The Ins and Outs of Banking in Argentina
Argentina is definitely not a country like the Cayman Islands when it comes to asset protection, but then again, few places in the world are. Taxes on assets do have to be paid back in the United States, and they are not protected with bank secrecy. In fact, the country has recently been moving in the opposite direction of bank secrecy.
Opening a Bank Account in Argentina
Foreigners are permitted to open a bank account in Argentina, as long as the appropriate paperwork is in order. It is possible to open an account in pesos as well as in dollars. It is important to know, however, that accounts in dollars are much more scrutinized and controlled than those in pesos, given the country’s current necessity for foreign monies to repay its debt.
The forms most Argentine banks require to open the equivalent of a checking account (cuenta correinte) are:
- Proof of residence
- CUIL (Código Unico de Identificación Laboral)
A minimum deposit also is often required. In order to open a savings account, the individual must be a permanent resident in Argentina.
The benefits for opening a local bank account are mostly related to doing business. In order to have a local credit card, as well, it is necessary to have a bank account in Argentina. While all places that accept credit cards in person also will accept foreign cards, any online purchases in Argentina are only possible with local cards. Setting up automatic payment for bills, whether cellphone or other, also is only possible with a local card.
Anyone who is employed and paid legally on paper in Argentina will have a bank account, even as a foreigner. Companies deposit employees’ salary at the start of each month directly into their bank accounts. Each company chooses where it wants to bank, so, as a result, people might have accounts at different banks depending on where, say, their family opened accounts for them prior to them being employed.
Another current advantage to having an account in Argentina is for keeping currencies separate. Most people who are making money in pesos and also have foreign money or funds overseas will try to keep the pesos separate and in Argentina. Because of inflation in Argentina, a historically plaguing problem, the preference is to keep pesos separate and spend them separately.
A few international banks operate in Argentina, including HSBC and Citibank. For foreigners who already have accounts in those banks elsewhere, it is a streamlined and relatively easy process to open an account at that respective bank in Argentina. Those two banks, along with Santander, are the largest in Argentina. It also should be noted that foreigners are not usually allowed to borrow money from an Argentine bank. Loans and financing options already are uncommon and rarely offered in Argentina as is. What is common are payment options called cuotas, where many retailers and service providers (such as a travel agency) allow people to make payments over time rather than all upfront.
People often choose to keep their money out of the country and bring it in through wire transfers such as with MORE or Western Union at least for initial investments. While this incurs a cost, it is lower than the loss of transferring the money at the black market rate.