Banking outside of your home country can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. With a little help and patience, you can transfer, access and use money anywhere in the world. Especially with online banking, it’s easier than ever to manage your finances from wherever your road takes you. Here are some tips from my experience as a foreigner living and banking in Guatemala.
How to get money from the U.S. to Guatemala
1) You can bring cash with you (Up to US$10,000 can be brought in with out declaring it.) but then you’ll have to go to the trouble of
keeping it and yourself safe until you can deposit it in a bank or use it. (Note: you’ll need your passport with you to exchange this money into local currency at the bank.
2) You can use an ATM card to withdraw up to your daily limit. Just be sure to notify your bank that you’ll be doing this or they’ll lock your card down like Fort Knox.
3) I recommend that you have a bank account in the U.S. that receives funds for you and then take checks with you to Guatemala. By writing a check to yourself you can deposit money to your account in Guatemala (see more on this below).
ATM vs. Local Bank Account
Some missionaries simply rely on an ATM card for all their transfer/cash needs. Where I live there are ATMs but not many stores accept plastic so cash is necessary and I don’t like running the risk that someone is trying to empty my account after using s
ome compromised ATM.
With a few basic documents you can open a checking account and have a place in country where you can keep funds safe and available. The main problem with this is that it requires a lot of financial planning ahead because a check deposited at a bank here in Guatemala takes about 30 days to clear. So you’ll need something on hand to cover expenses for the waiting period.
So, here’s how our system works:
- Write a check from our U.S. Account to myself.
- Deposit it into my bank account here in Guatemala.
- Wait 30 days.
- Access the money by my Guatemalan ATM card or by writing and cashing a check. I like to ask for a portion of the cash in “sencillo” (small bills) so that we don’t have trouble in the market when we need to buy somethinglater on.
- Plan ahead for my next deposit so I’m not caught in a lurch and haveing to wait another 30 days.
Note: Be sure to use a reliable bank that has a long history. I recommend GyT Continental but there are other options out there that are well respected as well including Banco Industrial, BanRural, etc.
Here’s a blog that is worth checking out regarding missionaries and financae.