Opening a bank account in Chile
Chilean notes (bills) and coins both sides
Opening a bank account in Chile is a lot more cumbersome to do than in most countries so you if you intend to bring wads of money and deposit it once you are here… forget it. Plan ahead because you will have more chance of running into a three-legged gnome than you have of opening up an account in Chile the first week (or decade) you are here.
Currently you have to be over the age of 21 to open a bank account and they ask that you have a stable job with a minimum income. No problem you think? Well the most important requirement you need, and that which stuffs up the majority of foreigners, is to have a RUT (pronounced like root that s your ID number, nothing rude). How you get that ID is for another post but it basically comes down to having temporary or permanent residency and/or through a job. If you don t have it, don t bother trying to open an account here.
If you are fortunate to have a RUT, then you will need to fill out lots of forms (great for your Spanish), gather lots of random papers and then get everything legalized in duplicate (or triplicate) before they say you can t open an account with them. Sounds fun, doesn t it.
It took our company a good number of months to open a bank account here since they kept asking for an additional paper every single time you went back with the last one they had asked for (I don t understand why they can t just give you a list to begin with that contains everything they require on it!!) Don t be surprised if they ask for an original copy of your great-grandmother s birth certificate too, it s like they want a copy of everything possible. From memory as a company we also had to prove that we had been in existence for the last two years, not good if you are just starting out.
I have been here since 1997 and I still don t have my own personal bank account. I did try a couple of times but with all the paperwork you have to get together and what they take out every month in commissions , I decided it wasn t worth it. I just use my wife s one or our company one to store the few pesos I have.
Fondos Mutuos (Mutual Funds)
During the first years, when neither my wife nor I had a bank account, I would put any spare cash into Fondos Mutuos (or Mutual Funds). It s like an account in that you usually get paid interest while it s there but best of all it is safe in the bank and not under your mattress. The only inconvenience with this is that you have to give a day s notice if you want to withdraw any money out. Also you must leave it in the bank for a certain amount of time before you take money out unless you want to lose the interest you have gained or get a bank fee imposed. Of course you also need a RUT for this though at least it takes the hassle out of all the paperwork for opening an account AND they don t charge you a monthly fee in Commissions.
There is an easy-ish way of having a bank account through the Banco Estado which is called Cuenta RUT. They don t ask for so many documents though as the name states, you still need your RUT and there are restrictions and limitations in amounts. They also charge a few hundred pesos for each withdrawal.
Damn this RUT thing I hear you saying. It shows how important it is here.
I came to the conclusion today that Banks probably don t like foreigners having accounts with them because they don t normally go into debt or buy things in 500 installments with the associated interest on top as Chileans tend to do. Banks love this Chilean idiosyncrasy since it gets them a lot of cash down the line.
Once you have your account
Something I don t like about Chilean banks is that they will charge you a monthly commission for having your money with them (so that they can use it to invest for their own benefit). On top of that, you normally won t get any interest on it unless you have a specific savings account with withdrawal restrictions.
An important final note: If you are lucky enough to get a cheque book/account, NEVER bounce cheques in Chile. It is a serious offense that can land you in jail for something along the line of fraud.
If anyone hears of an easier way to open a bank account in Chile or hears of a bank that is more flexible, let us know so we can help others.
And once you have a bank account, then you ll have to deal with customer service .
What are your experiences with banks in Chile?
What do you do with your cash in Chile?