’t heard of issues with international transfers.

      Reply
  • MikyItaly August 28, 2013, 4:35 pm

    One question I had :” There is Bank of America in Quito-Ecuador ?….if there is , can I had the address “

    Reply
  • Cheryl April 9, 2013, 10:40 pm

    Thanks for the helpful information! — i am wondering what the procedure is for purchasing a home in Cuenca ie can expat get a loan and what information do they require? do they do us credit check or can they? should i get my own and bring it or print it oout there? what criteria would one need to get a loan – or are there other options? if you dont have this info perhaps you could head me in the right direction? I hope to be there well b4 the end of 2013 and i am voraciously reading all i can find on the process. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Victor November 14, 2013, 3:33 am

      I am in the process of buying an apartment in Quito. So far, my agent is been doing great since he has a lawyer degree so he knows the ins and outs. I am closing at the end of the month. He’s done the legwork!
      I could direct you to him if all goes well.
      Let me know.
      V

      Reply
  • AnneMarie Herbaut January 21, 2013, 8:20 am

    Hi, would I be able to use my debit and cards from the USA without having to open an account in an Ecuadorean bank ? I understand one needs to be a resident before opening an account.
    Would Amrican debit and credit cards allowed in stores, restaurants and supermarkets ?
    Please shed some light on this for me. I am “lost”. Will be moving some time this year to Ecuador. Before I become a resident in Ecuador, how would I deal with my money ? I intended to keep my SS direct deposit as it is now in Bank of America, and use my debit cards to withdraw money from the ATM’s. I understand there’s a fee involved, but isn’t it ok to do do so ? Thanks. Awaiting to hear from you at your convenience.

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines January 22, 2013, 1:40 pm

      Yes, most cards from the US will work. Make sure you have a 4 digit PIN number. Many stores only accept cash, so your debit card will be most important – so you can withdraw funds at atms.

      Reply
  • Steve Sorkin January 4, 2013, 5:28 pm

    Much thanks, Guy!

    Reply
  • Steve Sorkin January 3, 2013, 8:29 pm

    Regarding Guy’s comments with electronically transferring money from your US Bank to your Ecuadorian Bank, via xoom.com. Sounds interesting, Guy. What all is involved besides providing them with the Ecuadorian ABA/Swift number, address and your local banks similar information? 2% transfer fee could be hefty if one transfers several thousands dollars.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • guy muse January 4, 2013, 8:00 am

      Steve: It has been a while since I set up my xoom.com transfering account, but I do not recall it being complicated at all beyond the basics you mention. I use this service to get money quickly and safely to our Ecuador bank account (Pichincha) usually to pay bills online. $29.99 for a quick $1500 is worth it to me when I need money now. It would be the same/or more to get the money out of an ATM, but then I would have to stand in line to make the cash deposit. Xoom.com just eliminates one of my pet peeves of living in Ecuador, and that is standing in long lines! :)

      Reply
  • guy muse January 2, 2013, 10:43 am

    I didn’t read all the above comments to see if anyone else mentioned, but if you do not want to wait the ten days for a check to clear, I use xoom.com to electronically transfer money from our Stateside bank to our Ecuador bank. It usually takes 2-3 hours, and only costs 2% fee of the amount being transferred. Check it out.

    Reply
  • William Kerr November 4, 2012, 6:55 am

    Is there a BBVA branch in Cuenca?

    Reply
  • Steve Sorkin August 8, 2012, 9:33 pm

    I was informed that when you first move, you cannot start a checking account, unless you have a ‘cedula’, true? A savings account, yes. We’re applying for a ‘Residents Visa’ and have pretty much completed all the necessary paperwork required. Once all this is certified and accepted, and we have an address, does that then qualify us for a checking account? And in the mean time, we’ll take your advice and use our local checks and ATM card for assistance. There is another bank, from what Ive been told that also does auto-deposits and on-line banking, and that is Produbanco We also want to have our Social Security checks automatically deposited into our new Ecuadorian account, so we contacted the American Embassy in Quito; they explained that once an account has been set up with either Produbanco or Banco de Guyaquil, we are then required to come to the embassy either in Quito, or Guyaquil, bring our passports and the bank account info, and they will give us a form to fill out, which will allow us to receive these deposits within a month or two. Anyway, that’s what we were told. Has anyone had a similar experience with this?

    Much thanks!

    Steve

    Reply
  • Jennifer July 22, 2012, 9:53 am

    Thank you for your advice on banking in Ecuador. I have some concerns and may be moving soon to Ecuador: I have a loan in the States and will need to pay it off monthly. I plan on working and earning money in Ecuador, but my bank doesn’t have a branch in Ecuador. Do you have any suggestions for getting money back to my bank in the States for my monthly payments? I know I could do a wire-transfer, but I’ve heard that’s spendy. What do you think?

    Which bank in Ecuador, in your opinion, is the most trustworthy and guaranteed?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Elizabeth April 23, 2012, 11:30 am

    banking in ecuador- i realize this is a question for an atty. however would like your input. my husband died in ecuador. i spoke with him the night before. but we were to talk the next morning re how to handle things re his assets in ecuador and offshore accts. we had traveled allover but i did not travel to ecuador. he passed away before our next conversation. what steps would you take. i know everything is very different. Thanks for any advice.

    Reply
  • Howard February 12, 2012, 7:21 pm

    Which Ecuadorean bank(s) have online banking to pay bills, and what is required to open an account?

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines February 16, 2012, 9:11 am

      Hi Howard, my experience is with Banco Pichincha. The requirements are here: How to Open an Ecuador Bank Account. Some banks require that you have a cedula to open an account. This bank requires just a passport. We pay some bills online, and we are going to look into paying others.

      Reply
  • george October 15, 2011, 5:01 pm

    Bryan, I just got back from Cuenca and I heard from a few people that on way to get legal residency is to deposit $25,000 into an Ecuadorian bank…. and I also heard that they pay a much better rate on savings accounts/CD’s. The interest rate that was being tossed around was 7.5 percent. Do you know if any of this is true and can I open up an account from the USA or do I have to live in Ecuador to have money in their banks??? Sorry for all these technical questions… hoping you have some answers.

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines October 15, 2011, 6:36 pm

      Hi George – you heard correctly. Actually the interest rate goes from 4.5% as high as 11-12% depending on where you invest it and for how long. The chartered banks and some investment houses are guaranteed by a government agency in case of failure – but many aren’t covered. It would be worth checking out.

      I don’t know if you can invest from abroad – I suppose if you setup a power of attorney it would work well. I would suggest you speak with a lawyer.

      Reply
      • george February 16, 2012, 12:38 pm

        Brian, thanks for the reply…… It is nice to have an e-friend to ask all these questions. I think there is a fear threshold of the unknown that we all try to see over. You and your wife are helping us with that… Thanks again.

        Reply
  • elmonica August 11, 2011, 12:18 am

    Good advice. Being able to use a debit card at the grocery store is a nice option. And I am glad to hear that you can pay bills online. However, I take it that paying rent with cash is still standard practice?

    Reply
  • Jeff December 11, 2010, 9:17 am

    I work on contract for a Canadian company. They wire my pay directly to Banco Pichincha every month after I submit my invoice.

    It sits there collecting about 10 times more interest than it would in a Canadian bank (that's still not saying much). But at least there's only that once-a-month wire fee that they deduct from my pay.

    I've used a credit card once in this country, just after I moved to Cotacachi, my first home in Ecuador, to buy glasses after mine broke. The terrain's uneven enough without being unable to see it!

    Jeff

    Reply
  • ibokay December 1, 2010, 3:41 am

    Wells Fargo/Wachovia in the US has an agreement with the Banco de Guayaquil whereas one can transfer funds to Ecuador (either cash or to an account) using the internet. The first transaction must take place in a US branch. After the initial setup, just log on and complete the transfer on the website. Then with the correct I.D. go to any branch and pick up your money. (Kind of like Western Union) No need for an account at BdG when picking up cash. The limits are $1000/day and $9000/month. Cost is determined by the monetary value of your US accounts – and is free if your accounts exceed a certain value. As you mentioned, writing a check works good tool – it just takes a little longer to clear.

    Reply
    • Doug December 1, 2010, 7:18 am

      Thanks for the info. on Wells Fargo/ Banco de Guayaquil connection. There are obviously different ways of managing money for expats and what works for one may not work for others. For those who want to avoid going to the bank to make large cash withdrawals the check deposit option described in my blog comment may be the way to go. It all depends on what you are comfortable with and what options your home bank has available. Thanks again for your comment.

      Reply

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