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.
The 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.
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!
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.
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.
- Workshop tools, as if you cannot find tools in Mexico.
- Down comforters, as if Costco doesn’t offer them, and so does Bed, Bath & Beyond.
- Mosquito nets, as if they’re not easy to find here.
- Smartphones. We Mexicans still use tin cans and string.
- Up-to-date laptops. Best Buy, Walmart, Sears, etc., in Mexico just sell crusty Commodores and dusty Ataris.
- Linens “to fit your bed.” Somehow, my Mexican linens always fit my beds, both king and queen.
- Walking sticks. Certainly, no walking sticks can be found here. I wonder where I found mine?
- 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.)