Banks and Banking
Nicaraguans often refer to córdobas as pesos.
Please note that Nicaragua is aware that few citizens and fewer foreigners report interest income. Accounts earning interest with balances equal or greater than $5,000 or the equivalent in córdobas including incoming-earning financial instruments of less than four years are taxable by Nicaragua. This means that 10% of the interest will be given to the government automatically by the bank. That is why many expatriates that have Nicaragua checking accounts keep an account open in their country of origin.
Nica banks pay much higher interest than those in the states or in Europe. For large balances we have seen 6% returns.
Generally banks are open at least 08:30 – 4:00 weekdays and 08:30 – 12:00 Saturdays. Like the schools and government offices they have a lot of holidays. Last year Granada won the inter-city baseball championship and the next day the Granada banks were closed.
Most expatriates set up their Nicaraguan accounts in dollars or euros to avoid the constant inflation of the córdoba. Regardless, you can make ATM or bank withdrawals in dollars, euros (bank only) or córdobas. If withdrawing from a USA or European bank, you will probably pay some type of International fee and possibly a currency exchange rate and the local ATM network will always charge a fee. These fees can become substantial so check with your bank.
If you need to exchange dollars for córdobas or vice versa, the best rate of exchange is usually that guy on the corner waving the wad of bills.
Opening a Bank Account at BanCentro - Granada
LaFise BanCentro now allows non-resident foreigners to open bank accounts. So I visited BanCentro to get the requirements. The new Granada BanCentro bank manager is Eduardo Soto firstname.lastname@example.org and also speaks perfect English. He gave us the following requirements and a sample reference letter.
1) Individuals Nicaraguan: national identification card, issued by the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE). Two letters of reference (attached model) and water bill or electricity for current address.
2) Individuals Nicaraguan residents abroad: Identity Card or Certificate of residence abroad and / or passport. In addition, he shall submit a document which establishes his domicile abroad (driver's license or tax return or credit report or receipts Public Service). Two letters of reference (attached model).
3) Individuals foreign residents in Nicaragua: Certificate of residence (temporary or permanent), issued by the Directorate General of Immigration (DGME) and passport. Two letters of reference (attached model) and water bill or electricity for current address.
4) Foreign Nonresident Individuals: Passport entry stamp in force. In the case of non-resident foreigners in the country who have not entered the country, it is not necessary to require an entry stamp. In addition, he shall submit a document which establishes his domicile abroad (Driver's License or Tax Return or Credit Reporting). Two letters of reference (attached model).
Opening balance for Savings is $50 or C$1000 if it is in local currency. For check account opening balance is $250 or C$2000 if it is in local currency.
Carta de Referencia Personal
Sres. Banco LAFISE BANCENTRO Sociedad Anónima (Banco LAFISE).
Yo ________________________________________________ con tipo de identificación ____________________ número __________________ con dirección domiciliar __________________________________________________ y trabajador activo de: ____________________________________________; Hago constar que conozco al Sr(a): _____________________________________ desde hace _________ años.
Por lo antes descrito recomiendo al Sr(a) ___________________________ para que establezca relación contractual con su institución.
Cualquier consulta sobre mí referido, favor llamar a los siguientes números telefónicos: No. Convencional ___________________; No. de Celular ___________________; No. Centro de Trabajo ________________.
I also stopped by BAC bank but they stated you must be a resident to have an account.and all rules are on their website at www.bac.net. Remember, this is Nicaragua and the rules change all the time and can be affected by the tide, day of the week and the mood of the clerk.
The Larger Nicaraguan Banks in Granada
BAC—BANCO DE AMERICA CENTRAL (CENTRAL AMERICAN BANK)
One of the most solid banks in Nicaragua provides different opportunities for you. You can receive your account balances via email; transfer between national and international BAC accounts via Internet; pay your bills by phone or in the electronic bank branch; buy minutes for your cell phone and retrieve money from the many ATM machines. BAC allows you to open domestic accounts or accounts in Panama without leaving the country.
Checking Account (Cuenta Corriente)
The benefits include immediate access to your funds with this account and the account is available in Euros, dollars and cordobas depending on your necessities. You can pay anything whether in checks or your debit card in establishments associated to Credomatic, earning Credomatic Points for shopping. You can retrieve money from ATMs and check your account balance and financial movements via the Internet; in the electronic bank branch and through the telephone—1800-1524. Moreover, you can pay directly your credit card from your account. The minimum balance is C$5,000 or $500.
Savings Account (Cuentas de Ahorros)
If you want to save and to count on your funds 24/7 at the same time, this account is ideal and available in dollars, Euros and cordobas. You earn interests, while you access your balance with the debit card in ATMs or bank branches. The minimum initial deposits must be $200, C$2,500 and €1,000. Also, you can see your balance through TELEBAC phone service by calling to 1-800-1524. You can pay your bills in the online bank branch.
Debit Card Benefits
Debit Cards are issued by BAC when the client opens a checking or savings account.
There are no financial charges for using it.
Credomatic Points are accumulated when buying at any commercial establishment associated to BAC. Moreover, you participate in promotions and raffles.
Free Telephone service at 1-800-1524 where you can pay water, electricity, telephone, internet and cell phone bills. This service is available all year long, 24 hours a day.
ATMs are in 70 different locations in the country without financial fines.
Ultra Account (Cuenta Ultra)
It is a checking account in dollars or córdobas that pays interest based on the balance. It does not have check limits and has the same conditions as current accounts to get the greatest outcome of your money. It is exclusive for demanding clients.
BAC Credit Cards grants various benefits such as Credomatic points that can be exchanged for goods in certain stores or for miles on air tickets. They are only available to bank clients and are associated with Credomatic. There's no limit for ATM withdrawals except the limit the credit card has (if any).
If you are interested in this service there are few requirements: to have accounts in BAC, whether in córdobas or dollars or Credomatic credit cards, to sign leasing contract that must be renewed every year, the holder and authorized signatures must show personal identifications and to fill a registration form. Moreover, to open the security vault the client or registered people must show up personally. The annuity charge will be debited from the client account directly.
Furthermore, BAC offers traveler checks from Citicorp and American Express. These are refundable if lost or stolen, they are recognized and accepted around the world and there is service 24/7.
However, to open any account at BAC, the client must be citizen or at least resident in Nicaragua. The requirements include the Nicaraguan residency cédula, passport, and two personal, commercial or banking reference letters. Moreover, the client must receive a monthly salary or income or own a business.
International Transfers of Funds
International transfers from any part of the world with banks with branches or representation offices in US are also offered by BAC. They charge 0.25% of commission but the minimum is $25. Panamá accounts are set up and handled by BAC Central in Managua. You can go to any BAC branch and deposit money directly in your Panamá account simply by providing that account number. You can use the Internet to transfer money to/from your Panamá account.
BDF—BANCO DE FINANZAS (FINANCE BANK)
This bank is expanding every year and has a variety of options for you. They grant debit cards to each customer with checking or saving account. Moreover, they have an electronic branch called iBDF where you can check your account transactions, transfer money to other accounts, paying your bills among other services. There is no limit for ATM retrievals. Their debit and credit cards are associated to VISA. Some of their types of accounts are:
Checking BDF Value Account (Cuenta Corriente Valor BDF)
You obtain a checkbook, debit card and iBDF account, when you open this type of account. It is offered in cordobas, Euros and dollars. You just need your cedula, the minimum initial deposit (C$1,500 or $100 or £100) and two reference letters. Furthermore, banking or commercial references, if you are foreigner residing in Nicaragua or abroad or national without fixed income.
Checking BDF Premium (Cuenta Corriente BDF Premium)
This account is similar in requirements and benefits to the Checking BDF Value account. That is, you get a checkbook, debit card and iBDF account. However, the initial deposit and minimum average balance is higher. Hence, the minimum requirements are C$7,500 or $500 or £500. There are fines if this minimum is not held; they vary from C$150, $10 and £20.
Savings Account (Cuentas de Ahorros)
A saving account will allow you to keep your money safe and earn interests. You get a debit card and an iBDF account so you can constantly check your transactions. It is available in dollars and cordobas. The minimum initial deposit is $50 or C$ 750. Also, Nicaraguan cedula and two reference letters are necessary—the bank will provide the forms for the letters. Moreover, banking references are needed if the clients are foreigners or nationals without fixed salary and identification documents. The minimum average balance also is $50 or C$750 and the fine for not having this is $5 or C$100, depending on the type of account.
BDF Premium saving Account (Ahorro BDF Premium)
This is another type of saving account. Since it grants higher interest rates, it has higher deposit requirements. The minimum initial deposit and minimum average balance is $250 or C$2,500. If this minimum is not held in the account, there is a $10 or C$150 fine.
Non residents and residents in Nicaragua, to open any of these accounts, must present 2 reference letters from your home country, passport and copy of the driving license.
BDF Credit Cards grants various benefits such as BDF points that can be exchanged for goods in certain stores or for miles in air tickets. They are only available to bank clients and are associated with VISA. There´s no limit for ATM withdrawals except the limit the credit card has (if any). They are widely accepted in the entire country. You can retrieve money from other banks´ ATMs but you must pay a fee for doing so that will depend on the amount of money retrieved.
International Transfer of Funds
You can transfer funds to BDF in Nicaragua in dollars from any bank in the world with representation office or branch in the US. The Euro transfers from Wachovia Bank and BAC Florida in US or from Sabadell are relatively easy. From Commerzbank AG you can transfer dollars and Euros. Moreover, BDF accepts Panama accounts from Banco General S.A. in dollars. The commission is just 0.5% plus $45.
BANCENTRO—BANCO DE CREDITO CENTROAMERICANO
BANCENTRO is part of LAFISE international group and it offers various accounts that you may use for your benefit. Moreover, they have CASH ATM service 24/7 where you can retrieve cash from checking and saving accounts and credit cards or from any other credit card affiliated to VISA. The maximum amount is $500 per day. Moreover, you check your account balance from debit and credit cards BANCENTRO VISA. With any of these cards, you can pay online the electricity, water, telephone, internet and cell phone bills. Moreover, you can buy minutes for your Movistar cell phone online.
This option is available in cordobas, Euros and dollars. You obtain a debit card and access to Bancanet (online bank branch) ATMs and AutoBanco which is an innovation of BANCENTRO. AutoBanco is a bank branch where you do not need to get out of your car to make your transactions. It is a banking drive thru.
You save and at the same time earn interest. It is available for individuals and for enterprises in córdobas, dollars and Euros. Moreover, you can access Banc@Net, ATM and AutoBanco. The minimum balance requirements and initial deposit are $50 and C$1,000 and €500. However, you must have $200 and C$1,500 to earn interest.
The requirements to open this account for non resident foreigners are: to present photocopy and original passport with entrance visa and the driving license, tax declaration or credit report. Moreover, two commercial, labor or personal reference letters where the address, phone number, cédula, years of knowing the clients are clearly specified. Moreover, the legal identification of the of the accounts beneficiaries (if any) and to fill the Integral Profile for client and beneficiaries are needed. Also, the client must sign the signature registration card, account contracts, to fill Financial Statements Formulary and complete constancy of funds origin.
They are accepted in more than 5,000 national establishments and a lot more internationally. Moreover, credit cards have insurance that covers up to $5,000 in classic cards and $10,000 in platinum and golden in case of theft or lost. However, you must pay a monthly fee. They cover purchases made 48 hours before the stolen report until 15 days after the report. Platinum, Golden and Classic are the types of VISA credit cards. When buying, you accumulate points that can be exchanged for other articles. Moreover, you can have extra financing; furthermore, you can pay electricity, power and telephone service online.
International Transfer of Funds
BANCENTRO uses SWIFT, an intra-banking communication network which is secure and agile. Their services include: credit letters (import, export and stand-by), import and export documentation receivables, international transfers to anywhere in the world in any currency, sell of values in dollars and Eros, family remittances and CCAPPS (Private System of Central American Caribbean Payments).
BANPRO—BANCO DE LA PRODUCCION (PRODUCTION BANK)
This bank also offers various services such as checking account and credit cards. You can also pay electricity, water, internet, telephone and cell phone bills by just calling a number. They also have an electronic branch where you can make all your transactions faster and safer.
Checking Account (Cuenta Corriente)
This account is available in córdobas, dollars and Euros and offers to send monthly balances to your house, to collect deposits at home if it is a high volume of cash, to pay wages to employees. The minimum initial balance and monthly balance must be C$2,500 or $500. If this monthly balance is not met, there is a fee of C$150 or $15. If the account will be used for business purpose, an inscription as business from Public Registration and an application from the City Hall are needed.
Savings Account (Cuenta de Ahorros)
This account allows you to earn interest yet having immediate access to your account. The minimum initial and average balance is C$1,000 or $100. The fines for average balance less than these ciphers are C$50 and $5 respectively. Furthermore, the account also is available in Euros. The initial amount and average monthly balance is £500.
Most importantly, the requirements to open any of these accounts are: personal interview, formulary profile of the client, two banking or commercial references for the owner and the signers of the account and original identification documents. If there are additional signers in the account, they must also complete the formularies and identification documents. For foreigners residing in the country, they must present original passport, residency cedula, and cedula or passport of the signers. For non-resident foreigners, passport with entrance visa plus other identification with photograph given by any governmental organization, such as, cedula, driving license or social security must be presented to BANPRO.
BANPRO Credit Cards grant various benefits such as PREMIA BANPRO points that can be exchanged for goods in certain stores or for miles on air tickets. They are only available to bank clients and are associated with VISA. There´s no limit for ATM retrievals except the limit the credit card has (if any). There is no maximum amount that can be taken out of ATMs per day.
International Transfers of Funds
International transfers from any part of the world with banks with branches or representation offices in US are also offered by BANPRO. Their commission fee ranges from $30-$300. Moreover, Panamá accounts are handled by BANPRO thanks to Red Proamerica, a network of BANPRO banks in Central America.
BANPRO also offers security vaults to safeguard client goods. The fee for them depends on the size of the vaults but it ranges from $50-$150.
BANCO PROCREDIT—PROCREDIT BANK
This is the first bank that emphasizes loans to small and middle enterprises. They offer the same services as banks but the initial deposits are much smaller but it still does not take full advantage of the internet tools. It is an expanding bank, though with good growing opportunities. Their interest rates are higher than other banks and their minimum deposits are lower, they are insured by the ProCredit Holding Group. This group consists of 22 financial institutions in developing countries.
Checking Account (Cuenta Corriente)
This account is available in córdobas and dollars. The customer can deposit and withdraw money at any moment as many times as he or she would through checks. There is no interest earned through this account. The minimum amount is $1 or C$1. The requirements for this account are residency cédula and passport for foreigners residing here, two banking or personal reference letters and minimum amount.
Saving Account (Cuenta de Ahorros)
The minimum amount is $1 or C$1 and you also earn interest: 3% for dollars and for cordobas, as well. The requirements for this account are residency cédula and passport for foreigners residing here, two banking or personal reference letters and minimum amount.
Moreover, you can only pay the electricity bill online by subscribing to the service. They do not grant credit card to clients because they emphasize micro credits.