Before we moved, I reached out to two different expats and asked the same question, "how do you do your banking?" I got very different answers, one of them had an Ecuadorian bank account and had money from the States direct deposited into it, the other only had US bank accounts and saw no reason to get a local account, so this information led me to believe that either would be fine. We had six bank accounts, with four different banks at one point, surely one of those would be compatible with banks here in Ecuador...right? We recently (last week) opened a savings account with Banco Bolivariano, and now we wanted to get some of our money from the States closer to "home", turns out this is impossible! The best way would be to do bank transfers between banks, but Wells Fargo only allows such a thing if you go into a branch and sign up (I've called 3 times trying to get a sympathetic person on the line, no dice) Bank of America says they "don't have a relationship with Ecuador" and Ally doesn't do anything Internationally.
We've looked into Western Union, on their website it says one can use their US bank account to send money, either to another bank account, or to a Western Union location for pick up- don't believe this! It doesn't really appear to be an option, I actually called a customer service rep and she said we couldn't do it because we were overseas, but my mom tried from the States, and was told it wasn't an option either, so I don't know what the deal is. The only way we can get Western Union is if someone took cash to an agent, who wants to do that? We, on this side don't really want to be walking around with cash either, but we are not going to have a choice.
Bottom line if you plan to move to Ecuador (or anywhere) go into a branch of your bank and tell them, ask what forms you may need to fill out before you go, wire transfers is a biggee, not to mention upping your debit card limit, so that when you need to pay your rent of $450 you don't spend two days at the ATM getting $100 out at a time, with $200 per day limit! (or heaven forbid you need $1000 for customs)
We owe a company called PacificLink $672 before they will release our container to Customs, we've been trying for over a week to pay them. They do not take credit cards, only cash at office (in Guayaquil), or deposit into their bank account. Finally what we have to do tomorrow, is go into PortoViejo, go to the ATM (with highest withdrawal limit) withdraw enough cash, then go to their bank and deposit it. The bank account we just opened, is with the same bank, but because we can't get our US banks to link with the new bank, this is our only option. People said it was a "cash society" but this was NOT what I expected. You have been warned!
The other "important to know", goes back to the container issue, I don't know how to tell you to pick a reputable company, I can tell you who NOT to use, from personal experience, but that's it. Someone recently reached out on Facebook, and of course I chimed in to give a word of caution, and give my suggestion of Catalina at http://www.ecuadorshipping.com/. She has been working some miracles for us. Catalina and Flor are Ecuadorian and all speak perfect English.
What the consensus was on the Facebook thread and also in our personal experience is to work with a company that is in your destination country. They are the only ones who will know the ins and outs of their particular customs regulations.
No matter where you decide to go, there will be things that go smoothly, and things that don't. I don't think one can be 100% researched on moving, the nature of moving suggests ups and downs, twists and turns, maybe even upside downs, but does that mean you never do it? I've tried to not live by "what ifs" for some time now, I'm trying not to think "woulda, coulda, shoulda" because that doesn't really help either, this is a learning experience (an expensive one), but an adventure all it's own. Probably at the end of this (and I hope there's an end to this) no one will have died, it will be an interesting story to tell, and make our quiet time all the more sweet.
We like this map, Mike has visited and lived on three continents and I've visited four, lived on two...for now. We are still hoping that living in Ecuador is in our future, but for now we are taking it one day at a time. It's a big world, we aren't afraid, and with everything new we try, we learn something; we probably won't be shipping any more containers, and we most certainly will do more banking research. Stay tuned, our amazing adventure continues!