Banks and banking in Peru

banking in peru

No matter whether you would like to settle down in Peru or spend just a limited amount of time in the country, banking and the possibilities of opening a bank account in Peru will eventually come to your mind. In this article, we will cover all questions concerning banking and using private bank accounts in Peru.  

Is it possible to open a Peruvian bank account on a tourist visa?

It is possible to open a bank account with your passport but you will need a permission to sign contracts, a Peruvian phone number, an address in Peru and a valid tourist visa. However, you will find that bank employees will often deny your request to open a bank account. As lawyers, we guide and accompany our clients in the process and work with trusted branches in various Peruvian cities. The opening of a Peruvian bank account is normally part of our  immigration services and included in our visa fees but may also be requested as a special single service.

Can foreigners who are no longer residents keep their bank accounts?

There’s no rule or law which forbids a foreigner to have a bank account in Peru without being a resident. Your bank account is connected with your identification document and should be up-to-date. For example, when we first open a bank account for a client with a passport, the person has to give their passport number or show their passport when he goes to the bank. Once he has received his carnet de extranjería, he can go to the bank and change the ID document. 
On the other hand, if a foreigner gives up his residency in Peru, he’d have to change his ID document from carnet to passport. If he never had problems with the bank until then and has always paid his bills in time, they may accept it. 
As long as the debit card is valid and there are no problems which require the account holder to go to the bank, the bank most likely won’t notice that a foreigner is no longer a resident. We wouldn’t recommend doing this when you have large amounts of money on your Peruvian account but if you still have connections with Peru even after giving up your residency, it shouldn’t be a problem to keep your bank account and handle small amounts of money. 

Which are the best banks in Peru?

The best banks in Peru are Banco de Crédito del Perú (BCP), BBVA Continental, Interbank y Scotiabank. At NVC Abogados, we currently work with BCP as they allow us to open bank accounts for our clients before they get their residence permit. The process is quick and hassle-free. Our clients usually get their Peruvian bank account a couple of days after they entered the country on a tourist visa. BCP also issued an app called “yape” which has become very popular in Peru and can be used to pay small amounts in shops, pharmacies, taxis and on markets. It’s very secure and connected to your BCP bank account but you don’t have to give any details or your phone number when you pay something. 

What has to be considered when handling a dollar and a soles account?

When you open a bank account in Peru, you can have a soles or a dollar account or both. The account numbers are different but you get just one debit card.  You can easily transfer money between your soles and your dollar account but be aware that the rates offered by the bank are never the best. If you received a larger amount in either currency, it’s usually better to withdraw it in that currency and then exchange it somewhere else if necessary. In the bigger cities, there are always money changers standing in front of the bank or you can use an exchange office. 

Can a foreigner get a Peruvian credit card?

If you want to apply for a Peruvian credit card, you need to prove that you’re creditworthy and you need to be a legal resident. The bank will look at your income and then decide about the line of credit it is willing to grant you.   
  1. A credit card allows you to apply for certain credits such as a mortgage if you have always paid your credit card installments and interests in time. 
  2. With the help of a credit card, you can build your line of credit and get access to cash in the case of an emergency. 
  3. When using a Peruvian credit card, you can collect miles for local airlines, for example for LATAM which is part of the “One World Alliance”. 
  4. Some businesses will give you special discounts when using a credit card (hotels, travel agencies) 
  1. You have to show personal income which should preferably come from Peruvian sources. 
  2. Apart from proof of residence, Peruvian banks often request salary statements, a work contract and proof that you paid your taxes before they issue a credit card. 
  3. Compared to Europe or the US, interest rates are high when you pay off your credit card debt in monthly installments. That’s why we recommend to pay off the whole amount at the end of each month. 

How can I best transfer money from abroad to a Peruvian bank account?

International bank transfers (wire transfers) are always possible but expensive. We recommend opening an account with which can easily be done online. Wise allows you to activate bank accounts in Euro (Belgian IBAN), British pounds and US dollars and transfer money to dozens of countries around the world, including Peru. Wise works with a peer system which makes transfers much cheaper. It means that the money is not transferred directly from your European or US bank account to Peru but they use a Peruvian account to transfer your money. As a result, you pay only about half of the costs of a wire transfer and the money normally arrives within 1-2 business days. Please note that it’s currently not possible to transfer money from Peru to another country with Wise. Update: After June 28, 2021, Wise no longer offers the possibility to transfer Peruvian Soles. However, it’s still possible to transfer dollars to your Peruvian dollar account although the fees will be higher and the transaction will take a bit longer. 

Can I connect my PayPal account with my Peruvian bank account?

Until 2020, the only Peruvian bank working with PayPal was Interbank but this has changed recently. Now you can also connect BCP, BBVA and Scotiabank accounts with PayPal. Unfortunately, all Peruvian banks charge pretty high fees for transferences from PayPal to your Peruvian bank account so unless all your income comes in through PayPal, we recommend using your PayPal funds to pay for products and services. For example, Airbnb excepts payment by PayPal and also some airlines, such as SKY. 

How do transfers between two Peruvian banks work?

If you want to transfer money to a person who has their bank account at the same bank, you just need the account number which consists of 10 digits. However, if you need to transfer money from BCP to Scotiabank, for example, you need the so-called CCI. It consists of 20 digits including your account number and an identification for the bank. If you’re European, you know that the IBAN’s are like that, too.

Sometimes, a person will just give you their bank account number and may not know their CCI. In that case, just type “CCI + name of bank” and you will get to a page of the respective bank which will allow you to type in the account number and it will be converted to CCI. 

Sometimes, fees apply when transferring money between two different Peruvian banks. They’re not huge but a reason why Peruvian businesses often have bank accounts at various banks. 

What do I do when my Peruvian debit card expires?

Depending on the bank, debit cards are valid for two, three or four years. Once it expires, you can request a new one everywhere in Peru, it is not necessary to go to the branch where you  opened your bank account. 
As a rule, you as the account holder have to go to the bank and identify yourself with the document the bank has in their system. Take the expired card with you or give them the number of your savings account. Unlike in other countries, a new card is not automatically sent to your home address shortly before your current one expires. 

What do I do when I lose my debit card or when it gets stolen?

When you lose your debit card, you need to block it immediately. This can easily be done using your online banking or mobile phone app or by calling the customer service of your bank. This is helpful when something happens to your card at night or during the weekend or when you’re outside Peru. However, you will need to go to a branch of your bank to get a new debit card as we explained in the previous paragraph. 

If your debit card was stolen, you should file a police report to avoid that you’re held responsible should your data be used for illegal actions. 

What else do I need to know about banks and banking in Peru?

  1. Peruvian debit cards are not personalized which means that your name is not written on the card.
  2. You can choose your PIN yourself. When you open your bank account or get a new debit card, the bank employee will instruct you how to do it if you’re not familiar with the process. 
  3. When you have a free account (most personal accounts are free), the bank won’t send you any information by regular mail but rather by email (if at all), so make sure that the bank always has your correct email address. 
  4. Statements of your bank account can normally be accessed and downloaded for the previous three months through your online banking. 
  5. Don’t expect bank employees to speak English. If your Spanish is not good enough, take someone with you who can translate. 

Still have doubts or questions about banking in Peru or do you need personalized information about how to become a resident in Peru?