Banking, Money and Taxes in Argentina
In another vein, hefty taxes apply when transferring money from an offshore account to a local account; thus expats will want to think carefully about this action.
Still, it is possible for expats to open a bank account in Argentina, just be prepared to spend a long time unravelling red tape.
Banking in Argentina
Since Argentina’s economic crisis of 2001, confidence in the banks has been low; middle class savers hide their money under the mattress, or buy new cars and improve their houses. Even rich Argentineans send their money abroad to banks in Uruguay, or the Caymans.
Those that do have bank accounts are treated to exorbitant bank charges, government taxes, high interest rates for borrowing and low rates for savings.
The largest home grown bank is Banco de La Nacion Argentina, although there are many others – Banco de Cuyo, Banco de Patagonia, Banco CreditCoop. Citibank, HSBC and Santander are the biggest foreign banks operating in the country.
Banking hours vary from summer (generally 7.30am to 12.30pm) to winter (8am to 1pm). Be prepared to queue interminably whenever you enter a bank’s premises, and do not expect to find an English speaker, or a particularly helpful teller.
ATMs are plentiful in the big cities where they can be found in shopping galleries and the like; not so in the smaller towns, where they are normally on the bank premises only and usually in the centre of town. ATMs are available 24 hours but on certain days of the week, such as a Thursday or the day preceding a national holiday, you will find long queues of people and by the time you get to the front the money might just have run out!
Opening a bank account in Argentina
To open a bank account as an expat you will need to have a DNI (Documento Nacional de Identidad) and your passport, plus lots of numbers such as a CUIT number (business tax code), CUIL number (personal tax code), AFIP (social security number), as well as anything else the banks dream up and some money to initially deposit. These requirements do vary from bank to bank. Furthermore, as a foreigner you are not eligible to borrow money.
Using an offshore bank account in Argentina
Paying money into an Argentinean account from an offshore source is something that can become incredibly frustrating. Both the banks and the government will charge a tax, the exchange rates are poor and it can take weeks for the money to actually arrive.
Withdrawing funds from a foreign account using an ATM in Argentina will incur heavy fees, currently on average 12 ARS per transaction. Periodically the amounts foreigners are allowed to withdraw are restricted, sometimes to as little as 300 ARS (50 USD) per day. You can usually leave your card in the machine and withdraw the limited amount up to four times, however, you will be charged for four separate transactions. The banks say the restrictions are to prevent money laundering, however, it is more likely a way of taxing foreigners bringing money into the country.
The preferred method of getting easily accessible cash is to send via Western Union, which is efficient, although there are usually restrictions on the amounts you can send/receive.
Credit in Argentina
Almost anything can be paid for in cuotas - usually six payments. This includes supermarket food shopping.
You can pay in cuotas using credit and debit cards, unless you present a foreign registered card and then the payment has to be done immediately and in full. If you do use a foreign card, you will need to produce identification, usually a passport.
Argentineans have to present their DNI for all transactions paid for with cards. Very few people have standing orders or direct debits set up on their bank accounts. The majority of bills are paid in cash, so at certain times of the month, when the payments are due for telephones/ electricity/ television the queues at the banks, finance houses and Pago Facil (easy payment) outlets are long.