Everything foreigners need to know about opening a Mexican bank account.
While it’s definitely possible to get by in Mexico without a Mexican bank account (I managed it for years and YEARS), having one is super convenient.
Having a Mexican bank account really comes in handy for easily transferring money to friends or businesses. In Mexico, it’s much more common to do a direct transfer than use a service like Venmo.
Another compelling reason to open a bank account in Mexico is that it is the first step toward getting a credit card and building credit in Mexico.
After reading this post, you will know:
- How to open a bank account in Mexico
- What documents you will need such as proof of address
- Real life experiences of expats with different Mexican banks
- Why it’s a good idea to maintain a bank account in your home country
- My BEST Mexico money tip
- & more!
Special shoutout to Rob, Candace, Susan & Steve for sharing their experiences as expats banking in Mexico! I’m so grateful to be part of a community that can learn from each other.
What You Need to Open a Bank Account in Mexico
In order to open a bank account in Mexico, you must:
- Be a temporary or permanent resident of Mexico
- Have an RFC (Mexican tax ID number)
If you want to live in Mexico, take the steps to do so legally. The Mexico Residency Roadmap has helped hundreds of people get their temporary or permanent residency for Mexico.
- “This really has been the most helpful single document I’ve seen anywhere. It encompasses everything all in one spot. I would definitely recommend anyone that wants to make their life and transition to Mexico easier to get the Mexico Residency Roadmap. It’s invaluable!” -Toni, Oregon, USA
In recent years, the Mexican federal government passed a law that all Mexican nationals as well as foreigners living in Mexico must have an RFC (Registro Federal de Contribuyentes).
The RFC is a Mexican tax ID number, and it’s now mandatory to have one for financial transactions ranging from registering a vehicle in Mexico to opening a bank account.
How do I get an RFC in Mexico?
With your Mexican residency, you’re assigned a CURP (Clave Única de de Registro Población). This unique ID number is similar to a Social Security Number in the United States.
You will need your residency card, CURP & proof of address in Mexico in order to get your RFC. Once you have those necessary documents in hand, you can book an appointment online.
The most time-consuming part of getting an RFC number in Mexico is booking an appointment at your local SAT office (some locations are busier than others): https://citas.sat.gob.mx/
Can tourists open a bank account in Mexico?
Yes, there was a time that tourists could open bank accounts in Mexico & you didn’t used to need an RFC, but this is how things are now 🙃
Even if you find a bank that lets the RFC requirement slide for now, chances are they’re going to ask for it down the road.
Host Relocation’s Ivonne Pavaan told me that some banks that had previously allowed clients to open a bank account without an RFC later locked the account until the requirement was met.
For foreigners located in Querétaro, Mexico City & La Paz, Host Relocation can help you get your RFC number. Send a message to Ivonne on WhatsApp (+52 442 364 9402) and use the code “Alex5” for a special reader discount.
Best Bank in Mexico for Expats
These are the Mexican banks where subscribers have told me they have accounts and are happy with the customer service:
- Santander Mexico
- BBVA Bancomer
- HSBC Mexico
These are some of the largest and most popular banks in Mexico. You can find branches and ATMs for easy cash withdrawals all over the country.
Banorte and Citibanamex are Mexican banks while Santander Mexico, BBVA Bancomer and HSBC Mexico are subsidiaries of global financial institutions.
Taylor (my husband) decided to open an account with Santander because there is a location near our apartment in Guadalajara. His primary criteria was that the bank had lots of locations around Mexico so it would always be easy to find an ATM.
Having lived in Madrid for two years prior to moving to Mexico, we were already familiar with Santander. Santander Mexico is a subsidiary of Banco Santander in Spain. This familiarity gave us the extra boost of confidence to open a Mexican bank account with Santander.
Worst Bank in Mexico for Expats?
Subscriber Rob has an account with CiBanco but is planning on changing banks since CiBanco flags even regular monthly charges such as payments to Telmex and CFE (internet & electricity) as fraud. He’s also had issues transferring money and writing checks.
Keep reading for more expat Mexican banking experiences.
How to Open a Bank Account in Mexico
In addition to his residency card, RFC & passport, when Taylor went to Santander to open a bank account, he had to show his US Social Security card and proof of address. We used a utility bill.
You also need to have a Mexican phone number to put on file. When trying to open a bank account at BBVA, the associate told subscriber Susan that her US number wouldn’t suffice even though she has an international phone plan.
Here’s what you need to open a bank account in Mexico:
- Temporary or permanent residency card
- RFC number
- US Social Security card (if applicable)
- Proof of address in Mexico
- Mexican phone number
Tip: Make sure any documents you sign match your signature in your passport—they’re sticklers about that in Mexico!
Subscriber Candace wasn’t able to open an account at Banorte because the signature in her passport “didn’t match” the signature on her residency card. Her passport signature is her first name, middle initial and last name while her residency card is her first name, middle name and last name.
At Santander, Taylor got the option to choose between two types of checking accounts:
- Pay $60 MXN per month for no minimum balance but limited transfers
- Maintain a minimum balance of $4,000 MXN per month & unlimited transfers
He went with option #2 & had his debit card two weeks after his first trip to Santander (three trips in all).
Taylor has had his Mexican bank account since February, and his favorite Santander banking feature is that he’s able to withdraw money from an ATM using just his phone. The Santander mobile banking app generates a token that he enters into the ATM for retiro sin tarjeta (withdrawal without card).
Can I keep my US bank account after moving to Mexico?
When I first moved to Mexico and didn’t yet have my residency, the only way for me to access my money was to withdraw pesos out of the ATM with my regular old debit card from a local bank in Michigan.
The ATM fees, which didn’t seem like a lot at first, really started to add up FAST.
If you’re a US resident, I encourage you to open a checking account with Charles Schwab. The free checking account is a benefit of opening a brokerage account with Charles Schwab (you’ll have to do that first, but don’t worry, it can just sit unused).
A Charles Schwab checking account doesn’t require a minimum balance. Best of all, Charles Schwab:
- Offers unlimited refunds for ATM fees worldwide (reimbursed at the end of each month)
- Doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees
Another benefit is the exceptional customer service. When Taylor misplaced his debit card, Charles Schwab quickly mailed him a replacement to our house in Mexico.
The kicker is you will need a US address on file to open an account with Charles Schwab. Avoid mentioning your plans to live in Mexico full time since the card technically isn’t mean for people living abroad.
Another option for American expats as well as Canadians is using Scotiabank. It’s a Bank of America partner bank and has locations all over Mexico.
My BEST Mexico Money Tip
When you’re withdrawing pesos from an ATM in Mexico using your foreign debit card, my tip is to always always ALWAYS choose to “decline the conversion.”
Selecting “decline the conversion” doesn’t terminate the transaction. Instead, it hands over the conversion to your bank which almost has a better exchange rate (Santander, a popular Mexican bank, has a 6% markup).
Here’s an example of “decline the conversion” in action:
I withdrew $5,000 MXN from the ATM & Santander told me that with their conversion it would come out of my account as $312.93 US (this was in June 2023).
As always, I declined the conversion.
When I checked my Charles Schwab app later, the exchange rate they gave me came out to $293.47 US.
That’s a difference of almost $20 US 🤯
I know not every ATM offers the option to decline the conversion, but if & when it does, TAKE IT!
How to Transfer Money from US Bank Account to Mexican Bank Account
Subscriber Steve, who has a background in Latin American studies, cautioned against thinking of banking in Mexico like banking the US—just in Spanish. Many Mexicans are hesitant to trust banks, and it’s not uncommon to hear stories about banks freezing accounts.
He suggested only keeping enough money in your account to pay your bills and using a service like Wise to transfer more money when needed.
For my fellow US citizens, remember that if you have more than $10,000 US in a foreign bank account you must report it to the IRS.
Taylor uses Wise to transfer funds from his Charles Schwab account to his Mexican bank account. The fee is much less and the transaction much faster than international transfers only using Charles Schwab.
The fee depends on how much money you transfer. It’s usually less than 1%. For example, Taylor recently used Wise to transfer $1,000 US from his Charles Schwab account to his Mexican bank account for $8.11 US fee.
To make the transfer, Wise only needs his Mexican CLABE. Then, it’s only a few seconds for the money to show up in his Mexican bank account. An account with Wise is a must for Americans making money online in Mexico.
Last but certainly not least, another benefit of using Wise is that you get the best exchange rate. Wise prides itself on giving its clients the fairest exchange rates which is increasingly important for expats with their money in USD as the Mexican peso gets stronger.
Final Thoughts on Banking in Mexico for Expats
When you’re preparing for your move to Mexico, organizing your finances so you can access the local currency is one of the most important tasks. That’s why it’s #4 on the 11-point Move to Mexico Checklist!
Start ticking off tasks on the Move to Mexico Checklist when you download the FREE 32-page Move to Mexico Quickstart Guide. Inside you’ll also find my top tips for apartment hunting in Mexico & a handy renting in Spanish cheatsheet.
If you have any questions about how to open a bank account in Mexico, please feel free to ask away in the comments below.