Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's A New Ball Game!

Once in awhile I think that something is important enough to my readers that I break no posting on the weekends rule. I think the following information qualifies.

There is only one bank on Isla Mujeres. HSBC. About two weeks ago they instituted a new policy, which I believe is Mexico wide. As incredible as it sounds


They will not exchange them for pesos or even take them in for deposit only. They continue to accept Canadian dollars, Euros and every other form of currency.

I had read online about this policy and it did state that customers could continue to deposit dollars into an existing account. If this is true, the branch here on the island has chosen to ignore this. We tried today to deposit dollars into our peso account AND then into our dollar account. They refused to take them for either account. When asked how we put money into our dollar account, the answer was a firm shrug of the shoulders!

We will be closing all of the accounts we have at HSBC and moving our funds to the mainland to Scotia Bank Inverlat. We will get debit/ATM cards from them which will be valid here or at any ATM throughout Mexico. They have lost my business.

When we got home we went online to the HSBC Mexico website and filled in the feedback form. It graciously says "Please send us your feedback. We care about our customers!" Except that when you hit SEND, it comes back and requires you to fill in a fax number before it can be sent. We used our home phone number since, like most people, we do not have a home fax machine. After it finally went through, a message came back and said "This is not a valid portal for HSBC"! Color me surprised!

I see big problems coming to the island. This is a tourist mecca. People bring dollars here and expect to be able to spend them. The only place one can change American dollars into pesos now are at the Casa de Cambios scattered around downtown. And people, let me tell you, they do not give the current bank rate. In fact, I have noticed the exchange rate at them has been steadily dropping since the bank here instituted its' policy of insanity.

I see one of two things happening soon. Either businesses will stop taking dollars from tourists totally, or they will exchange them at a horrible rate. After all, they are now forced to exchange those dollars at the same Casa de Cambio as the tourists have to use.

I do not know how this will affect the cashing of travellers checks.

Be warned. Exchange your money before you get here if you want to get anything resembling a good exchange rate.


Jamqueen said...

This has been a topic of discussion on the message boards for a few weeks now. We have always used TCs, but noone is cashing them now. Doesn't seem like a smart decision on the part of the banks and the government when so many rely on the tourist trade! There's always the ATM...

ArizonaKelly said...

You have GOT to be kidding me! Not even into your dollar account? This is really bad news for the tourists. No es bueno.

Life's a Beach! said...

Wayne, I truly think that bank has lost its mind. First, they wiped out the use of travelers checks on the island. I could vaguely understand that if they're having problems getting rid of them. But now they're trying to wipe out the use of the U.S. dollar, which is THE currency of most daytrippers. And the daytripper is the mainstay of the shops on the island. So everyone's forced to totally rely on the semi-quirky ATM's on the island, which they can't seem to keep filled on the weekends and holidays. (And also where I get charged a BIG fee by Bank of America.) And with all the theft on the island, there's no way I'd carry a big load of cash down there. There must be a Lesser Isla League (anti-tourism organization) and the bank is now in cohoots! I hadn't really understood before that they're still accepting Euros and Canadian dollars. So it's a boycott against the U.S. dollar and that bank actually has branches here in the U.S.? Hmmmmmmmm.

I'm glad you pulled your money out!

Esther said...


At the Casa de Cambio that I went to there was a sign posted "No Travellers Checks". Just another blow to our declining tourist.

Anonymous said...

Now THIS is REAL news.
What is going on here?!?
WHY would they do this?
Currency exchange is a BIG money making business for banks.
Something must be very wrong.
We all know that US banks are having problems but does HSBC have some "inside information" that something (even more) terrible is about to happen and they don't want to be stuck holding a pile of worthless paper?
-Doug in CT

Anonymous said...

Sad to see this happening.
I think I read that the bank on Isla Mujeres in NOT cashing Travellers Checks, nor the Cambios.
Seem they have gone the way of the Money Order.
Going to Isla Mujeres , bring a ATM card.
And what happens when the ATM run out of cash during peak seasonal dates, like Semana Santa, etc.
I think there are like only 3 ATM on Isla.
I had heard the ATM at the Super Mercado NEVER runs out, but this was before the new rules at the bank.
Good for you on changing banks, just means a trip to Cancun for banking.

Life's a Beach! said...

P.S. Wayne. Forgot to say that I don't think anyone, including the bank, cashes travelers checks on Isla now.

IslaZina said...

This explains the Scotia ATM I heard was already here...

American Mommy in Mexico said...

So is there any Mexico explanation anywhere?

Anonymous said...

Well, it's an extra step, but, upon arriving in Cancun, changing everything to Canadian Dollars might be a good idea.

Frankly, knowing the potential pitfalls far exceeds the unknown surprises. Thanks for the On-Top-Of-Things that you're famous for.


O Robert

IslaZina said...

I've been weighing this against the big story in the nation - the drug wars! Now, it would seem to me that since the US has said it is prepared to go over the boarder in this unending violence, and that since most of the drugs that pass through Mexico are sold in the US for dollars, there may be a bigger picture here in not wanting to take dollars, maybe even pressure from the Mexican federal government. It's just a thought.

Jackie said...

So why does the ATM now ask if you want your money in local currency or US Dollars? That started a few days ago.
As Zina mentined there is a new ATM however it was not yet working a few days ago. It is located just a few doors north of Ricardo's Fire Opal shop on Juarez.

John W said...

HSBC apparently had no problem accepting dollars last autumn when the peso devalued 35%. I think odds are good that the peso, which is presently undervalued, will recover in the coming year, so holding pesos is good, holding dollars bad.

But a huge bank like HSBC has huge dollar exposure whether of not it accepts dollars from retail customers. Moreover, it has ways of moving out of one currency into another via large trades, so this shouldn't be an issue.

Something else must be behind this policy--maybe something as simple as a poor, short-sighted management decision.

William Lawson said...

I believe HSBC is the most inept of all the fine banks around these parts. An argument can be made for any of them, as each is inept in its own special way, but this one is currently in the coveted best of the worst position.

Anonymous said...

My bank in the U.S. is willing to exchange at a $1.00 to 13.00 pesos what do you think....should I wait until I get to an ATM in Isla???

Anonymous said...

they have been involved in too much laundry business. Many people accounts have been plundered after account holders mysteriously expire and funds are leaving the branches over the custmer sevice desks in envelopes..for years.