Moving to a foreign country makes it necessary to become familiar with the local bank services. Whether opening the simplest savings account or a more complex business account, being familiar with the terms and charges involved will help make your life a little easier.
What type of accounts are available and what charges should I expect to pay?
Dominican banks have personal current accounts which require a minimum opening balance. The standard amount is RD$5,000 to open a checking account (cuentas corrientes personales) with a monthly charge of RD$75. Because checking accounts involve a higher risk than savings accounts (passbook or cash card accessibility only), some banks may require copies of your credit card statements for the last three months, copies of official identification such as your passport or driver’s licence, and personal and professional references.
Debit card accounts are available in the DR at most banks. Similar to elsewhere, a “debit card” can be used for purchases, and the cost is deducted directly from your account.
Personal savings accounts (cuentas de ahorros) generally take less to open, with many banks requiring only RD$500 for the initial balance. There could also be a minimal monthly charge on accounts with less than a RD$5,000 balance, and there is also a charge for replacing lost passbooks.
For either the personal checking or savings accounts, a local Visa or MasterCard credit card may be issued which can be used for shopping, checking an account balance, automatic deposits, payment of utilities, telephone, or loan payments, and withdrawing cash from an ACD (automatic cash dispenser) at various locations, open 24 hours a day. The term red is used to describe their network of branches and the services offered. Note that you do not need a local bank account to be issued a credit card. Also note that your credit references on your foreign-based credit card will not necessarily be taken into account when setting your credit card limit.
A cash card may be issued upon opening a personal savings account, which provides many of the same services, except that it cannot be used for purchases. Some banks also charge a nominal fee for using the cards (about RD$5) for each transaction except deposits and payments.
Some banks charge a first-time fee for issuing these cards, while others do not. The fee, however, for a local Visa or MasterCard could be RD$600 or more. Banks waiver the fee for their better clients or if they are interested in attracting you as a client.
Do the costs associated with bank services fluctuate?
The fees associated with bank services fluctuate from bank to bank, branch to branch, and city to city. There is also the possibility, as previously mentioned, of a reorganization taking place in the bank. The fees might change to accommodate the new structure. If in doubt, ask. Some banks have personnel who are well-informed with the latest changes and speak English.
What type of loans are available, and is it difficult to get one?
Many banks are making a variety of loans available to their customers, with a 24-hour turn-around from the time an application is submitted if your guarantor is well known. Travel, health, education, household, and vehicle loans are readily available. Make personal contact with someone in the loan department. For a large business loan, as with any bank worldwide, having a good credit rating may help, although a solid reference through friends and relatives could work wonders for the approval of an application.
What are the requirements and fees of a business checking account?
Business checking accounts (cuentas corrientes empresariales) vary widely from bank to bank. To open a business checking account you will need to deposit the legal company statutes. Upon these being cleared by the bank legal deposit, the account will be opened. A minimal deposit of RD$5,000 is generally required, and the monthly service fee charged on accounts with less than a standing balance of RD$20,000 is likely to be around RD$100.
What are some of the other services offered in banks?
The larger banks in the D.R. are comparable to the better banks in most countries because of the wide variety of other services they provide. Many will send you your monthly statement by email, others will give you access to viewing your account statement and transactions online.
Payments are taken at many banks for water, electricity, telephone and newspaper subscriptions.
Auto banking and night deposits are common services provided. International checking accounts are also available. American Express MoneyGrams are popular with many of the larger banks and may be more cost effective than sending or receiving money through the local Western Union office.
Corporate services include accounting and bookkeeping, payroll payment, international business services, financial management and consulting services, and investment projections. Bank affiliates also provide life and health insurance and pension plan coverage.
Some banks have life and health insurance companies within their corporate grouping. They provide personal and health insurance, real estate and furniture insurance, vehicle insurance, relocation, fire and theft insurance. Just because they are part of the same group, however, does not mean that they are offering the best bargain. Always check the terms and prices of the opposition.
Special departments handle import and export services which include international bank transfers, letters of credit, and collection services. These same departments have financial consultants who are investment specialists and professional appraisers.
Some banks have branches in New York or Miami. Their fees and services may vary from the D.R. branch, so it is best to check into them thoroughly, should your plans include frequent trips to those cities.
Keep in mind that the services provided by your foreign bank and credit card companies change radically when transferring to a new country. For example, you may be able to get the equivalent of a RD$60,000 cash advance on your Visa or MasterCard in other countries, but there are strict limitations for cash advances here, and it could be difficult or impossible to obtain authorization for such a large transaction.