Some tales in Mexico have a long storyline. My FATCA adventure is such a tale.
Almost two months ago, I heard from a fellow blogger that my BANAMEX USA account in Los Angeles would be closed on 1 July -- for no stated reason. He had received the news by certified letter.
I received nothing. But, after calling the bank, I discovered my account was on the hit list, as well. On 1 July, my account would be a dead letter. The only live letter would include a cashier's check in dollars sent to Mexico to close out any balance.
As it turned out, the bank allowed a very brief extension. I am glad it did because it gave a home for a misdirected pension check and two credit card payments that did not meet the change-of-bank notice. Out of crisis comes some good.
Even though I would have preferred the bank to send the cashier's check to my northern bank, all went well. When I returned from Guadalajara on Saturday evening, Lupe, the neighbor who I accompanied to Mexico City earlier this year on a medical mission, excitedly brought a DHL envelope to me. DHL had left it with her. Inside was the check. In dollars.
Checks denominated in US Dollars are a problem these days in my area of Mexico. No one will accept them or cash them. Not even Banamex, where I have an account. Even if I wanted the cash in pesos.
I was going to attach a deposit slip for my northern bank to the check and send it north with a friend -- even though it is a sizable amount. An amount high enough to raise eyebrows at the border.
But I then dredged up a memory piled underneath a stack of old magazines and a half-eaten pizza in my noggin. ("Noggin" is one of those words that we Powers boys like to use now and then to wash off the taint of faux sophistication we acquire when quoting Tom Stoppard witticisms.)
A couple of years ago, I was looking for a way to quickly deposit a check. Someone told me I could do it with my telephone. As it turned out, I never needed to try it. But this check provided the perfect opportunity.
By sheer coincidence, I received two reimbursement checks from my military medical insurance carrier. (You may recall in tsunami alert last May that I despaired of ever getting reimbursed for my prescription costs because Mexican pharmacies do not provide all of the numbers insurers like to receive. I was wrong. Tricare came through after a three month wait.)
I had already installed an application from my northern bank on my telephone. A quick look through its menu proved that my memory was not faulty. There it was. Detailed instructions on how to deposit a check in my bank account -- using only my telephone.
All I needed to do was to endorse the back of the check, and then use the application and the camera in my telephone to create images of the front and back of the check. After filling out the amount of the deposit, I was to hit the "deposit" button on the screen, and the money would show up in my account.
I am a big believer in the convenience of technology. But I will confess I approached this project with a bit of trepidation. After all, I still think of depositing checks as involving a smiling teller and a bit of paper, pen, and ink.
So, I started with the smallest check. It worked perfectly. I probably took no more than 40 seconds to complete the process. The second and third checks took even less time once I knew the steps.
And sure enough, when I checked online, the amounts were in the accounts I selected. It almost seemed too good to be true.
I suppose all of you are wondering what popped into my head while I was so conveniently stuffing money into my American bank account. Why can I do what Mexican banks are now refusing to do?
Well, the answer is that I do not need to deal with the nonsense of the FATCA reporting requirements. If I do not pay taxes on the amounts deposited (there are no taxable events associated wit any of the checks), my bank will be a not-so-silent partner of the IRS in ratting me out.
But, for the moment, I am a happy bank customer. A sentence I have not written during these past three FATCA-scarred months.