Ecuador Banking / Ecuador Cost of Living / Ecuador Economy / Ecuador Residency Visa

Ecuador Banks: Are They Safe?

We recently received the following question from a reader about Ecuador Banks:

I am wondering if you can tell me your opinion on Ecuadorian banks. I am planning to visit Ecuador, possibly Cotacachi, in the next couple of months, and in that time I would be interested in opening a bank account with one of the Ecuadorian banks. So, I would like to know what do you think:

-about Ecuadorian banks in general (any specific bank name that you would recommend)
-looking for the bank with safe deposit box services(how safe)

-what do you think about current problems with USA dollars and connection with Ecuadorian/American dollar and what would you except what will happen with Ecuadorian economy and banks if USA dollar loses more value.

My reply:

We bank with Banco Pichincha, which is a large private bank.  It is larger in terms of market share (about 33%) than the next two banks,ProduBank and Banco Del Pacifico, put together.   It is the only bank that has a branch in Cotacachi, so that makes it easy.

Pichincha also has a branch in Miami so it works well for wire transfers.  People wire money from their bank to the Miami branch, which is a domestic transfer.  The Miami branch then makes an inner bank transfer to the Quito bank, and it is then deposited in our account.  The fees are low for this type of transfer and the money is transferred quickly, usually within two days.

I have not heard anything negative so far about the safety of Ecuador banks.  Of course, the world’s banks are all connected, and who knows what will happen if the banking system melts down.

We have a  well connected friend in Guayaquil, whose nephew who head of a large U.S. bank’s South American division.  This person says that in the international banking community, Ecuador banks get very high marks, especially for liquidity.   They are considered a good credit risk.

There is some talk on the Yahoo Ecuador-expats bulletin board that there have been problems wiring money from the U.S.    This bears watching, but so far our clients have not had any problems.

You cannot open a bank account here unless you have Ecuadorian residency. Previously, we had some success in getting bank accounts for clients who purchase property even if they didn’t have their residency visa yet, due to our personal banking relationship with Pichincha. 

However, last week, we visited our friend, the bank manager in Otavalo and he told me the bank had changed the rules so no accounts without a residency permit–period.

The branch here does not have a safety deposit box system, but the larger branches in Ibarra do.  Regarding the safety of that, again, who knows what happens if there is a crash?

Regarding your last question about the impact of a fluctuating dollar, if I knew the answers to those questions, I would be a very wealthy man.  We were fortunate to get our money out of Euros about a week before the Euro started dropping.

Ecuador is on the U.S. dollar system.  In this moment, the dollar is very strong.  Ecuador gets nearly half of its foreign exchange from sale of oil, and due to falling oil prices, the country is not doing as well as before on exports.  The good thing, however, is that even if the dollar tanks again,  the world will still need oil, and Ecuador can sell that oil using whatever exchange mechanism is available.

We are seeing some food inflation here, but not a great deal except for food stuff imported from the U.S., such as supermarket products.   I feel much more confident about food here because most of the food we eat is grown within a few hundred miles of Cotacachi.

Much of it is grown locally by indigenous farmers.  Ecuador offers a wide variety of consumer goods, and they tend to follow the pricing of the world market.  I just bought a Panasonic microwave oven for a client today at a price lower than that quoted on the Panasonic website, which surprised me.

We have also purchased land and intend to create gardens to grow our own food.  We have good water, so crops can be grown year around.   To me, that feels very secure!

My general impression right now is that Ecuador banks are safer than in the U.S., because Ecuador banks do not have exposure to the mortgage debacle.  There are actually very few home mortgages in Ecuador, and they are tough to get.

Minimum rates are typically 25% down and 10 – 12% interest, for people with good credit. Most people actually own their own homes, and with very low taxes, there is no pressure on home owners!

As I mentioned earlier, the world economic system is connected, so who knows what will happen.  I didn’t hear of anyone, except perhaps Weiss’s Money and Markets, who predicted the recent increased strength in the dollar, and they only did that about two weeks before it happened.  At the same time, their gold writer was recommending gold as a strong buy. We see what’s happening with that now.



  1. I am working on moving to Ecuador and have a bank account in Los Angeles. I have a debit card that is good in Ecuador. Am I alright with just that access to my monthly SoSec check? I suppose I can use the card to withdraw some cash when I need it, from a local bank. Am I alright?

  2. Good morning everyone,

    I’m thiking of moving to Ecuador permanently, doing my research at this time. I’d like to take my savings with me and put it in CD (certificate of deposit) type of investment.

    I contacted a bank in Ecuador that told me there are no fees to transfer my money from the U.S. (Wamu) to the Ecuadorian bank. Also, Wamu told me there will not any fees on their side.

    Is this true? Sounds too good to be true, I shouldn’t be complaining.

    Also, the person at the Ecuadorian Bank told me that I will have to pay no taxes if I invest my money with them in a CD for more than 2 years. Can someone please share their comments?



  3. You can bring cash or negotiable instruments into Ecuador but if you bring more than $10,000 you must fill out a customs report form on the airlines.

    People have done this without any problem, even without questions.

    However, it is very simple to wire money into Ecuador and we would recommend this course of action rather than carrying large amounts of cash.

  4. SO how does one bring money into the country to buy land? I need the land first at over 25k to apply for the residency. I don’t want to just transfer it to the seller’s bank.

    many thanks.

    Fred Poisson

  5. I thought I would take a second to post current requirements by Banco Pichincha for opening an account. These requirements are accurate as of January 8, 2009 as I just opened a new account in my name.

    You must have residency.

    You need a color copy of your cedula and censo.

    You need a black and white copy of a telephone, electric or water bill in your name (or of the address where you live if renting).

    Minimum of $100 initial deposit.

    You will need 2 names of people to give as references on the paperwork. These are people that know you.

    You will need a written “letter of reference” from an existing Banco Pichincha customer. This needs to be someone that knows you well.

    Bring all of this with you and you should be able to open your account.

    You have a choice of a international atm card for $5 or a Ecuador-only card for $4. Takes 48 hours to get the card issued to you (you have to come back to the bank).

    Hope this helps somebody.

    David Beyer

  6. Gary:

    I perked up when I read about this in you post, because it would help me out a lot.

    I just called the EC Consulate un Miami and also the EC Embassy in Washington DC, and asked them about getting the Ec permanent resident visa BEFORE arriving to Ecuador. They all vehemently denied that was posible. Looks like you must arrive with a 12-IX consular toruist visa ( the 180 day visa).

    Too bad.


  7. Hi Geoff,

    It is confusing. The EC embassy in Vancouver is correct. Everyone in the world can get a 90 day T-3 tourist visa at no cost when you enter the country.

    HOWEVER, that T-3 visa is not renewable in country. If you want it renewed, you must leave the country, then return, gaining another 90 days, also free. You are allowed 180 days in-country each year.

    HOWEVER, if you want to move to Ecuador permanently, you need to apply for a 180 day, 12-IX tourist or commercial visa at the EC Consulate or Embassy prior to arriving in Ecuador. Cost is $230 per person.

    All of my sources tell me that one must now have this 12-IX visa prior to arriving in Ecuador in order to gain a permanent Residency Visa once you get here.

    If anyone has specific experience in the last month or so different than this, please let me know. If you talk to an embassy, refer to the specific visa number ie. 12-IX. Then they will know what you are talking about.

    When you arrive in Ecuador, you can apply for the Residency Visa of your choice because you will have all the necessary paperwork completed from the 12-IX visa application.

    I have recently heard that it may be possible to get a permanent residency visa in your home country from the Ecuadorian consulate prior to arriving in Ecuador. If anyone has experience with this, please post.

    Check this website for clarification about the different types of Ecuador visas:

  8. Hmmm. Just spoke with the EC Embassy in Vancouver, British Columbia two days ago and he still is saying you get a 90 day tourist visa at no cost and only pay for the residency visa once you arrive in EC. He knew nothing about a $200 expense pre-arrival.

    I did mention the change of director in that program etc but he held to his story quite adamantly.

    A bit confusing to say the least :-)

  9. Just a sign of the times. Things are tightening up all over the world. A few months ago, Ecuador eased their visa restrictions allowing people from any country in the world to enter without first getting a visa from the consulate in their home country.

    This resulted in the country being innundated by many thousands of Chinese who came here and didn’t leave when their visa expired. Cotacachi got a new Chinese restaurant as a result.

    Also, it has become very difficult for an Ecuadorian to get a visitors visa to the US of A. I guess the president here figures tit for tat.

    However, the resident visa requirements haven’t changed much, except that you need to get a six month commercial or tourist visa from the Ecuadorian consulate in the U.S. or Canada before you arrive in Ecuador.

    For a long time, this requirement was ignored by immigration, but then the government realized they were losing $230 per person, (the cost of a 12-IX tourist visa) so I guess they decided to enforce the rules.

  10. Seems like there have been a number of changes in Ecuador lately for expats coming there….First was the change in the residency procedures and now changes at Pichincha for foreigners to open bank accounts. What is with the tightening up on everything there? Too many foreigner retirees swarming in?