How to open a bank account in Peru

11.10.17
5 minute read
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With year-round sunshine, a warm climate, incredible geography, rich culture and delicious cuisine, it’s no wonder so many expats are heading to Peru. Add in one of the lowest costs of living in the world, and the question becomes less about why people are moving to the South American country than why anyone wouldn’t.

If you’re among the many young professionals, families and retirees heading to Peru to enjoy the slow pace of life and easy living, it’s important to consider your finances. In a country so dependent on cash, it’s important to have easy access to your funds without massive fees, a situation that can achieved through the simple creation of a Peruvian bank account. So, how do you do it?

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about opening a bank account in Peru.

Can I open a bank account as a non-resident of Peru?

No. While there’s no official government rule that makes it impossible for non-residents to open a bank account, most banks simply don’t allow it.

If you absolutely can not become a resident, you may be able to open an account with a Peruvian sponsor, though banks don’t disclose whether or not they allow this, and almost all of them don’t. All in all, if you’re going to open a bank account in Peru you’ll want to get your official residence first.

What's the process? How long does it usually take?

In order to open an account you can either walk in or make an appointment at the bank of your choice. Make sure to have all the necessary documents in hand, and if you’re not a fluent Spanish speaker it’s a good idea to bring a translator; English isn’t overwhelmingly common in Peru.

At the bank you’ll simply present your documents and fill out an application form, and the banker should be able to open your account within a matter of hours.

What documents are necessary for a foreigner to open a bank account?

The exact things you’ll need to bring with you to open your bank account vary from bank to bank, so it’s important to call ahead and ask which documents you’ll need. As a baseline, they commonly ask you to bring:

  • Proof of residence/ your foreign resident card
  • Proof of address
  • Passport

Can I open a bank account abroad? What about at least online?

Realistically, you need to physically be in Peru to open your bank account. Some banks may allow you to submit documents by mail, but most require you to be present in order to fill out signatures and finalize the account, so ultimately you’ll have to be in the country at some point anyway.

While Peruvian banks do often offer internet banking services, account opening isn’t one of them.

What banking fees are involved?

In every country in the world, opening a bank account will come with fees. It’s a good idea to ask for the price lists of the banks you’re deciding between, as you’ll want to choose the bank with the lowest fees for the services you use the most. You can usually pull a price list online, but you may need to ask for it from a banker. While fees are different at every bank, some common ones to look out for include:

ATM fees

Taking out money from an ATM belonging to the bank at which you have an account is almost always feeless, though some will charge you if you’re taking out a large sum. Taking out cash from an ATM that belongs to a different bank, however, can be expensive, with flat withdrawal fees ranging from PEN 5 to 15.

If you’re using a debit card from your home country at a Peruvian ATM, you’ll probably be charged a foreign ATM fee. This is the flat fee as set by the ATM, plus a percentage of your transaction that goes directly back to your bank at home. You may also be given a bad exchange rate, so keep an eye on how many soles you’re getting for your money.

Normal bank fees

Normal bank fees have been seriously reduced or even eliminated in recent years as retail banking becomes more competitive. That being said, you still may find a charge or two, such as:

  • A nominal monthly account maintenance fee, around PEN 12
  • A check cashing fee
  • An account balance maintenance fee, which is applied if your account balance falls below the bank’s set minimum
  • Transfer and deposit fees

Fees for international transfers

Banks typically charge for international transfers in a similar way to foreign ATM fees - a flat fee that can sometimes be as high as PEN 60, plus a percentage of your total transfer. Again, you may get a bad exchange rate, which banks don’t usually make clear, so it’s a good idea to always keep your eye on the mid-market rate.

You can also use TransferWise to move money between your account at home and your account in Peru, or to pay employees or be paid. TransferWise guarantees the mid-market rate, and cuts foreign transfer fees way down by breaking your international transaction into a series of local ones.

Which bank should I choose?

There are a good number of banks to choose from in Peru, all with slightly different services offered. You’ll also have the choice to pick between an international bank, like Scotiabank or Citibank, or a local bank, like Mibanco or Banco de Credito del Peru (BCP) - the four of which represent Peru’s most popular financial institutions.

Banco de Credito del Peru (BCP)

BCP isn't only Peru’s largest bank, it’s also the best known for giving good deals on foreign transactions and exchange rates. BCP has hundreds of branches, all of which offer:

  • Current and savings accounts
  • Business accounts
  • Debit and credit cards
  • Comprehensive online banking
  • Investment services

Citibank Peru

Citi Peru is a favorite among expats, thanks to Citibank’s omnipresence across much of the globe. Citi has been operating in Peru for more than 90 years, and offers:

  • Current and savings accounts
  • Business accounts
  • Business financing
  • Internet and mobile banking

Mibanco

Peru’s fifth largest bank, Mibanco has countless locations across the country and provides easy access for all of its customers. Some of the services Mibanco offers include:

  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Home loans
  • Business capital loans
  • Insurance

Scotiabank

Another bank that is ubiquitous across the South American country, Scotiabank is a Canadian institution with a wide range of services, including:

  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Deposit and investment accounts
  • Loans
  • Credit cards
  • Online banking

TransferWise

If you pay or get paid internationally with any regularity, using TransferWise is the best choice for cutting back on fees and ensuring you’re getting the best exchange rate. TransferWise breaks international payments into a series of local ones to make sure the cost to you is as little as possible, and always uses the mid-market rate.

While there are some hurdles to jump over before you can bank in Peru - namely, obtaining your resident card - once you have all the legal matters in place the opening of the account is an easy process. Armed with the right documents and the right information, you’ll be walking out of the bank with an open account in no time. Good luck opening your bank account in Peru!

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