Banking in Puerto Rico
Opening a bank account in Puerto Rico is one of this first hurdles many encounter when they move here. Longtime residents are accustomed to banks in Puerto Rico but still find opening a business bank account to be a process. This post will help with that process and provides information on the banks available on the island.
If you are moving to Puerto Rico, you may be able to keep your current accounts if there are branches on the island. However, it may be time to switch banks if there isn’t a branch near you or if you are applying for Act 20 and Act 22 tax benefits. Opening a bank account in Puerto Rico shows closer connection and is generally advised when you establish residency.
Banks in Puerto Rico are part of the U.S. banking system with few differences in tax laws. Under federal law, all financial institutions including banks in Puerto Rico are required to obtain, peruse and register the personal details of all those looking to open a bank account on the island.
Do I need a Social Security Number?
The problem many encounter is that many of the people working in Puerto Rico’s banks are lacking in experience. For example, you are NOT required to present a Social Security Number (SSN) in order to open an account. However, many banks require one, not knowing that it isn’t required.
The confusion is due to the fact that residents of Puerto Rico DO NOT need to file a federal tax return. The IRS has a definition of a “Bona fide Puerto Rico resident.” A temporary resident may not qualify as a bonafide resident of the island. If you are not a bonafide resident, you must file a federal return–this is so people don’t move their savings from NY (or anywhere else) to PR to avoid reporting the income.
Thus: If you are a permanent resident then you should have an SSN and none of the previous applies. You will be able to open accounts and apply for credit in PR.
If you don’t qualify to have an SSN and are a temporary resident who does not meet the definition of bonafide resident, you will have to go to the San Juan area to a bank who can open an account with a Tax ID (TIN) instead of a SSN. Will need to report the earned income from interest bearing accounts but will not be able to apply for credit.
Here is a list of requirements for opening a bank account in Puerto Rico:
- You are required to provide two forms of ID & proof of address in PR (utility bill) and personal details
- Personal details include but are not limited to your full name, place of residence, date of birth, marital status, occupation and signature
- There may be a minimum deposit needed to open the account
- If you are opening an interest bearing account and you do not have a SSN or Tax ID then you will complete a W8-BEN form which the bank will send to the IRS and you will be issued a TIN (tax ID) so that you may report earned interest income with your tax returns
Banking in PR
The list of banks in PR is rather extensive, but Banco Popular is the largest consumer bank on the island, having gobbled up many of the smaller banks over the last several years. It is a great choice as it has the most branches and ATH machines. However, there may be a hold on US checks, sometimes as long as a week and a half so it is best to prepare accordingly.
PR is much more cash-oriented than the US; hence the greater demand for it. Some bank’s ATMs (ATH here) will run out of cash during the weekend. You can usually get by with a Visa credit card, but have identification, phone number, and/or driver’s license number.
If you plan of doing a lot off bank wire transfers, you may encounter a few difficulties. Some branches require you to submit a wire transfer in person, have an extra safety precaution, a hefty fee, and there are often unnecessary holds and delays. Make sure you ask about wire transfers and how the branch handles them BEFORE opening an account to avoid headaches.
Opening a Business Bank Account
In order to open a business banking account in Puerto Rico, you will need the following documents (may vary):
f you can send me in advance the following documents we can start our internal process for the account opening:
- Certificate of Incorporation issued by the Department of State
- Merchant’s Registry – issued by the Department of Treasury (Hacienda)
- Articles of Incorporation or By-Laws
- Identifications for all signers (license and passport), social security numbers and corporate titles
- Evidence of taxpayer ID (Letter from IRS confirming the taxpayer ID number)
List of Puerto Rico Banks
Banco Popular – The largest PR Bank – Tourist zone branch in Condado: 787-725-4189
First BanCorp (First Bank) Dorado Branch – 787-278-1111
Oriental Financial Group – 787-620-0000
Smaller Puerto Rico Banks
Citibank- Condado Branch – 787-721-6416
Banco Santander Puerto Rico – 787-281-2000
Scotiabank – 787-766-4999