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Small bills

Posted by urufish on January 23, 2009

uyu50

We’ve been here just over 3 years and I still haven’t figured out why I’m always running out of small bills. 

We’ve tried several strategies to keep ahead of not having enough small bills to pay for something.  We would go to Macdonalds and use $1000 bills for food.  We would pay with $1000 bills at the Costa Azul across the street but they got wise to use a few weeks into the program and said sorry, they had no change but they’d be happy to take our credit card.   Not what we wanted to hear. 

Last year, at the beginning of the summer, we got a great idea.  Every weekend we’d go to Piriapolis and we’d pay the tolls with $1000 bills.  By the end of the fall, we had oodles of small bills.  We thought they’d last forever.  But alas, we used up our supply last week. 

Today, it finally came to me what had to be done.  Do the same thing we used to do up north in retail.  Go to the bank and get stacks of small bills.  I must have avoided this early on in Uruguay because my Spanish wasn’t up to the task.  But today, I bit down, went into the bank and did my best to make myself understood.  Amazingly enough, my teller (I say ‘my’ because he knows for 3 years), just smiled, winked at me and produced stacks of small bills neatly wrapped in elastic bands. 

Problem is now solved.  Every time we run low, it’s off to the bank for change.

Posted in Banking, Daily life | 5 Comments »

Antel has online bill payment (sort of)

Posted by urufish on December 3, 2007

 antel.jpg

Today, I was doing my December budget when I noticed that my daughter’s phone bill never showed up in November.   Up until this month, Antel held the distinction of being the only utility that always mails invoices, more or less on time.  So now we have a clean sweep.   All the utilities are into the 10% multa scam. 

 I decided to go on line and print the invoice… http://www.antel.com.uy/portal/hgxpp001.aspx?2,358,539,O,S,0,MNU;E;278;1;MNU;,

While there, I noticed that Antel has added the ability to pay on line if you have a major credit card.  Oh good.  So I clicked on the link…  http://www.antel.com.uy/portal/hgxpp001.aspx?2,358,539,O,S,0

At this point, you enter your account number (cuente), you click the link and unfortunately, that’s the end of the journey.  If it does work, I dont have enough hours in the day to wait for the link…

I’ll try it again next month.  It could be working by then.  In the meantime, I printed the bill and will take it to the Abitab around the corner later today. 

Posted in Banking, Daily life, Technology | 4 Comments »

Banks and Cheques

Posted by urufish on November 2, 2007

 cheque.jpg

Yah. yah. yah… I could have written ‘checks’ but I felt like waving the Canadian flag today.  Besides that, it’s Uruguay and the Canadian spelling is closer to Spanish than the American spelling 🙂

 I’ve written a couple of articles on banks, but never on cheques per se.  Now that I’m entering my 2nd phase of Uruguayan experience, (an awakening of sorts to a 2nd level I hadn’t gleaned before), it’s time to share these new experiences with my readers. 

First and foremost, Uruguayan banks (those I’ve dealt with), are very, very different than Canadian or American banks.  The difference is fundamental.  Remember how we always say Uruguay is like the North 50 years ago… well, that’s very obvious in the banking system.  Although they appear to be modern, that’s superficial.  Under the hood, you’re looking at Canadian banking mentality from the 1950’s, (that’s from boyhood memory).  Paternal would be a good overall description to use to the way the public sees the banks. 

Most of my experience is with ABN, so the details below may not apply to all banks.  I’ve been told that most foreign banks operate this way.  The details below, (from my experience), dont apply to BROU. 

When you open an account, unless you’re with BROU, you jump through hoops.  Yes, there are several documents, but the real difference, (with ABN anyway), is you need references and you dont get chequing priviledges until you prove your worth.  I have to add here that although ABN seems strict, they’re downright liberal compared to HSBC.  We opened a savings account first.  We were ‘seconded’ by an old ABN customer.  We had a couple of friends also sign for us as character references. When the account was being completed I asked about chequing priviledges.  I was told that would have to wait until the bank got to know us better.  That took about a year. 

In the beginning we were non residents, so we didn’t really qualify for a credit card, but we could get one on a 2 to 1 basis.  For every thousand we put in an ABN instrument, we would be given 500 credit.  When we became residents, we were automatically given a U$S3K credit limit.  That has subsequently been raised to U$S5K by simply asking for it.  Like the BROU, we were given an ATM card immediately, even as non residents.  Nothing changed after we became residents. 

It’s worthy to stop here for a moment and distinguish between reisdency and citizenship.  My wife is a Uruguayan citizen, but she wasn’t a Uruguayan resident.  Because of that, it didn’t matter if the account was opened in her name (an option we considered), or not.  The residency rules still applied w.r.t. credit cards and chequing priviledges. 

A few weeks after we’d decided to stay on in Urugay, we walked into the bank and asked for cheques. Our rep checked our account, smiled and said they’d be pleased to advance us chequing priviledges.  Unlike Canada or the US, cheques are chargeable.  You pay for them.  You dont get fancy designs.  They take about 2-3 days to be printed.  You order them in multiples of 25. 

There are different kinds of cheques.  There are cheques for UYP and different cheques for USD.  These are coloured differently.   Peso cheques show the dollar sign as $.  USD cheques show the dollar sign as U$S.  Where you write the amount, the preceding verbage states, “La suma de Pesos Uruguayos’.  USD cheques use the verbage, “La suma de dolares U.S.A.’  Cheques are expensive, (compared to free up north).  At ABN, they’re U$S19 per 25. 

There are variations of the above too.  You can order the above as ‘crossed’ cheques.  These are called ‘cruzada’.  These have two diagonal stripes at the top left corner.  These cheques can ONLY be deposited into the bank account of the person (or business) name that appears on the cheque.  They’re considered safer.  There is a variation of these too.  Cheques to be cashed immediately and post-dated cheques.  Unlike up north, where we can post-date a cheque by simply writing in a later date, here that’s not allowed.  If you want to give someone a post dated cheque, you must a specially ordered cheque for that purpose.  Post dated cheques costU$S2 more per 25 cheques.  In total, that makes 8 kinds of cheques you can order.  People and business that write lots of cheques, keep all 8 types on hand. 

The cheque above is the common kind, not ‘cruzada’, in Pesos Uruguayos.  You fill in cheques a litle differently here than up north.  The MICR code at the bottom (the machine readable code), is very different.  You must put the place where you’re signing the cheque, similar to signing a contract up north.  In the above cheque it’s signed at Montevideo, the 2nd day of November, 2007.  This cheque is an experiment.  I’ve been told I have to write the entire month out or it will be returned.  I’ve decided to go with an abbreviation to see if this rule is applied or not.  Wish me luck. 

I do know the rule about writing the amount correctly is applied.  I’ve made a spelling mistake before on the amount and the cheque was denied.  If you make a mistake, you cant fix it by writing in the correct information and initialing it.  You must write on the back of the cheque, (in spanish), ‘I mean to say that the amount of Pesos Uruguayo should be….’  Then you sign under that with your full signature. 

They’re also very picky about the way you sign your signature.  As a person with multiple personalities, I have several signatures I use depending on who I am at the time of signing.  ABN reprimaneded me a few times about that.  When I explained that I was an undisciplined northerner, they offered to record all my signatures and keep them on file.  Because they were so gracious about it, I decided to compromise.  I write my ‘official’ signature on the back of each new cheque book as a reference and copy from that when I write cheques. 

Cheques clear very quickly here.  Uruguayans tend to deposit cheques same day, (or next day).  The system takes one day (my observation), to process.  That’s for local cheques.  If you deposit a foreign cheque, it takes 3-4 weeks for the funds to be released to your account.  That’s for cheques drawn on American banks.  For other countries, add a week. 

Posted in Banking | 12 Comments »

Opening a bank account – Part II – American citizen/resident

Posted by urufish on July 7, 2007

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If you’re an American or a resident American, you are either not able to or may not want to, open a bank account at the large, international banks here that have divisions, subsidiaries or financial interest in any bank doing business in the US.  That’s because the IRS requires these banks to report on  all US citizens/residents that open accounts outside the US via the use of a W9 or W8 form.  A non US citizen or resident fills out a W8, swearing you are neither of the above.  A US citizen or resident fills out a W9, authorizing the bank to pass information to the IRS.  There is one other choice.  The bank can choose to sign an agreement with the IRS wherein they promise they wont deal with American citizens or residents at all, period.   I kinow the ABN-Amro bank has chosen this option.    FuBarrio reports in his post on this subject ( http://www.fubarrio.com/2007/06/brouracracy-in-uruguay.html ) that CitiBank and Bank Boston also prohibit Americans from opening accounts.  Now that Bank Boston has been purchased by ITAU (Brazilian), it’s possible this policy is or will be changing. 

If you hold a valid passport from another country, you could open an account at one of these inernational banks, but you have to, (as the form states), perjure yourself on the W8 and that’s not a good idea. 

However, the Banco Republica Oriental del Uruguay (BROU), does welcome American citizens and residents, using their American or 2nd passport, without questions.  If you use your 2nd passport, they dont require you to sign a W8 form.  I beleive this is because the BROU (like other local Uruguayan banks), doesn’t operate in the USA and the IRS has no simple method of applying pressure on them to dig past the initial passport shown. 

Many Americans have gone to the BROU in the centro to open their accounts.  This is the ‘flagship’ location.  It looks like a turn of the century train station inside.  If you’re staying in Pocitos, Jose Galvan, at the branch at Avenida Brazil and Tomas Diago speaks fluent English, has an Idaho driver’s license and is a Uruguayan Wil Rogers.  

The documents at the end of this post are the only papers you sign to open an account under these circumstances.   Special thanks to Adrian and Sybil for letting me tag along yesterday and document the process end to end. 

In part III, we will go through this process on an American passport and see whether or not you are required to sign a W9.  Because of Uruguay’s bank secrecy laws, it would seem that if you dont sign a W9, the bank should not be able to release any information about you at all, unless, there’s some legislation that over-rides that for non-residents. 

The forms below (in order) are:  rules for savings accounts, signature form for savings account, rules for ATM card, initiation procedure to change your ATM’s PIN card for first-time use.  

account-rules-large.jpg  open-account-brou-001.jpg  atm-brou-large.jpg atm-card-initiation.jpg

Posted in Banking | 4 Comments »

Opening a bank account – Part I

Posted by urufish on June 22, 2007

banco_real_preview-medium.jpg  For most banks in Uruguay, (with the exception of most local banks like the BROU), there is one set of rules for American residents and another for everyone else.  For instance, you can NOT, EVER open a bank account in most international banks here if you are a US citizen, resident or resident alien.  This isn’t an opinion or an observation.  Its the law, as set by the DGI. 

Most international banks in Uruguay shield all of their clients information with Uruguay’s bank secrecy laws.  These laws allow the banks to deny inquiries for any information about their clients with the exclusion of a criminal warrant, given by the courts where there is proof of criminal behaviour, (eg. money laundering or fraud).  Your information will not be released to a taxation agency like the IRS or CRA. When an international bank operates in a country where secrecy laws shield clients AND they elect to apply those laws to ALL clients, without exception, they sign an agreement with the IRS pledging to refuse to open accounts for anyone presenting a US passport or where their birth, citizenship or residency is listed on a different identity document, (eg. the back of the Cedula).  

Furthermore, ALL clients are required to sign a W8 or W9.  With the W8, you swear that you’re not any of the above, nor are you ‘fronting’ for someone who is, under pain of criminal prosecution for perjury.  If you are one of the above, you sign a W9, which authorizes the bank to notify the IRS you opened an account here and allows the IRS to query the bank for all pertinent information about your account any time in the future they decide you’re a person of interest to them.  

The process of opening an account in a foreign bank is not as simple as it is up north, but it’s not prohibitive.  You need your proof of identity, (passport or cedula) and references from your old bank (or a ‘good word’ from a current client) and 5 references in Uruguay.  (Dont be put off by that..  any one person in Uruguay can rustle up 4 other names for yo as a refernce).  Then you sign several forms (see below), and you should make a small deosit in CASH, but yes, you CAN deposit a cheque.  You may not want to do that, (see previous post), but yes, you can do it. 

Most international banks will let you setup accounts in major currencies.   I deal with the ABN Amro and highly recommend them.  I was directed to them by my friend.  He took me in and sliced through all the red tape in a few minutes.  30 years of banking experience can do that for you.  Next week I’m opening up an account by myself and we’ll see how well I do :).  

If you’re not fluent in Spanish, you must find a branch with a person fluent in English.  Banking is just too important to leave to chance.  The ABN in Pocitos on 21 de Setiembre is one.  The Discount bank has fluent, english staff in Ciuded Vieja.  My rep at ABN worked a few years in the Pacific North-West.  Her English is perfect and, just as important, she understands how we do things up North.  Whenever the bank’s policy here differs with what northerners are used to, she already knows its coming, explains why it’s different, explains it or apologizes for it.  

At the ABN, (I assume this is true of all international banks), you can have multiple currencies.  I keep 3 savings accounts; pesos, USD and CAD.  The reason for the CAD is to be able to deposit cheques from home, (like income tax refunds), without having to change the money to pesos or USD.

Chequing accounts are also avaialble.  The ABN wouldn’t give me one immediately, when I opened up the account.  They said we needed to ‘prove’ ourselves first.  After they see some account activity and how responsible we are as customers, after a number of months, we could apply for a checking account.  Keep in mind, we originally opened the account as tourists–not as residents.  This may have had an impact, but not necessarily.  Banks here are very somber IN THE BEGINING.  Once you’re a customer for a few months, you become family.   Then you can kiss your account rep when you greet them, (yes, we really do that). 

abn-application-form-front.jpg abn-application-form-back.jpg ABN application form

w8-large.jpg   w8-esp-large.jpg The ‘infamous’ W8 form in English and Spanish

The following is all the pertinent pages from the rule booklet that include all the rules of the bank.  I thought this was a booklet you get to keep as a reference.  You certainly can ask for a copy to keep, but the one they give you includes a section for you to sign at the back (see last page below) and the entire booklet is kept in your file, to prove you read and agreed to the rules.  Interesting eh? 

abn-rules1.jpg abn-rules3.jpg  abn-rules4.jpg abn-rules5.jpg abn-rules6.jpg abn-rules7.jpg abn-rules8.jpg abn-rules9.jpg abn-rules-10.jpg abn-rules-11.jpg abn-rules-12.jpg abn-rules-13.jpg abn-rules-14.jpg abn-rules-15.jpg abn-rules-16.jpg abn-rules-17.jpg abn-rules-18.jpg abn-rules-19.jpg

Posted in Banking | 46 Comments »

Bills, banks and credit cards

Posted by urufish on May 4, 2007

ABM

It’s just past the first of the month and it’s a good time to write about paying bills.  We’ve been here for over a year and we thought we had this down pat, but this is Uruguay… Nothing is ever ‘down pat’.  Someone said this place was boring..   Certainly true about crime and the ugly side of life.. but on a day to day basis, there are always challenges.. like paying bills… 

When you buy property, you become a bill payer.  When we bought our first house in Piriapolis, we had electricity, telephone, water and taxes to pay for.  The real estate agent offered to pay our bills on a monthly basis for a small fee.  Real estate agents here do this kind of work for many people.  It’s part of their business.  We did that for a few years and then my wife’s family offered to look after this and we switched to them.  They live in Maldonado, not too far from the house, so they would drive over a couple of times a month, cut the grass, clean the place up (off season of course), pick up the mail and pay the bills.  Major items, like taxes, were looked after by another family friend and attorney. 

When we moved here and purchased more properties, we took over the process ourselves.  Living here also meant more services… which now include… electricity, telephone, gas, school taxes, property taxes, various and sundry other taxes on the properties including patrimony tax (I call it a wealth tax), internet, cell phone, cable/satellite, alarm monitoring, car insurance, car license, health insurance for people, health insurance for pets, funeral insurance (if you plan to die here.. cheaper than flying the body back–oops–black humour), gastos comunes (if you live in an apartment), water (if you dont live in an apartment), and sanitation tax (you pay on the way in and the way out if you have a house).   

These services vary depending on whether you rent or own, you’re in a house or an apartment, you’re urban or rural and lastly, on your lifestyle.   However, which you look at it, they have to be paid.  How do you do that? 

Dont know about the rest of the world, but several years ago Canada/US got serious about electronic bill paying.  By the time I left Canada, I was down to 3 cheques a year.  My gardner refused to take VISA….. With everyone else, our deal was take payments electronically through the bank or credit card or we dont do business.  Here, we had to start over again, from scratch. 

The banks in Uruguay never thought much of being a bill paymet receiving service.  Uruguayans, some time ago, got tired of walking to the phone, electrical, gas and water companies to pay their bills in cash.  So private enterprise stepped in.  Companies with locations all over the place, (some franchised), which will accept payment for many kinds of bills and remit payment on your behalf.  The biggest is Abitab.  We chose to use them because their competitors, at the time, weren’t taking payments for one or more bills we had to pay.  I like a one stop shop, so Abitab it was.  Plus, my wife is a ‘gift’ freak, and they give points.  You pay like a million dollars in bills and you get a coaster, but what the wife wants, the wife gets and like I said, it was my choice too. 

2 or 3 times a week, I would take the bills we’d received since the last trip and go to the local Abitab.  My regular store was the one on 21st just north of Roque Graseras.  I got used to them and they got used to me.  For almost a year, we did everything in sign language.  Except for the one time I screwed up a cheque and they tried to explain to me what was wrong.  In frustration, they did it for me.. which I assume wasn’t legal, but what the heck, it worked. 

Abitab, and I assume their competitors, are fascinating to northerners like ourselves.  We have nothing like it in Canada or the US.   Little storefronts dedicated to bill paying, transferring money between people and on the side Western Union and lottery ticket purchases.  I believe most of these are franchieses.  I know I’ve seen a few in the paper for sale, so I assume they’re all (or most) like that.   They are open late, but dont go too late on  Saturday and I dont believe any are open on Sundays.  You take your bills there and they will tape all of them and give you a total price.  You pay them in cash.  They accept cheques for certain bills, like DGI and a few others but DGI is the main one.  If you have a small business (or a big business) you must pay monthly payments for pension, etc. and soon to start, witholding tax on income to DGI.   When we came here, we opened a unipersonal business (equivalent to our sole proprietorship designation), so we pay DGI around $2000 per month for my pension.  Gee.. I hope I live long enough to collect on it 🙂  The other bills, mostly utilities, you pay in cash–efectivo.  From the list above, that inclues phone, cable, electricity, gas, water and all taxes. 

After several months of this, I decided it was time to move to the next level… on line bill payment.  I spoke with friends and most of them use auto-debit.   At home, I hated this.  I always paid bills on line.  That way, I decided on the amount to pay and when to pay it.  As an early adopter of auto-debit, I went through the growing pains and the mistakes and when web-banking came along, I jumped at the chance to control everything myself.  Anyway, we work with ABN-AMRO and they tell me there’s no such thing.  You can only choose one of auto-debit to your bank accounts or auto-debit to your credit card, which is provided to you (in our case) through the bank.   With ABN, not all of our recurring invoices are signed on with the bank.  Those we have put on our credit card.  The good part, is I dont have to trudge on down to the Abitab a dozen times a month.  The bad part is my wife’s not happy because the points we’ve accumulated aren’t enough to get anything decent.  And of course, the ‘learning curve’ with auto-debit was (I’m hoping it’s over) wasn’t so good either. 

When we first moved our invoices to auto-debit, they all got paid on time.  I could check on the web each day and see which ones had gone through.  That’s true for the bank auto-debits.  The credit card is not real-time.  You get to see last month’s statement on line around the 2nd or 3rd of the month and it’s static until a month later.  It’s not like web viewing of credit cards in the north.  Maybe it will change.  Dont know.  Or perhaps my logon is through the bank’s website, which is static for Mastercard.  Perhaps if I could log into Mcard’s site, I could see dynamic.  It hasn’t been such a problem yet that compels me to chase everyone possible to find out if there’s a way around this.  Something for the future to keep us busy. 

Everything ran perfectly for a few months and then we made a mistake.. for which we should have known better.  There’s a rule in Uruguay that says once you’ve set something up, dont change it.  This is the golden rule of the immigration process… NEVER, EVER change anything UNTIL AFTER the process has completed.. and even then, wait a few months…   The consequences of breaking this rule are not as severe with banks (compared to immigration), but it’s still a big headache. 

In our case, like we did back home, we had all our autodebits coming out of our chequing account.  Because of some limitations and other annoying things about web management of your account here, we decided to switch them to come out of savings.  I emailed the bank and they said to come in and sign the forms.   They made the change and I signed the forms.  We thought everything was going well and then one day, my wife gets a recorded message on her cell phone saying if you dont pay the bill, it gets cut off tomorrow.  That wasn’t a good time, as we were both leaving the country the next day… So I checked the accounts on line and sure enough, no phone bills or cell bills, or for that matter, any utilities had been debited.  So I gathered up all the filed bills from the month and ran over to the Abitab to pay them cash.  Oops.. that was another time we actually had to talk.  They said they couldn’t take the payments because the invoices are marked, ‘debit Bank Hollandes’…   Utilities mark this on their invoices so Abitabs dont accept payment for accounts that are already being autodebited from the bank.  I had to explain, in my extremely poor Spanish, that I didn’t care.  That I wanted to pay them anway.  No point in telling them it was a mistake with the utility.  That would have caused more problems.  After a few minutes in which the clerk had to be satisfied I was of sound mind, he accepted the money and I figured everthing was OK.  Well, it was for a while.  About a week ago, my cleaning lady comes running into the house, with a look of absolute horror on her face.  She was animated and I have trouble understanding her at the best of times but when I heard her say OSE, I figured it was something to do with the water company.  So I went out to the side door to investigate and there was the OSE guy, pliers in one hand, seal in another, opening up our water supply to cut it off.  Now you have to understand that the reason she was so panicky is that no one in Pocitos has their water cut off.  I mean, who cant pay a 500 peso bill here?  (OK, so mine was 800 pesos- so what).  Me, the gringo, just stood there dumbfounded with what was probably a smile on my face.  You see, this house was a restaurant before we remodelled it and we have 2 x 2000L tanks on the roof… 4000 litres.  Enough to last a nuclear winter probably.  So I took it in stride.  I told her not to worry.  She wasn’t about to be unemployed.  That I had the money to pay her when she went home.  And that seemed to settle her down.  Turns out that they had sent us two bills, which I promptly filed in paid..because each bill said ‘payable by autodebito’…   After you ignore 2 invoices, they cut you off. 

I called the bank and told them this was nuts and what’s going on.  They actually called the water company, (no bank in Canada would do that for you… best you get there is a letter of apology).  They talked to them, and then they talked to electricity, phone, etc.  Turns out that when an autodebit is changed here, it’s a cancellation and then an add.  The cancellation department is very fast it seems.  But the add guys are on siesta most of the time, (that’s a joke.. no uruguayans I know take siestas in Montevideo… not even government employees.. except the guys who work in the parks.. and that’s only in the summer).   So what happens is that they stop hitting your account because of the cancellation but the add doesn’t get done until after the invoices go out…  and in the case of OSE, the water guys, it got lost in the add department.  Of course, when they do the cancellation, they dont take the phrase ‘autodebit Bank Hollandese’ off the invoice.  So stupid me figures everything’s just fine (of course, the month end balance was a little askew in my favour but I dont detail that more than a few times a year.. so I honestly hadnt noticed).   The bank apologized to me profusely and promised we’d be OK next month.  Well, next month was last month and they were right.  This time I checked every day and it was all there. 

Besides the aggravation, which I looked at ‘glass half full’ as a good learning experience, so it wasn’t so bad, there is the little issue of ‘multa’ and interest.  I guess I’m a wuss, because I didn’t go after my rep for compensation.  It’s funny, I would have done this in a heartbeat in Toronto but here, everything’s personal.  I know my rep.  I know her husband.  I dont want her to get hassled at the branch, so I’m smiling and letting it go.  And here, that’s no small thing.    I never really experienced multa’s (fines) before in Canada.  With the exception of video stores, (which I understand stopped the practice last year), I cant recall a utility or provider of services that fines you for late payment.  There’s a 1.5 to 2% interest charge, where the credit companies lead the way, but no fine.  The gas company back home sort of created a fine by way of reversing a bonus.  If you pay on time, you get a discount.  If you pay after you pay full price.  That’s a multi in reverse.  But here, it’s huge a a %.  Usually 10%.  So you pay 10% penalty for late payment and you pay interest at (as I recall) 2%.  I had to pay 12% on all my phones, electrical, gas and water bills.  Not enough to cry over, but enough to notice. 

So for those of you who dont know this or know this but want detail and use ABN.. here is a list of who you can pay by the bank and those you can pay by credit card.

Pay through autodebit of chequing or savings account

  • Antel/Ancel/Anteldata
  • UTE (electricity
  • Credit cards (VISA, Mcard)
  • OSE (Montevideo only) 
  • DGI

Credit card

  • Most other cell phone provides (CTI, Movistar, etc)
  • Most auto/home insurance companies
  • Most alarm companies
  • Most health care providers – both for people and pets
  • Most cable companies

Couple of other observations about the banks here.  You want to do everything in your power not to deposit a foreign cheque in our bank (I figure they’re all the same but I’d love to stand corrected).  And you definitely dont want to deposit a Canadian (and by extension an Australian or Kiwi or Englander’s cheque) here.  You’re going to freak out.  The minimum charge at my bank to deposit a foreign cheque is U$S 50.00, or 1% (or is that 2% –cant remember — I freaked out the first time and everything went out of my head), whichever is more.  You’re going to wait a month if it’s a U$S cheque and you could be waiting over 2 months for something else.  I deposited one Canadian cheque here and I’ll never deposit another.  It took over 8 weeks for the funds to be deposited in  my account.  GO TO A CAMBIO if its a US cheque.  If it’s something else, wait for a few months and I’ll have the results of intense research we’re about to start and I’ll post what I know..  or by all means… someone… tell me what you know to get around this… 

I suspect we all know this, but the simplest and least costly method of getting money into your bank here is via transfer.  It’s still costly compared to transacting back home (for Canadians anyway), but it’s not insane like foreign cheques are.   

Couple of notes about credit cards.  There are 2 kinds.  Local and International.  If you’re an immigrant, my advice is keep one or more of your cards and use it for international use.  If that’s not possible, and you plan to use a credit card outside of the Mercosur, then get an International card here.  We kept some of our Canadian cards alive so we signed up for a local card, good in the Mercosur countries only.  In pesos and USD.  Whenever you purchase, you can tell the clerk which you prefer to use.   We usually let them put the price in whatever it was shown as.  With cards issues here, you have the choice of pagos without interest.  It’s very common for Uruguayans to buy things on 6, 12 or even 18 payments without interest.  My contador side of me always wants to say yes, but the side that has to keep these things organized in my head says no.  

The international card costs quite a bit more per month to have.   We’re cheap people so we took the local for that reason too.  The local card also has a cost, actually 2.  Our is $125 per month on the peso side and U$S 5.00 on the US side.  Off the top of my head, I think International is 5x more.   The use of the card has been problem free in Uruguay and Argentina and Brazil.  So it really does work in the Mercosur.  The same is true of the ATM card.  We use them all the time without any problems at all. 

Before we were residents here, on my passport and my wife’s cedula, and the ownership of an apto, we qualified for a credit card with $1K credit limit.  When we showed them my cedula, as a resident tramite, it went up to $3K.  Recently, we asked for an increase, to handle the autodebits (see above), and on the basis of an obscene amount of money they have from us in their investment division, we were blessed with a $5K limit.  We really find this funny… like really hilarious.. because when you ask why, you get the same explanation you’d get back in Toronto.  I remember that same explanation like 35 years when I was just starting out in business… They want to see a track record.  They’ll increase your limit pretty much every year if you’re a good boy, spend lots of money and pay on time…  It doesn’t matter if you’re net worth is like $10Mil… (we wish)..  that’s not the point.  The point is the credit card division looks at track record… period. 

But the good news, just like a bed creditor starting afresh in the US, you can probably get your card for $1K limit and start out from there.  Like they say.. mejor que nada. 

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