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Ecuador - Banking

There are several different banks (bancos) that expats in Ecuador can choose from. There are local banks such as Banco del Pacifico and Banco del Austro as well as a few international banks which have a presence in the country. If you have an existing account (cuenta) with an international bank it may make the process easier when you come to open an account in Ecuador and it may be worth making enquiries in advance with your existing bank.

Some employers may recommend their own bank to you when you start work in the country and it is a good idea to consider using the same bank but you should shop around to see what the other banks have to offer, as you may be able to find a better deal elsewhere. When you go to the bank it is a good idea to take along somebody who speaks the local language. Depending on which part of the country you are in it is unlikely that the bank will have a member of staff that speaks English, so you need to be prepared if you do not speak the language yourself.

Some banks will also make you produce a lot of documentation (documentación) before you are allowed to have an account as they may be reluctant to take on expat account holders. The main pieces of documentation that you will need are your passport, your ID card (issued in Ecuador) and your contract of employment. Some banks have been known to send expats away for colour copies of all their documentation, references from Ecuadorian residents such as an employer or landlord and copies of their ID cards. Some banks will need proof of address and for this a copy of your tenancy agreement or a utility bill will suffice. All this is in addition to the original copies that you have already produced.

These procedures make it harder for an expat to get credit (crédito) in Ecuador. Overdrafts are unlikely to be approved until the account holder has spent a great deal of time in the country and built up a good credit history and a good relationship with the bank. Loans will be even harder to obtain and if you require credit facilities an international bank may be the best option.

Deposits are required to open an account, though for a current account (cuenta corriente) it can be as little as $5. You may also be required to keep a minimum balance in the account. Deposits will vary from bank to bank so it is a good idea to check in advance on the requirements. Some banks will have charges on certain transactions, such as transferring monies from one account to another and processing payments in another currency.

Current accounts are ideal for every day financial transactions such as paying bills and transferring monies. Cards are issued for withdrawing monies from ATMs which can be found outside banks and in the main shopping areas. Some banks will charge for these withdrawals, particularly if you use the ATMs of another bank, so you should make sure that you are aware of any potential fees before using the card. If you need to travel it may be that you are unable to use your debit card in another country. If this is going to be a requirement for you then you should make your bank aware of it when you open the account so you can be sure you get the right type of account and card.

Using the debit card of your account in your home country should not be a problem in most ATMs in Ecuador, although you will be charged by your own bank. The ATMs in the country are designed to accept most types of debit and credit card although daily limits are applied on withdrawals. This will vary from bank to bank and will depend a great deal on your personal circumstances.

Savings accounts (cuenta de ahorro) can also be opened by expats and there are different types. They offer higher interest rates and you can choose an account based on how often you will need to access the funds. Other products that the bank may be able to help you with include pensions and investments but smaller branches may not have a specialist advisor and it may be necessary to visit a larger branch.

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