YOU ASKED, WE ANSWERED: Can a foreigner who doesn’t have residency open a bank account in Nicaragua?
For no particular reason, other than being able to share our experience with you, we recently opened a bank account here in Nicaragua. Although relatively straightforward the process to do so was a little long and drawn out.
With a smile on my face, a pocketful of patience and the required documentation in hand (see below for the detailed list) I arrived at our local Banco Lafise Bancentro branch here in San Juan del Sur.
The time was approximately 12:45 pm.
At 3:30 pm, a little less than 3 hours after arriving, I walked out the door with my account number in hand and instructions to return in one week’s time to pick up my debit card.
One week later, as promised, my debit card was ready for pickup.
When I returned to Bancentro to pick up my card the representative that helped set up my account greeted me with a, “Buenos dias, Don Gordon” and one hour later I had debit card in hand with online banking and fraud protection setup.
The task of opening a bank account in Nicaragua without having residency was officially complete.
Other than a $2.50 USD service charge for optional fraud protection we do not incur monthly fees to have this account.
Since opening our account I have successfully completed a wire transfer. It took a few days for the funds to show up, but overall the transaction went very smoothly. I was impressed that I received an email from the bank notifying me that a deposit had been made to my account.
WHAT YOU NEED TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT
Foreigners who wish to set up a bank account with Lafise Bancentro are required to present the following:
- Copy of your passport
- Copy of your driver’s license or government issued ID
- Copy of last year’s income tax statement
- Reference letter from your home country bank
- Bank statement from your home country showing your current account balance
- Two reference letters from Nicaraguan citizens
- Rental home agreement or proof of home ownership (in Nicaragua)
- Copy of your beneficiary’s passport
- Minimum $50 USD to deposit
This may seem like a long list, but in order to alleviate money laundering, banks worldwide — including those in Nicaragua — want to know where your money is coming from.
IS A NICARAGUAN BANK ACCOUNT REALLY NEEDED?
For the past four years we’ve managed just fine without a Nicaraguan bank account. During this time we’ve always just used our Canadian debit card to withdraw funds from our account at an ATM.
In fact, since moving here there has only been one instance when we we felt it would have been beneficial to have a local account. That was in 2012 when we purchased our truck.
I still say we don’t really need this account, but at the same time it does add a level of convenience to our day to day life. Just like in Canada I can use my bank account to pay bills online. I can also add minutes to my cell phone. I can even transfer money to friends that also have Bancentro accounts.
Last night I noticed a sign at a local restaurant offering a 20% discount if I used my debit card to pay my bill.
For the first time in four years I used my Visa debit card, instead of cash, to pay for groceries. This felt a little odd, yet somehow familiar to life back in Canada.