My credit report

new-imageMY LATEST credit report arrived in the Yule email.

Mexico has a credit bureau, and it’s totally disconnected from credit bureaus in the United States. When you move over the Rio Bravo, you leave your credit history behind.

Depending on your deadbeat quotient, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. For me, it was bad.

Unlike above the border where credit bureaus are a dime a dozen, there seems to be just one credit bureau in Mexico, which makes more sense to me.

That’s my latest credit score above from the Buró de Crédito. I am more reliable than 85 percent of other Mexicans. That score should have me tying with 100 percent because I have never missed a payment here or paid late.

I would have a higher score were I addicted to debt, if I made car payments, had a mortgage, etc. All I have is a couple of Visa cards. Both are paid in full, monthly.

For my first 14 years in Mexico, I had two U.S. credit cards that were paid automatically in full every month via a connection with my U.S. bank, Banamex USA, the American outpost of the Mexican financial behemoth Banamex.

In 2014, a U.S. law known as FATCA caused Banamex USA to unceremoniously cancel my checking account, leaving me with no way whatsoever to pay my U.S. credit cards.

I opened accounts at HSBC-Mexico and BBVA Bancomer. I now have credit cards from both. Getting one from Bancomer was easy. Getting one from HSBC was like pulling teeth.

I use credit cards 99.9 percent for online purchases, and my credit score is inching up slowly. For easy access to your credit bureau score, the Buró de Crédito requires an account with them, which costs about 200 pesos a year.

After a few weeks of sleepless nights after Banamex USA zapped my only U.S. bank, I was back in business with the Mexican banks and credit cards.*

FATCA also threw a wrench into my PayPal account.

PayPal is not the same everywhere. Previously, I had the U.S. version. I canceled it and opened a Mexican PayPal which, like Mexican credit cards, works anywhere.

Again, everything is back in order, working smoothly, and I now have almost no financial ties with the United States, which puts a smug smile on my Mexican mug.

* * * *

* We have three credit cards. One with my name from HSBC. Another with my name from Bancomer, plus a third, piggybacked on my account, with my wife’s name and a different card number. She’s never used it. She’s as averse to debt as I am and has never used a credit card in her life.

(NOTE: The United States is the only nation in the world that wants to  suck tax earnings from what its citizens earn in other countries while living in those other countries. In other words, if you move to Ghana, open a store, earn a few Ghana bucks, Uncle Sam wants a cut! Freaking incredible.)

Another cord cut

IT SAT IN my email folder at dawn on Monday. Your account has been canceled. Your credit card, that is.

My last Gringo card. Zapped for inactivity.

I moved south 16 years ago with four credit cards, all issued by U.S. institutions and all paid in full every month via the checking account I opened in 1999 at Banamex USA,* the U.S. branch of the Mexican behemoth Banamex.

I’d been a longtime Wells Fargo Bank customer, but I was planning my move to Mexico.

sailor-knot-9-ana-maria-edulescuThe four cards were a Wells Fargo Mastercard, an AT&T Universal Visa and two other Visas from another bank, somewhere in the Dakotas, the name of which I have long forgotten.

The two Visas from the Dakota bank were the first to go. I had to cancel them both 12 years ago after one was skyjacked by Sky cable television down here. Never give Sky your credit card number for recurring charges.

That is very good advice for most Mexican firms.

That left me with two credit cards, which didn’t concern me.

A few years later, Wells Fargo sent a renewal card to my post office box here. But due to living in Mexico — a shady land, you know — they insisted I go to a bank here and jump through all manner of hoops to prove I am who I am.

Screw that, I muttered to myself as I cut up the card.

That left me with just one card, the AT&T Universal Visa. I was starting to get a little nervous. To have a backup, I went to Banamex here where I had a checking account and requested a credit card. They gave me one with a $10 limit, only a slight exaggeration, and there was a fat annual fee too.

About a year later, I got a hair up my keister about something, and I canceled the card. I hadn’t used it much.

So, back to just one credit card.

THE LETTER

Then the letter came in 2014 from Banamex USA. Your checking account will be canceled shortly. That happened due to a new U.S. law known by its initials, FATCA.

It’s all Barry Obama’s fault, of course.

Banamex USA was my only way to pay off the U.S. credit card. No other option existed.  I do not now qualify for another U.S. bank account. No U.S. address or driver’s license.

That effectively nulled my last credit card. But I never canceled it because, I thought, maybe one day I might need it, though I could not imagine how, where or why. I held onto the account, my final Gringo credit card, a lifeline.

There was no annual fee.

For many months, I was left only with a Banamex debit card, which is not as secure as a credit card, especially online.

I asked for my Banamex credit card again. They wouldn’t reissue it. It was due to FATCA, but they danced around that fact. Irked, I canceled my Banamex account that I’d had for 14 years. They didn’t seem to give a hoot.

Heartless, greedy capitalists!

HUNTING ALTERNATIVES

I opened a checking account just up the street at HSBC-Mexico. I asked for a credit card. Not just yet, they told me. Later maybe. Later came and went. No credit card.

So I went even farther up the street and opened a checking account at Bancomer, still keeping the one at HSBC. Again, I requested a credit card. Wait three months, they said. I waited, and they gave me a credit card. Yipee!

And another for my child bride. For this and other reasons, I’ve become a yuuuge** Bancomer booster.

I requested a credit card from HSBC many times, and they always said no with little explanation. I gave up. Months later, out of the blue, they asked if I wanted one.

I said sure. Go figger.

So now I have credit cards at both Bancomer and HSBC. I also had my AT&T Visa, the Gringo card, till this week, useless as it was, an emotional tie to the old country.

Gone now, like so many other cards and cords.

FORGET AMERICA

My goal these days is to have as little to do with that troubled land above the border as possible. The norm, it seems, for Americans living in Mexico is the opposite, to keep connected to the greatest degree possible.

They keep bank accounts, addresses, homes, relatives. You name it, they keep it. Their Mexican ties seem tenuous.

They’re always visiting up north. They’re always having friends bring down “stuff” they can’t find here, stuff they think they can’t live without. Someone recently posted on a Yahoo forum catering to local Gringos a list of “essential” stuff one needs from above the Rio Bravo. I guffawed.

  1. Workshop tools, as if you cannot find tools in Mexico.
  2. Down comforters, as if Costco doesn’t offer them, and so does Bed, Bath & Beyond.
  3. Mosquito nets, as if they’re not easy to find here.
  4. Smartphones. We Mexicans still use tin cans and string.
  5. Up-to-date laptops. Best Buy, Walmart, Sears, etc., in Mexico just sell crusty Commodores and dusty Ataris.
  6. Linens “to fit your bed.” Somehow, my Mexican linens always fit my beds, both king and queen.
  7. Walking sticks. Certainly, no walking sticks can be found here. I wonder where I found mine?
  8. Good binoculars. Only defective binoculars are sold in Mexico, of course, leftovers from pirate times.

That’s just some of the stuff I saw on the list, all of which is available in Mexico. Do they cost a bit more at times? Sure, but factor in your minuscule electric bill and fresh, cheap veggies and low restaurant tabs, you’re way ahead.

And the beautiful women.

I don’t go north anymore, nor do I have things smuggled down. It ain’t necessary. You can live quite well here with what’s available, and that’s what I try to do.

And now I have no Gringo credit cards at all.

If you read all this, you’re a better man than I am.

* * * * *

* Banamex USA is closing entirely this year. There has long been talk of its involvement in money laundering. HSBC’s reputation along those lines isn’t much better.

** Trump allusion.

(Note: There is a Mexican credit bureau. It has no connection with credit bureaus in the United States, so you start from scratch below the border no matter how good or bad a credit rating you had in the United States.)

A day in the life

HAVING STOPPED working for “the man” many years ago — in 1999 actually — one would think I’d have plenty of time to fill, and sometimes I do.

Sometimes not.

lifeI took a shower this morning in the pre-dawn darkness. It was the first trial of the solar water heater after it had sat on the roof under moonlight. Would there be hot water? Yes. Not as scalding as that boiled under daytime sun, but quite adequate.

I am happy for that.

And why would an unemployed geezer shower before dawn? To be at the bank door at its 8:30 opening downtown. I had business with one of the “executives.” If you get there later, expect quite a wait. I was No. 2 in the door, and was sitting next to an “executive’s” desk in a nanosecond.

What was my business?

Last week the bank (BBVA Bancomer) phoned me about suspicious activity on my spanking new credit card, a card I have never used anywhere except online. (Yes, I have beefy computer protection.) To make a long story short, I opted to cancel the card. I was told that in five business days, a replacement would be awaiting me at the bank branch. That would have been today.

The “executive” told me it had not arrived. I was not surprised because I’m in Mexico. Come back next week, so there’s another predawn shower on my dance card.

Permit me to tell you an amusing story, something I’ve never witnessed at my other banks, HSBC-Mexico and my former Banamex. When Bancomer opens every morning, the branch manager and the other “executives” all gather at the door and greet you as you come in.

¡Buenos dias! ¡Buenos dias!  I’ve never had a bank so tickled to see me.

The credit card thing is no big concern. Connected to that same account is another credit card with my wife’s name and a different number. It still works fine. I just had to switch a number of monthly online payments to the second card.

While sitting at the exec’s desk at 9 a.m., my cell phone rang. It was Ramón, my contractor guy, who told me he and his crew would be at the downtown Casita at 10 a.m. to install a metal door to the second-floor balcony. Perfect timing. I had enough minutes to walk through the outdoor market nearby to buy avocados, tomatoes and strawberries. And to check my PO box.

When Ramón and his crew pulled up outside the Casita just before 10 a.m., I was sitting in a chair on the balcony reading a book on Kindle. Apparently, that amused Ramón who hollered up that he hopes to live that way one day.

I hope he gets to live that way too. He works hard.

The metal door replaces a silly plywood number installed by the home’s builder five years ago.

I left the Casita in the hands of Ramón, and I returned to the Hacienda, about 15 minutes distant, for breakfast No. 2. Since I’m writing this shortly after High Noon, the headline here would be more accurately written as “A morning in the life.”

The day is scarcely half over.