Monday, October 02, 2006


The check is in the mail...

Of course, the check isn't in the mail. I'm not sure what excuse gets used for delinquent payments in Uruguay, but it's not that one. Checks have weak legal status here and I get the impression that the mail service isn't widely used.

It's the beginning of the month and we had a few bills to pay and no checks. Fortunately, Uruguayans have developed alternative payment systems. Rent gets paid in-person, in cash, at the real estate office around the corner. Utility bills are paid, in cash, at any payment office, which are on nearly every block in our neighborhood. Redpagos is one of the major payment networks. (See their website for an example of truly gratuitous computer graphics.) The process is easy enough but it does take longer than writing a check and it seems like their processing costs would be substantially higher. It is possible to arrange for automatic electronic bill-paying from a bank account.

We do have a bank account here but it wasn't easy to get. In Kalamazoo, we have an account at LaSalle Bank which is owned by ABN-AMBRO which has branches all over Montevideo, so we thought that might be easiest, but no. Then we tried Citibank, Bank of Boston, etc, with no luck. It turns out that some part of the Homeland Security laws in the US makes it nearly impossible for a U.S. citizen to open a bank account overseas. (Apparently the US government believes that suitcases full of $100 bills are preferable to bank-to-bank transfers.) We eventually opened an account with a Spanish bank.

I'm not used to dealing with so much cash. Signing a lease requires four month's rent as a security deposit, plus the first month's rent, plus another month's rent in commission to our real estate agent. All in US dollars. I've never had so much cash on the table.

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