Back Up All Your Data Before You Move to Mexico

Back Up All Your Data Before You Move to Mexico

Now that you’ve put all your important pieces of paper online, think (and more importantly, feel) what it would be like to lose it all.  Maybe you drop your computer, or someone steals it, it’s lost in a fire, or the hard drive crashes unexpectedly, right in the middle of you using it.  Feel your frustration, your anger and your fear.  All that data, all those pictures, all those personal papers, completely lost forever.  That’s nothing you can do about it.  Nothing.  All gone.  You’re devastated as you try to figure out your next move, but there really isn’t one.

Let those emotions set in and wait a moment before you read the next paragraph.

Now, feel the relief you have because you know that you backed up everything in the cloud.  Between the two feelings, this one is better, isn’t it?

I use Dropbox to continuously back up my computer, but there are plenty of other backup services that do pretty much the same thing.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to back up your entire computer to a cloud-based service, so that, if the worse happens, you can just download your saved items onto your new or repaired computer with nothing lost.  If you don’t know how to do this, ask someone who does, and please get it done.

  • Buy a service like Dropbox for your computer and install it.
  • Back up all your files.
  • Ask a knowledgeable friend to look at what you did to make sure you really did back up all your files and that they can be restored elsewhere. 

Before You Leave for Mexico, Visit Your Doctor, Dentist, and Maybe Your Auto Mechanic

Before You Leave for Mexico, Visit Your Doctor, Dentist, and Maybe Your Auto mechanic

Whenever you move to a new place NOB (“North of the Border”; the US and Canada), you establish new service providers, and none are more important than your doctor and dentist.  Sometimes, this takes a while and sometimes, there’s an emergency before you’ve done it.  As with so many other considerations about your move, moving to Mexico is just like that, only more so.

Just before you leave the US or Canada, you may want to have that final checkup at your NOB doctor’s office and final dental cleaning at your NOB dentist, just so you don’t need a root canal while en route to your new home in Mexico or soon thereafter and have to start asking people for recommendations to the local endodontist, all while you’ve got this throbbing pain in your head.  Like so much other preparation, this problem probably won’t happen, but if it does and you’ve planned ahead, it won’t be a big deal.

While you’re visiting your NOB doctor or dentist, please let them know you’re moving to Mexico and ask them for all the documentation and records they have that would be useful to your new doctor or dentist, including your list of any allergies.  These records belong to you and NOB doctors and dentists are usually very happy to provide them.

While you’re there, ask for a list of medications you take on an ongoing basis.  Then, check to make sure you have enough for an extended period of time (well after you arrive in Mexico) and that you can get your medications in Mexico.  If you don’t have enough, have your doctor write a prescription so that you do.

And while we’re on the subject of preventive maintenance, if you’re planning on driving your car into Mexico, have that NOB 108-point check enough beforehand so that, if they find something, you can have it fixed before you leave, rather than on the side of the road in Mexico next to a bemused goat in a corn field between two towns whose names you can’t pronounce.

  • Make an appointment to visit all your medical doctors.  Tell them the reason for your visit and ask them to have all your medical records and a list of medications available for you.
  • Visit your doctor.  If necessary, ask your doctor to prescribe enough medications for you to last at least several months after you arrive in Mexico.
  • Take with you your paper medical records and list of medications and then scan them into your computer(see above).
  • Do the same for your dentist.
  • A month before you’re ready to leave, have your car checked and consider getting new tires.

What Should I Bring With Me When I Move to Mexico?

Things You Can't Get in Mexico and Should Bring to Mexico

What Should I Bring With Me When I Move to Mexico?

Jet Metier walking to WalMart in MexicoWhat should you bring with you when you move to Mexico?

The short answer is: “It depends”. 

The longer answer is: It depends on:

  1. Where you will be living in Mexico.
  2. How comfortable you are with ordering products online.
  3. How attached you are to your furniture and other items/keepsakes.
  4. How important your home country branded products are to you.
  5. Things you may not easily find in Mexico.

Where you will be living in Mexico.

If you will be living within a short (1+/- hour) drive to a larger city, then you’ll most likely have a wide variety of shopping options. Anything you can buy at these stores, you won’t need to bring with you. 

Although you should know that any and all products shipped from the U.S. or Canada to stores in Mexico are subject to additional customs duties and a 16% IVA (Sales Tax) when they cross the border into Mexico. These additional fees and taxes will increase the retail prices of these products in Mexico.

General Merchandise:

Costco: 34 stores in 18 Mexican states Sam’s Club: 88 stores in 29 Mexican states

Walmart: 72 stores in 28 Mexican states Home Depot: 74 stores in 24 Mexican states

Best Buy: 10 stores in 5 Mexican states

Major Grocery Stores:

Soriana: 824 stores Chedraui: 138 stores Mega: 30 stores

How comfortable you are with ordering products online. 

If you’re comfortable with ordering products online, then you’ll have several good options when you’re in Mexico.

amazon.com ships many different products directly to Mexico from the U.S. (although you will still pay the customs duties and Mexican sales tax on these products). 

amazon.com.mx offers many (but certainly not all) of the same products available on its U.S. website. Most of these products are stocked and shipped directly from Amazon MX to your home in Mexico, which makes the shipping time shorter than ordering from the Amazon US website. 

You can also order directly from costco.com.mx just like you do in your home country. 

You will be surprised by how many dozens of online retailers in the U.S. will ship directly to Mexico and/or have a Mexican website that you can order from directly. 

There is also mercadolibre.com.mx which is like a Mexican version of Amazon. 

How attached you are to your furniture and other items/keepsakes.

There are many high quality, but affordable, furniture stores all across Mexico – from tables and chairs to sofas, desks, cabinets, etc. And, of course, there are always custom furniture makers in most mid-to-large cities and towns who can make you exactly what you want at very reasonable prices. 

But, if you have new furniture, or just furniture that you love and want to bring with you, that’s ok too. Maybe you have a favorite “easy chair” or a favorite bedroom suite that you just can’t part with. Or maybe you want to bring items that have sentimental value like family heirlooms (furniture, artwork, quilts, sculptures, etc.) that mean a lot to you. That’s ok too. 

Just remember that you may be moving to a location in Mexico that may have a very different climate than where you live now. This new climate may not be “friendly” to the furniture and other things you want to bring with you. For example, living on a coast in Mexico where the climate is hot and humid for many months of the year could damage your current furniture. The heat and humidity can often warp or crack furniture made of wood. The salty ocean air rusts and corrodes everything made of metal – including your outdoor patio furniture, as well as the electrical wiring in your house and your vehicle, metal doors and window frames, light fixtures, kitchen appliances and even your computer and other electronic devices. Just be sure that what you’re bringing with you will be “climate friendly” where you will be living in Mexico.

How important your home country branded products are to you.

Ok, you may not easily find Vegemite or Poutine at your local grocery store or restaurant, but if finding branded products from your home country is important to you, then you do have some very good options IF you live near a large city in Mexico. But, they WILL be more expensive than what you’re used to paying in your home country (due to shipping costs, duties and Mexican sales tax). 

For example, there are U.S.-equivalent shopping malls throughout Mexico where you will find popular U.S. and worldwide brands. In Guadalajara (Mexico’s 2nd largest city), you find just about everything you’ll ever want in these 2 shopping malls. 

There are also popular restaurants at these malls:

Applebee’s, Chili’s, McDonalds, Outback, P.F. Changs, Dairy Queen, Denny’s, Cheesecake Factory, Hooters, Carl’s Jr., Krispy Kreme

And there are similar upscale shopping malls throughout Mexico, including: Cancun, Tulum, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City and many more.

Things you may not easily find in Mexico.

If you’re a woman with a shoe size larger than an 8 or a man with a shoe size larger than a 10, then you will most likely have a problem finding shoes/sandals/boots in your size locally. 

If you wear large or tall clothing, then you will most likely have a problem finding clothes in your size locally.

If you like down pillows, 600+ thread count all-cotton sheets, soft/fluffy all-cotton towels or a soft mattress (Mexican mattresses are available in either “hard” or “rock hard”), then you will most likely have a problem finding this type of bedding locally. 

If you have countertop kitchen appliances (mixers, blenders, crock pots, steamers, bread makers, etc), that you love, then you’ll probably want to bring them with you. You will most likely have a problem finding these types of kitchen appliances locally. 

If you have favorite pots & pans and cutlery that you love, then you’ll probably want to bring them with you. You will most likely have a problem finding these types of cooking utensils locally. 

You will also want to bring your computers/laptops, tablets and mobile phones with you. Finding U.S.  brands of these products is possible, but more expensive in Mexico due to additional shipping costs, duties and taxes associated with importing these products into Mexico. Also know that computers available for sale at retail stores in Mexico will have Spanish operating systems and Spanish language keyboards (with ñ, á, upside down ? and ! keys, for example). 

The best advice on what to bring with you to Mexico is to just ask Chuck at Best Mexico Movers. He’s seen and done it all and can give you the best advice based on his own and his clients’ experiences. 

—  Lee Steele, Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico

Before You Leave for Mexico, Get Up-To-Date

Before You Leave for Mexico, Get Up-To-Date

Check the expiration dates on everything, including your:

  • Passport
  • Driver’s license
  • Credit cards
  • Debit cards

Then consider where it would be easier to renew any of these items– when you are NOB (“North of the Border”; the US and Canada) or when you’re a newbie in Mexico.  Relative to credit and debit cards, it can be extremely difficult or close to impossible to get your company to send you a new card in Mexico.  Just get items renewed early and this will be yet one more problem you will not have.

  • Check the expiration dates on all the items listed above.
  • Renew anything now, before you leave, that is due to expire any time soon.

Mark Rochon and Lisa Beeman Rochon

Please join us in welcoming two of Lakeside’s newest residents: Mark Rochon and Lisa Beeman Rochon. Please say “hi” when you see them around town. Here’s Mark’s and Lisa’s story…

Where did you move from?

We moved from Martinez, California, which is in the east San Francisco Bay area. Martinez is a historic little town with several claims to fame. It’s where the martini was invented, the birthplace of Joe DiMaggio, and has the home of John Muir.

Where did you move to?

San Antonio Tlayacapan, which is between Ajijic and Chapala.

What work did you do in Martinez?

Lisa: I was an elementary school teacher. I taught 1st grade in a mostly lower-income, English Learner community.

Mark: I worked as a manager in computer information technology, mostly in retail systems, where, among other things, my degree in accounting came in handy.

What was it about the Lake Chapala area that caused you to want to move here?

Both: We had been coming to Mexico for years, sometimes many times in a year. We like to plan, so our 10-year plan was to move to Puerto Vallarta. Then, a few years ago, we were in Puerto Vallarta and started to notice things. For example, it was January, and it was still quite warm. This prompted us to reconsider the climate we would be comfortable in. Also, Puerto Vallarta was touristy, and it was fairly expensive. It’s a lot different when you consider living in a place as opposed to being a tourist.

So, we started researching the Lake Chapala area. That summer we came to visit for the first time. We stayed in Ajijic at Nueva Posada. We used Facebook a lot, first to connect with people online and then, to meet them in person, in real life, right here at Lakeside. Lots of people were willing to meet with us. It was great. We were charmed enough to take our 10-year plan down to five years. We’ve been back to visit several times since and loved it more every time.

Mark: In January of 2018, I got “downsized,” which altered our thinking a bit. I decided I was retired, not unemployed. It was time to take out the spreadsheets again and plan our retirement. The five-year plan became the year-and-a-half plan.

What are your plans here over the next few years?

Mark: My plan is to see what I become when I don’t have to go to work.
Lisa: We don’t really have plans, but we do have lots of ideas. We’re relatively young to retire, so hopefully we have a lot of time to find out who we are when we don’t have to work. We don’t plan to “reinvent ourselves”, so much as enjoy a second young-adulthood.

What are you most looking forward to doing at your new home here at Lake Chapala?

Lisa: Traveling and discovering more of Mexico, not as a tourist but as a resident here. It is much less expensive to travel when you start within the country. Also, we want to do what we couldn’t before, due to my teaching schedule– travel at times when everyone else isn’t.

What do you wish you knew “then” that you know “now”?

Mark: Not much, because we did so much research ahead of time. We are in awe, though, that all our plans worked.

Lisa: If we had to pick one thing that we’re glad that we did NOT know, it would be that our house would sell for much less than we had planned. If we had known that, we might not have had the courage to make the move, and that would have been a mistake. We’re so happy we did it and we’re here!

What are you most passionate about?

Mark: Having new experiences.

Lisa: I’m passionate about teaching. It’s not just a job; it’s a calling. I’m not done working with children… I’m just done getting paid for it.

What advice do you have for anyone moving here?

Lisa: Do your research.

Mark: We did extensive research on Facebook and any other place we could find. Then, my advice is to come down and visit, but not just one area, all different areas.

Lisa: Understand that you are moving to MEXICO, with all that that statement means. Don’t just move here because it is cheap. We love Mexico; the people, the food, the music, the joie de vivre. But understand that you are moving to another country—things aren’t going to be like they were North of the Border.

Mark: Come for the adventure. Work to speak the language. Duolingo is good for that. Right now, I can get by, but I’m working on getting better.

What was your biggest misconception about Mexico?
Both: We had very few misconceptions, because we did our research and travelled in Mexico a lot before we moved.

Lisa: An example of a misconception that many people might have is that it is dangerous here, that if you go one block past the tourist areas, it’s a terrible place. The truth is that one block past the tourist areas, or two blocks, or more, are just ordinary people, living their lives.

What hobbies and other activities do you plan to do here?

Mark: I plan to do more music. I play the guitar and the mandolin. I’d like to do all the things I’ve dabbled in in the past but didn’t have the time to do more of; to re-kindle many of my interests. For example, I love to read and to do art—drawing and painting. Also, I do card tricks. I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, where I was on the Mother Moose television show once a week. My younger brother thought I was a star.

Lisa: I’d like to take ceramic classes. I’d also like to read, garden, cook, paint, and take welding classes. I guess I have some wide interests.

What’s the first thing you did after you put away your household goods?

Lisa: We still haven’t put everything away! My mom will be visiting soon, and we do plan on exploring the Guadalajara area more.

What was the most stressful part about moving to San Antonio?

Both: Driving here with six cats.

Lisa: Driving here with the cats was a little terrible, but now, it’s done. That’s how it’s worked for us– we had a plan, we knew it wouldn’t be great, but now, it’s over.

The hardest part was saying our goodbyes, including selling our house with all its memories. It was very emotional. We had great lives and a great house. But if we stayed in Northern California, we would have had to work until we died, so we changed our plan. We have no regrets, but it was not easy.

Mark: There are so many details: like banking, phones, moving the cats, etc. I had 137 to-do items on four lists. But it all worked out.

Both: It was also stressful that we had not sold our house when we left, but it’s finally closed now.

What were you most happily surprised by about moving to the Lake Chapala area?

Both: That it worked! We’re here!! It still feels like a dream.

Also, it’s nice to be able to communicate with our family and friends in the US remotely just the same way we did when we lived in California.

Is there anything you would like to ask from the community?

Lisa: Where’s the recycling in San Antonio?

What would you say about fitting in here at Lakeside?

Mark: Living here at Lakeside is socially like just entering college or high school. The people here are so open to having new friends.

Both: When we were in California, we just had our work friends and our family, but not much else, because we didn’t have the time for it. Already, we have more friends here than we had north of the border. That’s really nice.

Allan Gonce, Craig Steven Gonce, Judy Gonce-Chilton

Please join us in welcoming three new Ajijic residents: Allan Gonce and Craig Steven Gonce, and Allan’s mother, Judy Gonce-Chilton, through a story written by Jet Metier. Jet was invited to visit with the three newcomers at their beautiful home in Ajijic. 

There, after a tour of their lovely home, Jet had a delightful time with Allan, Craig and Judy on their expansive veranda with a gorgeous view of Lake Chapala while learning more about what brought them to set up their household in this corner of Mexico and where they had discovered their forever home.

A Home That Was Meant to Be

Their trip from the US to their new home in Ajijic had not been going well. In the US, Craig had been given grief by airline personnel about how his bag was 20 pounds overweight, and now, as they were about to deboard in Guadalajara, Allan worried about Judy and how the travel and overall stress would affect her heart problems. They had their two dogs with them, both of which were slightly loopy from the mild doggie downers the vet had given them to make them at ease during their experience in the plane’s passenger section, Judy was in a wheelchair and they had a massive amount of luggage. The three humans and two canines were a long way from their colonial-style home in Franklin, Tennessee, as they were now moving to Ajijic, after considering only one home to purchase, on the second day of their initial visit, and making the decision in one day.

Judy is a Senior Olympian, who has competed in shooting events, badminton, horseshoes and table tennis. But one of the greatest accomplishments her family is most proud of is that she introduced the art of iris paper folding to the senior center in which she was a volunteer to make greeting cards. These greeting cards, cut and folded to create a three-dimensional circle, like an eye in the design, sold for $3 each and over eight years earned her group, the “Card Crusaders” $70,000 to $80,000 that were donated to the maintenance of their senior center. Their clients included the Nashville zoo, the airport and Merrill Lynch.

The first time I showed the ladies how to do it,” Judy recalls, “they stayed all day. Some of those ladies said that being involved and making these cards literally saved their lives. Otherwise, they had no place to go and they had nothing to do.”

Allan and Craig have been together 16 years and have been married since 2012. Craig took Allan’s last name so that there wouldn’t have been confusion for their son who was in grade school. Allan had a career in purchasing, working for large corporations and Craig was an implementation manger after retiring as an airline steward. Together they had a moving company and owned restaurants.

For years, Allan and Craig had been coming down to Nayarit, to the town of San Francisco, nicknamed “San Pancho,” to attend an international music festival in February. There, a group of friends and friends of friends, some of whom Craig has known since his high school days in Rockford, Illinois, would rent a big house, as Craig says, “mostly for camaraderie and relationships. Some of them were very avid about Mexico.” Allan and Craig even tried to buy a home in San Pancho, but someone else purchased it just hours before they planned to make their offer.

We were going to retire and be the Golden Girls living down in Mexico,” quipped Craig.

Later, their friend John, identified lovingly by Allan and Craig as “their ringleader,” told them that he had researched Ajijic’s glorious weather and large gay population, and recommended a visit. Thus influenced, Allan and Craig came down two days ahead of their next annual beach foray to see if it were true.

Allan and Craig checked into the Hotel Lindo Ajijic to research the area. While there, they couldn’t help but notice the sign for the open house right next door. Curious but guarded, Allan warned his husband not to get too excited because they probably could not afford it. The house had a lovely pool and gardens, rooms enough for all three of them and guests. There was a mirador with a view of the lake and what they were to learn later, a great neighborhood with very friendly and helpful neighbors. The more they saw the more they loved it and it was what they both wanted. They told their real estate agent, who had planned to show them three other houses, to cancel the other visits. They had already found the place that was right for them.

That night they sent Judy pictures and were especially excited to show her the dedicated light and airy artist studio that would be hers. They told her the price, which was less than what she expected for such a lovely house, and she said just two words: “Buy it.”

For the flight, their biggest worry was about their dogs, Bella and Beau. Traveling into Mexico would be a first for them. The trio decided that they would buy a ticket for Beau and he would have his own seat in the passenger section, serving as Judy’s comfort animal. Their plan was to have Bella ride with them onboard the plane in a carrier under the seat in front of them. Craig worked with Bella for weeks beforehand being inside the carrier and being carried by him. In order to make the dogs more comfortable, including avoiding layovers, the trio drove all the way to the airport in Atlanta, so it would only be a three-hour trip to Guadalajara. In Atlanta, the person at the Delta Pet Desk was very helpful and even directed them to the pet lounge, where the dogs could relieve themselves and if their owners had the inclination, even have a shower.

At the Guadalajara airport, it was late at night and they were the last passengers to get to customs because they had taken so long to get all their luggage collected, the dogs set up, and push Judy in the wheelchair, etc. They thought they made quite a spectacle. Their last step was to press the button that, if it indicated red, would mean a protracted and thorough search of their luggage and other belongings. If it flashed green, they would be free to go immediately. The trio had a very strong feeling the customs personnel were rooting for them as much as they were to get the green button.

They pressed the button. The light showed green. Everyone rejoiced, including, they believed, the customs officials, but in secret.

According to the group, “We had been talking about this move since February of this year. We said that after everything was unpacked, all the headache, the drama, all the trepidation, the good and the bad was behind us, we would crack open a bottle of champagne to celebrate that we had arrived.”

And they did; from the little liquor store down the street.

Their only regrets are that they should have brought more. Judy wishes that her paintings had come with her. And all of them wish they had brought more clothes and blankets for the cool weather they were not expecting.

It has been three weeks since they have been enjoying their stylish modern Mexican home. The previous owner had renovated it and the trio were the beneficiaries of her skill and care. There are lots of levels and rooms with different dedications, all beautifully done. The doors to Judy’s artist studio with the commodious fridge are flung open. The rental car sits in their beautifully tiled garage. Even Bella and Beau have a small room for their doggie accoutrements. Allan’s loom is in place in the bedroom and so is the painting of their former home, a colonial with a white picket fence. Lined up in their “three-butt kitchen (according to Allan, a kitchen that is large enough to accommodate three people)”, Allan has his cookbooks, from he is committed to apply himself to expand and hone his culinary skills. The dogs lounge around the terrace, in the patio next to the two-bedroom casita and take walks with Craig around the neighborhood.

Craig has vowed to learn the Spanish language, make new friends, teach the dogs to swim and take care of his family. They all look forward to joining the neighborhood for their regular get-togethers at each other’s homes. They still marvel they have been able to dine alfresco all the time and there are so many restaurants from which to choose. Craig has a plan to organize the homeowners on the street to have their electric wires dug underground. He does wish that everyone would leash their dogs and clean up after them.

They had tripped up twice during their move. Once was that they hadn’t had their papers stamped correctly when entering Mexico to start their new lives, so they had to find and lawyer to make the corrections. They had gone through all the trouble of getting their permanente papers and had not noticed that the officials had mistakenly given them a tourist stamp.

The other was a mishap that could have been much more serious. After they had agreed to purchase the house, they had to come back to Ajijic and pay for it. But on the trip down, they had discovered that Judy had left her carry-on luggage in the car in Tennessee and in it were various subscription drugs and cosmetics, all of which she was afraid she would not be able to replace immediately in Ajijic.

In my carry-on bag, I had my medication, all my jewelry, all my makeup,” said Judy.

I had no lipstick, no nothing. The Walmart in Tennessee is extensive, but at the Walmart here at Lakeside, it’s different. Here, you go into this little space and you choose from whatever limited selection they have, and then you have to pay for it in that section before you can leave to go the rest of the store.”

But more important than the limited selection of make-up, they worried about replacing Judy’s blood pressure medication, which could be serious. Judy, however, took a fatalistic attitude. ‘If I live, I live. If I die, I die,” she said.

Their ingenious solution was to contact their back-alley neighbor in Tennessee, who went into their house and took pictures of Judy’s larger set of medication in her home. They showed the pictures of the medication to the person at the local Ajijic farmacia, who said the Spanish equivalent of, “Yeah, we got that.”

It was so wonderful to get those prescriptions,” Judy said. “It was God- driven. If that would not have happened, I would not have known that I could have gotten my prescriptions here. Everything that we did went according to what I prayed upon. When we first talked about moving here, I prayed, ‘Should we do this Lord? If we should, just open the door. Let it happen. If it is not, just shut that door and lock it.’

Every obstacle we had we overcame easily. We worried about the permanente. We worried about the move. Getting the mover. Just everything. Every door just opened. Then when I forgot my prescriptions. I thought, ‘Well, I live or die.’ But when we got here, what a burden it lifted that I could easily get them. God opened another door.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Using Credit Cards in Mexico

Using Credit Cards in Mexico

A “foreign transaction fee” is the amount your card will charge you in order to exchange the pesos you used the card for to make a purchase in Mexico into the dollars your credit card company uses to charge you on your account.  Please check to see that any credit card you will use in Mexico has a zero foreign transaction fee.

Next, make sure that whatever credit cards you have utilize a good exchange rate from Mexican pesos.  Some are much better than others, and this can really add up.  For example, if you buy something in Mexico for 2,000 pesos and your credit card company exchanges your USD dollars at a rate of 20 to one, that 2,000-peso purchase will cost you USD $100.  However, if your credit card company exchanges your pesos for dollars at the rate of 22 to one, you’ll only pay $90.91 for your 2,000-peso purchase.  If your credit card company uses the 22 to one rate, it’s like getting a 9% discount on all your credit card purchases just for being smart enough to use the right credit card!

Also please check to make sure that your credit card will work in Mexico for an extended period of time.  Some cards do this without any intervention needed on your part while some make you indicate that you are on vacation every 90 days or so.  If you don’t know which policy your credit card company uses, it’s a good idea to call them to find out.  You don’t want to discover how they will react on day 91 while you’re standing in the checkout counter at your grocery store in Mexico with all your groceries bagged and six people behind you when your card is declined, the ice cream is melting, and those people behind you in line all wondering what would cause your card to be declined.

  • For each credit card you have, check the foreign transaction fee and exchange rate.
  • If you are not happy with any of your existing cards, apply for a new one that’s better.
  • Make sure that you have replicates of each card, for yourself, and if you’re moving with someone else, for that person, too.
  • Find out what the rules are for each card for using it outside the US and make sure you comply with those rules.

Using ATMs in Mexico

Using ATMs in Mexico

Lots of people who live in Mexico don’t have a Mexican bank account.  Instead, they pay everything via cash or credit card and for larger purchases, via PayPal, wire transfers or ACH (which is like a bank transfer, but generally much less expensive and faster).  When they want pesos, they use their debit card at a Mexican ATM machine.

Which card you use can make a very big difference.  Consider these features:

Exchange rate.  Like above, the exchange rate can matter a lot.  Find out which exchange rate your debit card uses.  The Capital One card I use exchanges dollars from my US account to pesos at the ATM I stand at in Mexico at using pretty much the same rate as I see on the Internet.  (I checked.)  I’m sure there are other cards like mine, but there are lots of other cards that are not and use a terrible exchange rate, like the card I used to use.  Here’s a bonus tip: when you’re standing in front of the ATM in Mexico and it asks you if you accept the exchange rate, choose “Decline.”  Doing so will cause the ATM to use your financial institution’s rate, which is usually LOTS better.  On a recent withdrawal, this saved me about USD $30.

How much the Mexican ATM machine charges for each withdrawal.  When I use my Capital One card at CI Banco, they charge me less than 18 pesos per withdrawal, which is less than one US dollar. I can definitely live with that.  There are many (like that other card in my wallet) that charge a lot more.  I have been told that some cards charge even less, so that whatever fees the bank ATM in Mexico charged, that US bank removes entirely.

How much you can withdraw at one time With some cards, you can only withdraw 3,000 pesos at one time.  With others (like my favorite), you can take 10,000 pesos at one time.

Check the deal for your card and if you need another one, get it well before you leave the US or Canada.

After putting this into practice for ATM cards (and credit cards, too, above), what would you do if one expired and it didn’t work any longer, or one got stolen, or you lost it, or the magnetic strip just stopped working?  You’re not in the US or Canada any more, so you would have to do without your card for probably quite some time.  Maybe that means you can’t get cash or you can’t charge on your credit card.  Not a good plan. The easiest way to get around this is to have at least two ATM cards from different banking institutions and if you have a partner like I do, get separate cards for your wife or husband.  That way, you’re covered in two directions.

This brings me to an overall recommendation.  Like with so many other things in life (and especially in Mexico), it’s always good to have backups.  Just like in the moving business, when living in Mexico, I always think, “What could go wrong?”  Then, I plan for it, so if things do go wrong, I don’t get too upset, because I have a Plan B and many times, a Plan C. This easy way of advance planning and life in general will reduce your related stress and anxiety and the actions needed if things go wrong, to close to zero.  Then, you can just enjoy yourself.

  • For each card, check the exchange rate, transaction fee and withdrawal limit. If you’re not happy with any of them, establish a relationship with a different bank that offers a better deal.
  • Just like with your credit cards (above), make sure that you have replicates of each card, for yourself, and if you’re moving with someone else, for that person, too

Making Bank Transfers in Mexico

Making Bank Transfers in Mexico

It won’t be all that unusual for you to want to transfer from US or Canadian dollars to Mexican pesos, perhaps to pay someone more money in Mexico than you have in cash.  Also, if you decide to get a Mexican bank account, you’ll also have to fund it.  If you do this through a bank-to-bank transfer, you can do it through your bank, or alternatively, you can try the service I use, along with lots of other expats: Transferwise.

I like Transferwise for several reasons, including that you can make transfers to pretty much any currency in the world, the exchange rate is very close to what you see on the Internet, and their fees are very low, compared to typical banks.  Their customer service has been good, and once you get the hang of it, it is extremely easy to use.  Setting up an account, even for future use, is free.  If you set up a Transferwise account now and link to one or more accounts where your money is kept NOB (“North of the Border”; the US and Canada), you won’t have to do it later.

  • Find out your bank’s policies and how much they charge to do a transfer from dollars to pesos.
  • If you don’t like your bank’s policies or fees or if you would just like an alternative (always recommended), set up a free account at transferwise.com or some similar company.

Using a Password Manager in Mexico

Using a Password Manager in Mexico

Not many people are diligent about their passwords.  Maybe you’re one of them.  Do you ever use the same password for two different sites?  Do you have your passwords written down somewhere in hard copy or in a cleverly named Word document?  Do you use “strong passwords” that would be impossible to guess (even more so than your date of birth, the date you were married or your dog’s name)?  Are you aware of “phishing”, whereby you think you’re on a legitimate company’s website like Amazon but you’re really not and you use your real password to try to enter the phony site, thereby handing over your password and all the information in your Amazon account to cybercriminals?  (That’s exactly what I did quite a while ago.)

For these and other reasons, you should get a password manager, especially now that you have pretty much everything online.  (See above.  You did put pretty much everything online, didn’t you?) The one I use is Dashlane, which I recommend highly.  It’s not expensive, it’s a great productivity tool, and it’s an excellent way to create and manage passwords.  I’m sure there are others that are very good as well.  You really should get one of them.

  • Do the research to decide which password manager you prefer.
  • Install your password manager on your computer.
  • Follow the directions to completely set up your password manager, including changing your weak passwords into strong passwords and never using the same password twice.