Modern Banking 2

22 Jan

Yesterday, I discussed my scheme for minimizing the fees associated with sending a wire from the US to Peru in the national currency. Today, I tried it out. The wire showed up in our Peruvian account about three hours after I phoned it in to our US bank. The local bank even sent me an email informing me of the transfer.

So I walked to the local branch and talked with the money changers outside. My language instructor had advised me to get to know the people a bit, to express my intent to work with just one person regularly, and to let them know I didn’t want any trouble with false bills as I would be walking the bills straight back into the bank. I thought it would be a good idea to get a business card or phone number for each of the four independent vendors standing outside. None had a card and only the lady in the semi-official looking booth gave me her phone number by writing it on a scrap of paper. This made me a bit nervous. On the plus side, the spot exchange rate was posted on her booth, which is a very fair price. There are a dozen money changers around every banking center here and they all offer a price within 0.2% of the spot rate. Still, without even a business card….

I was headed into the branch to make the withdrawal when I remembered that when we first arrived in Arequipa, a Christian friend here had introduced me to a money changer downtown and I had kept her business card. She has a little booth along with five or six others, is very friendly, and I distinctly remembered her telling me that if I had a lot of money to change, she could give a better rate than spot. So I abandoned the local branch plan and headed downtown. As it turns out, her booth is right across the street from my bank. She did indeed offer better than the spot rate. I asked about false bills and she showed me her machine that inspects and counts the bills, just like the banks use. Hers is a professional operation.

So i made the withdrawal, walked across the street, did the conversion (she invited me into the booth for security and to watch the machine count the money, pretty cool), then walked back across the street to deposit my newly converted soles. The only thing that could be smoother is if the bank itself were to offer such a great rate so I wouldn’t have to go outside with a wad of cash.

Later in the day, I realized I would need a bit more in the soles account to pay the rent next week, plus I wanted to show Vicki how this is done. So we headed downtown on foot and bus, made a withdrawal, did the exchange, crossed the street to deposit the soles and… the bank had just closed! Oops. I hadn’t realized it was getting so late. This made us quite nervous, but there was really nothing to do but walk home with a wad of cash in my pocket. I crossed the street and changed direction a couple times, then waited in a highly secured tourist area to make sure we weren’t being followed before resuming our walk home. Security is much, much better now than it used to be. In the old days, someone would discreetly put a chalk mark on your jacket when you walked out of the bank, and thugs down the line would be watching for the marks… Thankfully we made it home safe with the cash and will try to get it to the bank first thing tomorrow.

It is really a blessing to be able to deal with a trusted person situated right next to the bank. I did not realize this when I chose the bank, but this is just another way (besides no monthly maintenance fees and the lowest fees to receive a wire) in which it seems ideal for us. It also happens to be our landlord’s bank, so we can start paying the rent online instead of messing with cash every month. Perhaps most importantly, the lines are about as short as I’ve seen anywhere in Peru 🙂

Also today I took my diploma to the notary to get a legalized copy. I am getting quite good at the notary. There is one within a 10 minute walk from the house. The office is orderly and efficient. It usually takes only 10-20 minutes to get a document stamped, but today I just dropped it off and it should be ready when they open tomorrow. The copy of my diploma will allow me to teach at one of the universities. More on that soon.

On the visa front, we have ordered an apostilled copy of our marriage certificate from the Iowa Secretary of State. Thankfully, unlike most Peruvian institutions, all they needed was the electronic copy I scanned before moving to Peru, which I sent via email. “Apostille” is the name of an international treaty signed in Apostille, Netherlands (I think) and is a special stamp on official documents like birth and marriage certificates that is recognized by foreign governments. In most states, the only place you can get it is from the Secretary of State. As soon as we receive it, we can apply for visas for Vicki and the kids. After a few more trips to Banco de la Frustración and two more trips to Lima, we should be all set.

One Response to “Modern Banking 2”

  1. Todd January 23, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    Interesting timing of this article – http://blog.pmarca.com/2014/01/22/why-bitcoin-matters/

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