How to set up a bank account in a spanish speaking country
In the last couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure to meet some wonderful and interesting people. Among them, there’s an American friend of mine who’s very special. She was born in Guatemala and adopted at a very young age by a Jewish family in the US. I met her because she came to her birth country to get to know the culture, customs, and language of the people that lived here, the place she was born. We became great friends and keep in touch to this day.
Years later, I met a French girl who was born in Guatemala and came to the country to meet her biological parents… that was a weird coincidence! Most surprisingly, today I was told about a 15-year-old boy who came to Guatemala with his parents so he could meet his biological mother. It was very strange for me to suddenly start meeting adopted Guatemalans left and right, until a teacher at my university talked to me about the time when Guatemala used to be third in the world on adoption rates, right below China and Russia. A bit of research led me to this page, which explains the issue in more detail, and I learned that there’s a network for adoptees that wish to connect to their Guatemalan roots! All of these adopted kids are now grown up, so them coming to Guatemala shouldn’t come as a surprise.
My American friend fell in love with her birthplace, and now she’s planning to move here to spend her days making Guatemala a better place. I have had the pleasure of accompanying her on her journey, and through it, we came to face an interesting challenge: she has to set up a Guatemalan bank account. In order to do this, I helped her by calling several banks and asking what she should do in order to open an account here, if possible. Some banks were laxer, and others were quite strict, so I’ll write down what I learned so you can better know what to expect if you’re ever in need of opening an account while abroad.
What do I need to have?
According to the banks I spoke to, the following are required if you’re to open a bank account in Guatemala:
- Proof of residence (usually in the form of electricity or water bill)
- Minimum amount of cash required to open the account (it varied from $15 – $150, roughly)
These things were required only by some of the banks I contacted:
- Proof of employment
Some banks required proof of employment that would guarantee that the resident had a job in Guatemala. I asked them about cases where the resident works remotely for a website or company, to which they replied it was no problem as long as the company they worked for could provide said proof of employment to confirm the person opening the account has a steady source of income.
- Guatemalan ID
Specifically, having a native Guatemalan with an ID register as a creditor, so they could manage or delete the account if the resident left the country, for example. I personally don’t recommend opening an account if they ask for this, even if there’s a Guatemalan willing to be your creditor. These things, I believe, are best kept personal. I guess a spouse could be an exception, but if you’re married to a Guatemalan you can get an ID yourself, so it kind of defeats the purpose of a creditor!
Each bank I asked this question had a different answer, so my advice is to give them a call! Some of the banks had an English option for customer service, and they’re usually happy to give any info necessary.
Banking Terms in Spanish
“But I’m not going to live in Guatemala!”
Just like each bank has different requirements to open an account, so will each country. Something very important to take into account is the location you’re planning to live in when opening your account. Make sure your bank has a location set up near your home! In countries with large rural areas, banks can be few and far between, so don’t forget to double-check for banks that are close to you so you can visit anytime you need.
Either way, the first thing you should do before setting up an account abroad is to contact the bank so they give you the info you need! If you want to improve your Spanish so the conversation with the bank’s customer service is easier, make sure to try out a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy!