Are you moving to Cuenca? Plan on visiting for a few months? If so, you need to get money into Ecuador. There are several options, including carrying it in a money belt, making a wire transfer, or simply living off your credit cards.
We discuss all of those options, plus provide information on getting money out of Ecuador should the need arise, below.
The old-fashioned way to get money into any country was, and is, to simply bring it with you when you come.
Whether it's in a money belt under your clothes (make sure it has no metal parts, and make sure you're not going through a full body scanner in the US) or in hidden pockets sewn into your clothes, you're allowed to move up to $10,000 into Ecuador without filling out any forms on either end.
For Americans, note that many airports now have money-sniffing dogs who sniff people while they're standing in lines, looking for money leaving the country, even though it's completely legal (at the time of writing) to leave with less than $10,000 and not report it.
To keep the bulk down, bring in $50 and $100 bills. The only problem at this end is that most Ecuadorian businesses won't accept them, and the banks will only accept them for deposit, after recording the serial numbers and attaching that record to your bank account (to protect themselves against counterfeit bills).
This is probably the simplest way to get money into Ecuador, especially a lot of money. Unfortunately, the United States is now requiring banks to grill you over the coals about why you're sending money out of the country. The assumption is that you're doing something illegal with it (like hiding it from the IRS).
We've met people who have had their wire transfers denied by their banks. Yes, they weren't allowed to wire their own money to Ecuador. One person was told that they were protecting his interests since he'd be sending money to an account that wasn't his (it was to be the deposit on a house to be built for him).
That was in early 2009. Now they just tell you that they're required to ask you what you're doing with the money. Your money!
If your bank won't send funds to you, contact us. We know of a completely legal way to bring a large amount of money into Ecuador, but we won't print it here. Otherwise, that way may be eliminated as well (at least the FATCA law hasn't outlawed it yet).
If you can send funds by wire transfer, you'll need the SWIFT and ABA numbers for the bank you deal with here in Cuenca (e.g., Banco Pichincha, Banco de Guayaquil, etc.), plus a bank account number, of course.
If you'll be here a short while (three months or less) and don't want to bring in a wad of cash, you can use your Visa, MasterCard or American Express credit card here. Just remember to let your card issuer know before you leave that you'll be using your card here in Ecuador.
Otherwise, you'll find your card has had a block put on it, and the bank machine may keep it. Then you'll be dealing with your card company via long distance to unblock it so that you can access your credit limit. Or you'll be without your card for the remainder of your visit!
You can pay for items using the card, although many smaller stores in Ecuador that accept cards display a credit card price, and then offer a much cheaper cash price. You may find it cheaper to take a cash advance on your card, then pay for the item you want with that cash. Less convenient for big ticket items, but what's a little inconvenience if you can save several hundred dollars?
If you have a debit card that runs on a Visa or MasterCard network, you may be able to access funds from it, or pay at the point of sale for items. But don't count on it.
And as with credit cards, let your bank know that you'll be using it outside the country, or you'll likely lose it to the machine.
Jeff saw recently that PayPal offers to set up accounts for people in Ecuador. Great! He has money coming in from web-based businesses, so he thought it would be perfect to have the money come here instead of Canada.
But once he went through the process, he discovered that he needed a bank account in the US to have an Ecuadorian PayPal account. So much for that idea.
The easiest way to get money out is by taking it with you. There's a $1,000 limit unless you report it and pay the 5% exit tax on anything over the $1,000. However, no one ever checks if you're carrying it on you, at least not in our experience. So you could take more (but no more than $10,000). If you're caught, though, you'll likely be fined, and required to pay the tax.
You can also wire money out of Ecuador, but it's not cheap. The bank fee is at least $40. Plus there's the 5% exit tax on the amount above $1,000, which is deducted from your account (or paid in cash).
Ecuador can't print its own money since it uses the USD as its currency. Any money taken out of the country shrinks the economy. So the government wants its cut to make up (slightly) for that shrunken economy. Even if the money you're taking out was money you brought in, you still have to pay for the privilege.
The option least likely to work is Ecuadorian credit cards and debit cards. We don't know of anyone who has successfully used their Banco Pichincha international debit card outside of the country, even though it's part of the Visa Electron network.
If you need to get money into Ecuador, any of the above options will work (with the possible exception of debit cards), depending on where you live.
If your US bank won't let you wire money, remember to contact us and we'll let you know of another way to get money here.
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I just want to thank you both soooo much for creating this web site. I am originally from Cuenca but moved to New York 11 years ago and have not being back since. My husband and I are planning on visiting Cuenca over the Summer and this web site has helped me a lot.
When I came to the US we still had the "sucre," the bus ride cost 1,000 sucres and a pack of trident gum would cost 3,000 sucres. I am very nervous to go back, but thanks to your web site I now know what to expect.
My husband is American and Captivating Cuenca has taught him a lot about what my great city has to offer, things that I had forgotten about myself! :)
Thank You both so much! I cannot wait to visit Cuenca!!