A Canadian Family Traveling & Living Abroad (in Ecuador)

How to Do Your Banking in Ecuador (for Canadians)

Moving abroad involves many fine details – visas, health, money, etc. Access to our money is something we take for granted “back home”, but in another country, it can be kind of challenging.

We heard a story about an American couple who moved here and were shopping for real estate. The catch came when they wanted to access their money back in the States. Their bank wouldn’t transfer internationally, so they had no way to purchase property.

Canada ski backgroundLesson: Sort out your banking before you move!

For Americans moving to Ecuador, the adjustment is almost non-existent. Ecuador’s currency is the US Dollar, so it’s a pretty straight forward adjustment.

But what about us Canucks? How should we do our banking here in Ecuador? Well, we recently opened an Ecuador Bank account. And while its nice to have, it isn’t completely necessary.

Before we moved here, we opened an account with a US bank called RBC Bank USA – through RBC Canada. This is simply their US version. So we have a US Checking account in Florida – but I’ve never been to Florida. The account is linked to our Canadian RBC accounts, so we can transfer back and forth.

When you open your RBC Canada accounts, ask for their USD savings account. We hold our US funds in that account, which keeps it from sitting in our accounts in the States. Its pretty simple really.

We have ATM cards (what we Canadians call debit cards) for our US accounts and we withdraw at the ATM’s here. It costs $1.50 per withdraw, and RBC USA credits back up to $4.00 per month of these fees. They don’t charge any service fees, with a minimum of $700 in the account at all times.

They will wire money internationally. Last week, as we were preparing to purchase our car, I called our US bank, and in less than 24 hours they had wired the money into my Ecuador bank account. I was very impressed. Not all banks will do this. We have friends from the States and their US banks won’t wire money internationally without them being present in the branch. Its rather inconvenient.

So if you are a Canadian planning a move to Ecuador, consider RBC Bank USA. If you are an American, you might also benefit with an account. They are flexible and reliable. By the way, this isn’t a paid advertorial – we just really like this bank.

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

{ 44 comments… add one }

  • Pierre May 14, 2014, 11:28 am

    Hi Bryan,
    Why not simply use a canadian RBC account? You can receive retirement checks and investment income from abroad in that account and then transfer some amount into your Ecuador accounts if needed and use your canadian ATM or Visa card to withdraw money at Ecuadorian ATM?

    What are the advantages of opening an account in the USA?

    • Bryan Haines May 14, 2014, 1:40 pm

      Canadian banks don’t allow direct ATM withdraw from Canada-based US-dollar accounts. So if you withdraw from a Cdn account in Ecuador you will have to draw on a Cdn dollar account which could mean converting US to Cdn and back to US.

      Ecuador uses the US dollar. And we earn much of our income in US funds. For our business we need to have an account based in the US.

      It really depends on the circumstance of each person. For us, it works best with accounts in Canada, the US and Ecuador.

  • Dennis Froese April 6, 2014, 1:34 pm

    I have just returned from having spent the Canadian winter in Imbaburra Province in Ecuador. Although not expressly looking for land, a week before I returned, I stumbled on a half acre property with fruit trees and a house for sale. I gave a trusted fellow expat “power of attorney” and put in an offer. Late last week it was accepted! My question now, is how to legally and safely transfer payment and receive title for this purchase. I don’t have a lawyer there, and I know that there are pitfalls to be avoided. Do you have any suggestions or advice as to how to complete this in a secure way? Thanks for your time and comments.


  • pierre February 1, 2014, 4:38 pm

    As some mentionned, RBC told me That they don t do international money Transfer Just on a phone call…new Policy. Still working on it….

    • Bryan Haines February 1, 2014, 8:42 pm

      You can always do it on a faxed approval.

  • Tim January 16, 2014, 8:14 pm

    This may seem like a silly question, but why not just transfer all your banking to an Ecuador account? would it not be easier to deal with only 1 bank ? My wife and I were in Cuenca for a couple weeks just loved it and used our bank card issued from a Canadian credit union with no problems thks

    • Bryan Haines January 21, 2014, 8:06 am

      We need other accounts to manage client payments. Other expats receive retirement checks and investment income from abroad and then transfer into their Ecuador accounts.

  • Linda June 23, 2013, 7:06 pm

    HI Brian, I appreciate your site for its Canadian perspective as well as the information you give. I will be moving to Ecuador by summer’s end and need to put all my ducks in place, including banking. I have funds in both Scotiabank and CIBC. The CIBC site says funds can be withdrawn at “When travelling abroad, look for the PLUS* or Visa logo. Bank machines featuring the Visa logo can also be used to get a cash advance from your CIBC Credit Card. ” Are there PLUS or VISA Logo Bank Machines in Cuenca? Thanks.

    • Bryan Haines June 27, 2013, 7:10 am

      There are three networks here: Nexo, Banred y Plus. Just make sure that your PIN is 4 digits. I understand some networks allow up to 6 – but they won’t work here.

  • K Janzen March 19, 2013, 3:10 pm

    We went to the RBC bank in Ontario today and were told we could not open a RBC US acct ( PNC )as we do not have an US address….If we gave a false address in Florida for instance and if someone checked into it and it was fraudulent address we could be in trouble..and our balance could be in jeopardy…Have you heard of this happening …we are planning on moving down to EC in October and really need to know how to access funds


    • Bryan Haines March 20, 2013, 5:48 pm

      I haven’t heard of any problems. I know of a number of expats with the same setup as us. We have our Canadian address on file. At first, I think they used the branch address in the US as our address but now it all comes to Canada. Maybe the person who helped you doesn’t really understand. The purpose of the account is for people who travel / live abroad.

      I would suggest you go to another branch and see what they say there.

  • Ricardo March 5, 2013, 6:28 pm

    Hi Bryan,

    I just recently moved to Quito to live and work. Still having a tourist visa I can’t open a bank account here in Ecuador. I’m using my Bank of America ATM card for expenses but once I start getting my paychecks I need to deposit it somewhere. Should I just transfer it to the US? What do you recommend?

    • Bryan Haines March 6, 2013, 7:32 am

      I don’t know – I haven’t been in your situation. It sounds like it would work.

  • Guy December 25, 2012, 1:51 am

    In the Philippines I just use my bank card, or credit card from Canada at any of the ATMs & it gives my Pesos & debits my account in Canada, at my TD bank. Little plug for TD there. The same in Ecuador do you think ? I told my bank where I was going in advance before I left Canada. Thanks Bryan. Guy

    • Bryan Haines December 25, 2012, 6:43 am

      Yes, you can use your Canadian ATM cards here – works fine. You should confirm with your bank first just to be sure…

  • Allison November 27, 2012, 2:14 am

    Hi Bryan,

    I see that someone already asked this question (above) but it was some time ago and I thought perhaps you have come across more information since and it would be worth asking.

    I am moving to Ecuador but still have Canadian debts to pay. I am looking for an economical method of transferring money from Ecuador to Canada in order to do this. I know conventional methods of international money transfer can be very expensive so I am wondering if you have any tips.

    Thanks very much!

    • Bryan Haines November 27, 2012, 8:48 am

      Hi Allison – transfers aren’t hard – they can cost a few percentage points. The last transfer we made cost 2% plus the transaction fee of $45.

      Most expats keep their funds in their home country and only transfer into Ecuador what they need for living expenses.

  • Allison November 27, 2012, 1:40 am

    Hi Bryan,

    I noticed someone asked about this before but it was a while ago so I thought perhaps you may have come across more information since then.

    I am moving to Ecuador but will still have Canadian debt payments to keep up on a regular basis. Do you have any tips regarding transferring money from Ecuador to Canada for this purpose? I know that transferring money internationally can be very expensive so I’m looking to avoid this!

    Thanks very much!

  • Iz K. February 19, 2012, 6:14 am

    I believe the RBC US division has been bought by PNC. The RBC Embassy no longer have the minimum $700 balance and will charge you $2.95 regardless. Are there any alternatives?

    • Bryan Haines February 19, 2012, 7:32 am

      You’re correct – the transfer actually began two days ago, on Feb 17th, 2012. I don’t know of an alternative, but I’m happy with the service. While their branches have been purchased by PNC their online banking will remain RBC. I did notice the $2.95 monthly fee, but I’m not too worried. They do offer a refund on 2 monthly transactions per month – which here costs $1.50 – which means that their fees are actually free…

    • JIll February 23, 2012, 11:46 am

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. We have an appointment at RBC today. So many different answers to this same question on other expat forums aimed at Americans. So glad I found your website thru expat-blog forum. I have to start reading up on the topics to get caught up. We are coming to Ecuador in July, staying on the coast in Crucita at a villa we rented off airbnb. great prices. We have retired early (50 and 52 yrs.old) and embrace the chance to explore and learn the Ecuadorian culture. We will be looking at real estate along the coast from Canoa to just above Salinas. If anyone has any great spots to check out, let me know. Looking for 3 bedroom on the beachfront. Great to find this site!!!

      • Bryan Haines February 23, 2012, 12:44 pm

        Glad to hear its working out for you. RBC has really worked well for us since we moved in 2009!

        All the best on your plans!

    • Karen September 10, 2012, 11:21 pm

      How do you manage to maintain a Canadian bank account when you live in Ecuador. Do you have Canadian credit cards or do you deal only in cash?

  • Ginger December 17, 2011, 5:22 pm

    Hy Bryan,

    My husband and I are planning on retiring next year, his pension is small, some we would like to live where he doesn’t have to work to suppliment the income. I work part time, over the internet as an illustrator for publishing houses;so I can work just about anywhere there is internet cable access.

    I am not a city person…do you have any suggestions?

    take care,

    • Bryan Haines December 19, 2011, 9:11 am

      Hi Ginger – not sure what you mean – are you looking for recommendations about where to live in Cuenca or Ecuador in general?

  • Sherril September 8, 2011, 3:05 pm

    Hi Bryan:

    RBC just emailed me the following information, indicating that the $700 account balance requirement is waived for the first 90 days after opening the RBC Access USA account:

    “With the RBC Access USA (Royal Embassy) Checking account, I can indeed confirm that there are no RBC charges for use of other banks’ ATMs (other banks may charge usage fees) and up to 2 refunds (total $4) per statement cycle for ATM usage fees charged by other banks.

    The minimum balance to maintain at all times in the account to avoid the $3.95 monthly fee (waived for the first 90 days) is indeed $700.00. After the 90 day grace period has ended, should the balance drop below the $700.00 at any time during the monthly statement cycle, the monthly fee will be applied.”


    • Bryan Haines September 8, 2011, 3:46 pm

      Thanks Sherril – this is the same as when we set up the account 2 1/2 years ago. Thanks for clarifying the current information.

  • marek August 28, 2011, 4:28 pm

    tomorrow i am going to set up Rbc USA Canada but Saturday in costumer service at the bank they asked me if I work in use to got this account
    i have no chance to work in USA and i have no income in $us
    it is necessary to have income in $us to open this account ?

    • Bryan Haines August 29, 2011, 7:25 am

      Not from how I understand it. RBC will open this for you based on travel needs – or at least that was the requirement. The system works amazing.

  • David Marshall January 23, 2011, 12:21 pm

    Hi Bryan, thanks for this. Is having an account with RBC Bank USA different than having a US dollar account with RBC Canada. We have opened the latter based on advice from our RBC account manager but this sounds a bit different. Thanks so much for providing this info on behalf of fellow Canucks. Regards, David.

    • Bryan Haines January 24, 2011, 12:34 pm

      Hi David – yes the accounts are different. The US dollar account with RBC Canada doesn’t allow ATM access to those funds. What you can do, is store the US funds in that account, and simply transfer to your RBC Bank USA account when you want to withdraw.

      What really interesting, is that you can get checks on your RBC Bank USA account, and deposit them into your Ecuadorian bank account here. They clear in about 15 days (or so I’m told – I haven’t tried it personally). RBC Canada can help you setup your RBC Bank USA account – its free and there’s no service charges if you keep a minimum of $700 in the account.

      Hope this helps.

      • Sherril August 29, 2011, 4:24 pm

        Hi Bryan:

        I was thinking of bringing Canadian or US dollar travellers cheques. If they can be cashed at Ecuadorian banks, does anyone know what % commission is charged?

        thanks, Sherril

        • Bryan Haines September 6, 2011, 6:52 pm

          Hi Sherril – good question and I’m not sure. Most people (that I’ve spoken with) just use their ATM/debit card and withdraw cash. That how we continue to access our money after two years. And there are no % charges – just an ATM charge of $1.50 – we use RBC Bank USA as noted in the post.

  • TerryE January 22, 2011, 7:47 am

    Wells Fargo in the US has a easy system for sending funds to Ecuador. Granted, the first transfer requires one to actually be present in the bank, however any subsequent transfer can simply be made using the Internet. Fees vary, but can be free, depending on your account minimums at Wells. Transfers are made to the Bank of Guayaquil and can be sent to an account there, or one can easily just pick up the cash. No account at BoG is required. Limits are up to $1000 per day with a $9000 a month limit. Once set up, you basically just send yourself money as needed. You can also send cash to another person in Ecuador. Works great!

    • Bryan Haines January 22, 2011, 1:05 pm

      Thanks Terry, this sounds like a great option! Its great to have a few options.

      Do you know how the fees work? Is it fixed rate or percentage? Western Union is very popular here, but takes 3-5%. Many Ecuadorian men send money back to their families here in Ecuador using Western Union.

      When we setup a wire transfer, RBC charged $45 and our bank here charged $17. But it was a one time transfer (for our car purchase) and was done next day.

      • TerryE January 22, 2011, 5:50 pm

        See: . Best I can tell, it looks like about $8 max per transfer to Ecuador. Don't know all the numbers but discounts are available when one keeps certain balances in Wells accounts. Keep $25k or more in combined accounts (savings, checking, cd's, IRA's, etc.) is each transfer is free. Sure beats the heck out of wire transfers, which as you mentioned, can be costly (on both ends). I'm not due in Cuenca until February 1st, but have already tested the system by sending funds to a friend and it worked flawlessly. One warning tho' — names and passport/cedula numbers must be exactly as printed on your ID document. Hope this helps someone. There is a good story on how I discovered this information (quite by accident) but maybe sometime I'll share it with you folks over lunch.

        • Bryan Haines January 22, 2011, 6:06 pm

          This is great! Thanks Terry. Drop me an email when you're in town. Maybe we can chat over a coffee.

        • Alex K February 8, 2011, 2:09 pm

          Which bank do you have to be at to make the transfer. I will not be moving to Guayaquil until the beginning of March. I have an account currently with Wells Fargo. My new employer in Guayaquil told me they will be directly depositing my checks into a bank account there but I can transfer them into my American account so I can make payments on my student loans and such. So how do I make the first transfer if I don't have an account yet in Guayaquil?

          • Bryan Haines February 8, 2011, 5:15 pm

            Hi Alex,

            I’m not sure how it works to move money out of the country. In the majority of cases, people are moving money into Ecuador. But I expect that it should be very straight forward. The banks here know how to do business.

            If you have your paperwork in order, you can open an account during your first visit to the bank.

            Sorry I can’t be of more help – I haven’t done this before.


  • colin stray January 21, 2011, 5:19 pm

    Thanks for the comment on the Royal Bank. Food for thought . In Mexico we pay about 25 pesos ( $2cdn ) to withdraw money from a local ATM then $2.50 international withdrawal fee. Would that be the total cost of one withdrawal in Ecudar using RBC-USA ?__A non-related question…..are there any non-Catholic English speaking churches in Cuenca ?____Thanks____Colin

    • Bryan Haines January 21, 2011, 5:32 pm

      Hi Colin,

      The Royal Bank doesn't charge anything. The banks here charge $1.50 and RBC credits back up to $4.00 per month – which means we normally don't pay anything! Its a pretty good arrangement.

      About churches, the only one I know of is an English congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

      Hope this helps.

      • Sandy February 19, 2011, 11:38 pm

        Would you know where that congregation is locate?

        Thanks Sandy

        • Bryan Haines February 27, 2011, 8:51 pm

          Hi Sandy, there is a Kingdom Hall on Avenida Heroes de Verdaloma – its north of the city center, close to Avenida de las Americas. I believe its known as the Bellavista Hall.

          Hope this helps.



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About Bryan & Dena Haines

We are a Canadian family of 3 living in Ecuador since 2009. We blog about life and travel in Ecuador. If this is your first visit, start here. Interested to work with us? Read more about Bryan & Dena

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