Opening A Bank Account [How To Guide]

Last Updated: 23rd June 2021
Written by Jason Scott
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Many expats decide to open a bank account in Ecuador once they've decided to settle for any real length of time here. Once you're ready to take the plunge, this guide will walk you through the process of opening your very own Ecuadorian bank account.

But first, you should know that it’s actually becoming a little harder to open bank accounts here, especially if you only have a passport. It’s definitely much easier with an Ecuadorian identity card (or Cedula) which you can obtain when you have temporary residency

Related Video: Opening an Ecuadorian Bank Account

Should you even bother opening a bank account?

If you're just visiting as a tourist or even a longer exploratory trip, you're best bet is to stick with ATMs and take out just as much as you need every week or so. The problem with this approach is that the fees can add up over time and it's just not practical for larger purchases of a property, Certificate of Deposit (CD), or even a vehicle.

We've found that transferring $2K-$3K online from our bank in the US to our Ecuadorian bank is the most cost-effective solution for our family. We've previously covered your various money transfer options & be sure to check out our video on the 3 Cheapest Ways to Transfer Money into Ecuador.

Other reasons to open an Ecudorian bank account include:

  • Ecuador is still largely a cash society: Using debit & credit cards is not possible for many transactions.
  • Bank transfers are a popular way of paying businesses: We pay our dentist, vet, and mechanic via bank transfers regularly.
  • Setting up direct debits: Regular payments such as health insurance premiums are generally cheaper if setup via direct debit at a local bank
  • Symbolic: Maybe it's just me, but whenever I open a bank account in a foreign country it helps me feel a little closer to my adopted home.

Requirements differ by bank (& by branch)

Each bank has its own process and requirements. You can see in the video that I tried to open an account at both Produbanco and Banco Pichincha. However, due to the increased requirements of Produbanco, I was not able to open my account there on that same day. I could have gone away and obtained the additional requirements, but it was easier to just open an account at Banco Pichincha, so I did that instead.

It makes sense that each bank operates slightly differently, but what can be more frustrating is that different branches of the same bank can provide conflicting information. This is especially true of recent changes that tend to take quite a while to trickle down to all employees.

This will become clearer as we dig into the requirements needed by two of Ecuador's largest banks; Banco Pichinca & Produbanco.

Banco Pichincha Requirements for Foreigners

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Banco Pichincha

Foreigner with Ecuadorian Cedula

  • Copy of your cedula
  • Basic service contract (electricity, gas or water)
  • $5 deposit to obtain a debit card

Foreigner with Passport Only

  • Passport & copy
  • Basic service contract (electricity, gas or water)
  • $5 deposit to obtain a debit card
  • Valid visa
  • 2 x references with landline phone
  • Copy of employment contract (if employed) or Ecuadorian client contract (if contractor)

Banco Pichincha allowed me to open an account within 30 minutes. 

They are one of the biggest banks in Ecuador and generally have a good reputation. 

The process was very straightforward: 

  1. Find the correct line for new business
  2. Request to open a new account with the customer service representative
  3. Provide the required documents
  4. Answer follow up questions around income
  5. Pay $5 at the teller using the receipt provided
  6. Go back to the new business customer service representative to receive the debit card
  7. Change debit card PIN & sign up to internet banking

The customer service representative that helped me only spoke Spanish, but was very helpful and understanding with any language issues. 

There was clearly some sort of income requirement that needed to be fulfilled, but they were very accomodating in getting these boxes ticked. The only income source I mentioned was an investment property from overseas with a monthly rental value of $1,000. This was sufficient and I didn't need to provide any proof of this rental income.

The basic service contract needs to be electricity, gas or water. For example, they will not accept your internet contract. They need this to confirm your address. I'm confident that the contract technically needs to be in your name, but this can potentially fall into a gray area, and they might be willing to accept a contract even if it is in someone else's name (they did for me). 

Overall, I was happy with the service I received. If there is one thing to be improved, it would be the delay in receiving my confirmation. This came via email 2 weeks after my initial visit (when I already had my card in hand). So, there is clearly some backlog in whichever office processes the new accounts. 

Recommended for:
Banco Pichincha
Easy account opening with cedula
"Opening an account at Pichincha was easy with a cedula. The whole process took less than 30 minutes in a relaxed environment."
Jason Editor Expats Ecuador
Jason
Expats Ecuador

Produbanco's Requirements for Foreigners

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Produbanco

Foreigner with Ecuadorian Cedula

  • Copy of your cedula
  • Basic service contract (electricity, gas or water)
  • $10 deposit to obtain a debit card
  • Proof of Ecuadorian based income
  • Personal reference from someone with a landline (mobile is not accepted)

Foreigner with Passport Only

  • Passport & copy
  • Basic service contract (electricity, gas or water)
  • $10 deposit to obtain a debit card
  • Proof of Ecuadorian based income
  • Personal reference from someone with a landline (mobile is not accepted)

Produbanco doesn't seem to differentiate between a foreigner with a cedula, and a foreigner with just a passport. As the requirements appear to be the same, making it harder for those with cedula's to open a new account. 

One employee told me the reason for being stricter with opening accounts is their response to the recent influx of migrants from Venezuela. Whether you agree with this approach or not, the reality is that it's now harder for all migrants to open an account with Produbanco. 

In particular, the proof of Ecuadorian based income is a hurdle that not many expats reading this blog will automatically pass. Some might qualify with interest from the Certificate of Deposit, but these expats will likely already have a bank account wherever they have their CD, so it doesn't really provide any additional help. 

In saying this, if you do really want a Produbanco account, you should be able to call on some Ecuadorian friends to help you by providing: 

  • A personal reference; and
  • A declaration stating they are your client to prove you do have Ecuadorian income

But, this may be a little disingenuine for some and I understand not everyone has Ecuadorian friends to help them when they first arrive.  

Overall, the stricter requirements for opening an account at Produbanco means you'd really want to have a good reason for choosing this bank over those with easier account opening requirements. 

For me, I wanted a Produbanco account as it's one of the most popular banks that bitcoin traders in Ecuador use on the platform Local Bitcoins. This would mean that I can trade bitcoin with these other traders quickly and with less effort.

Recommended for:
Produbanco
Those dedicated to use Produbanco
"The more difficult process to open an account means you'd need to have a good reason for choosing this bank."
Jason Editor Expats Ecuador
Michelle & Jason
Expats Ecuador

Why do requirements seem to change between branches?

This can be super frustrating. Even as I type this I tried to look up the requirements for opening these accounts via each bank's website. Neither website matches with my in-person experience.

So, it's pretty clear there is a disconnect between the head office and their branches, which can easily lead to mixed messages.

Combine this with the cultural quirk of pleasing others at the expense of being right, and it's easy to see why requirements seem to change so often.

This cultural quirk needs some more explaining. You see, I originally went into Produbanco one day before I wanted to open the account to confirm the requirements. But, these requirements changed substantially once I was sitting down with the new business sales representative the following day. They changed so much that I could no longer open an account because I didn't have the proof of Ecuadorian income.

How does this mix up occur?

It's because the original person that provided the requirements didn't really care whether the information provided was correct. Their main priority was pleasing me in that instant by basically telling me what I wanted to hear. You'll most likely experience similar situations where you'll be told what the other person thinks you want to hear, regardless of whether there's any substance behind it.

Your next steps

You now have a detailed overview of what you need to do to open your own bank account in Ecuador. Hopefully, you find the process easy enough to navigate on your own. But, if you do need some help, feel free to reach out to us to inquire about our general facilitation services.

Or, if you've received value from this article, please consider helping to keep this site ad-free by buying us a coffee tree for our family's eventual coffee farm. Gracias!

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