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Argentina - Banking

When opening a bank account in Argentina, expats will find that there is a variation on the requirements depending upon the bank (banco) they want to use. There will also be a variation which is affected by the type of account they want: a current account (cuenta corriente – this is the equivalent of the US checking account) or a savings account (cuenta de ahorros). However, the rules for an expat are no more stringent than those which apply to Argentine nationals.

Expats have the choice of opening a bank account in pesos, the currency of Argentina, or in American dollars. The choice you make will depend upon what you are using the account for. An account in local currency is ideal for those who are working in the country and who are being paid in pesos, while an account in American dollars is better for those whose income originates outside the country and is being transferred in.

The main requirement for an expat to open an account is identification and this will usually mean a passport and visa which shows you have the right to live and/or work in the country. You will also need to have proof of your address in the country, and this usually means a copy of a utility bill that is in your name. Some banks will also request personal details such as your social security number (known as CUIT – issued when you first begin work in the country) and your identification card number (CDI).

Other documentation that may be required includes a copy of your employment contract as proof of your work status and income, and your tenancy agreement from your place of residence, which may be requested in place of a utility bill. Some banks may have minimum residency limit on some of their accounts, which mean that you may not be able to open the account until you have been there for at least a year. In this case you may be better off with an international bank which allows you to open the account before you move.

It should also be noted that you cannot open a bank account – either savings or current – without having money to pay in. The amount you will need to pay will vary depending upon the type of account that you have. For example, an account being opened in Argentinian pesos will require at least AR$10, while an American dollar account may ask for a minimum of $500. Again, this may vary depending upon the bank you are using and some banks may request as much as AR$1000.

Each year the account holder will have to pay a small ‘maintenance’ fee (cargo) for the account. This amount also varies but an average is around AR$6 for a peso account and $2 for an American dollar account. The maintenance charges that you pay include the fees for using one of the bank’s debit cards (tarjeta de débito). Cards are usually issued within a fortnight of the account being opened and it is common for a withdrawal (reintegro) limit to be placed on the card.

Argentine banks are usually only open from Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 3 pm. However, most will have ATMs (cajero automatic) which can be used round the clock. The ATMs use the Spanish language, although many do offer an English option.

A number of foreign owned banks are in operation in Argentina. American banks such as Citibank and Bank of New York have several branches, particularly in Buenos Aires. HSBC is another foreign banking network that has a lot of branches (oficina) in the country. It may be easier if you wish to use a bank from your country of origin to open the account before you arrive in the country if your own bank is able to take care of that for you. However, they will still require the same amount of documentation in order to open the account.

The Bank of Argentina (Banco de la Nación Argentina) has the most branches in the country at over 600. Using one of the larger banks has a number of advantages. They will have more experience at dealing with the needs of an expat and customers will have access to more ATMs. There will also be staff in most branches that are able to speak English and they will also offer some online banking facilities.

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