Banco de Chile: Making Adults Feel like Imbeciles since 1893

Should you be so inclined to open a checking account at Banco de Chile any time in the near future, here’s what I learned today:
1) get a co-signer who makes a lot of money. Trust me, you’ll need it. Banco de Chile doesn’t really want you without any “economic history.” If they sit down with you otherwise, they’re clearly doing you a favor.
2) practice filling out applications. Go to the local Starbucks and McDonald’s and just load up on employment applications. Practice, practice, practice! It’s the only way you won’t mess up an 8-10 page application when the time comes.
3) draw rows and rows of boxes, about three inches wide by 1.5 inches tall. Sign inside each box WITHOUT letting your signature touch any of the lines. It’s harder than you think!!
4) Make sure your signature always matches the one on your official ID. If you’re a Smith, then be a Smith! Not a Gonali like me.

Banco de Chile – The Gestapo of Banks!


So Gonzalo came to pick me up at lunch today to take me to the bank so that we could open a joint checking account and so that I could also open a business account for my consulting gig. An important step in starting your new life in a different country. Access and mode of management for one’s minor duckets.

The cool thing about banks in Chile is that everyone has an account executive designated to you, your account and your money. You always have this person’s direct line, email address and whatever branch you open your account at, you have the option to make the person who opened the account your designated banker. In short, personalized attention in a way that is most often seen only in high net worth individual banking back at home.

Except the not so cool part about banks in Chile…all kinds of paperwork to fill out when opening the account. Though I think that I probably had more than the average amount due to the fact that not only was I opening TWO accounts, but that I have no “economic history” in Chile, therefore Gonzalo had to serve as my account’s “co-signer.” Yeah I said it: a co-signer. The same kind you need in order to buy a house, or a car or even rent an apt sometimes. You know, BIG stuff.

Quite contrary to what I’ve always known. In the U.S. anyone and everyone can open a checking account – it’s like a right of passage. You get your senior year high school yearbook, you get your checking account. Here it’s like applying for admission into MENSA; all kinds of hurdles to overcome, constantly having to provide examples of how utterly amazing you are and what an upstanding citizen you’ve been –> and THEN they tell you whether or not you are accepted. In fact, I don’t even know if I’ll get accepted for this said checking account but I very well hope so after all the crap I had to sign AND provide a thumbprint for!! Everything I signed, needed a thumbprint. Then they took pictures of us to send in with our paperwork!!

But wait – there’s more!

Gonzalo: “Why are we signing this insurance document without a price detailed on it?” [mind you I need insurance to get a credit card.]
AE: “You are signing an insurance document without a price detailed on it. Why? Because your credit limit can fluctuate between one point in time to the next.”
I kid you not, that’s how he spoke. He repeated the question, but first framed it as a statement, followed by “porque?” and then followed THAT with the answer.

Really? Is that how we talk in Banco de Chile? That’s how we talk in Banco de Chile. Why? Because they’re old school I guess.

The most stressful part of this whole process was actually FILLING OUT the paperwork. Not exaggerating – this was full on S.A.T. stylie. Adding to the pressure, you couldn’t make a mistake. Like, at all. I made ONE mistake, scratched it out and Gonzalo FREAKED out at me “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!!!!”

Apparently scratching ANYTHING out (or “altering” as the AE said) voids the entire application. Oooooookay. Start over, new application. If I were writing a Judy Blume book, this is how I would best describe what was going through my mind as I was RE-filling out the application…. “Are you there God? It’s me, Andrea. I’m really nervous, God, and feel like all I really need in this world to be totally happy is this one little checking account… so many other girls have one, God. When will it be MY turn? When? Please God, don’t let me mess this application up again …”

In the end, I made it through the application without any mistakes but I don’t recall having ever been so meticulous about writing since my 2nd grade cursive test. Those few pages took me about 30 minutes to fill out… maybe more. I’ll never know. I was too stressed out to consider the time.

So yeah, and then we had to sign more and more papers, all containing little signature boxes which weren’t allowed to have one millimeter of our signatures touching its lines. Gonzalo failed that and had to do it over. Apparently he has a really tall signature and he couldn’t contain it in the box. It’s hard stuff signing inside the box and not touching the lines. Banco de Chile doesn’t mess around!

In the end it WOULD SEEM that the AE was satisfied with our applications, signatures, ability to stay within the box and ability to not F-up my penmanship the second time around. Thus, our paperwork should be on its way to the main branch. Before it was all over however, the AE asked me “Do the signatures on these forms match the signature on your I.D.?” And for the first time in my life I was paranoid that my signatures didn’t match. I noticed that on my Chilean I.D. I don’t write out the second “Z” in Gonzalez and that on it, my last name really looks like it’s Gonali. You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if my credit and debit cards came in the mail with Andrea Gonali on them. Banco de Chile would of course claim it was my fault. What, with bad penmanship and all.

To summarize:
Getting a checking account in Chile is a bitch and a half. Getting one through Banco de Chile is like pledging a sorority that doesn’t really like you and convinces you that you’ll NEVER get in. But even if you do, it’s most likely because you slipped through the cracks and someone wasn’t doing their job. Only time will tell if I’m in, you guys. I’ll keep you posted.

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3 thoughts on “Banco de Chile: Making Adults Feel like Imbeciles since 1893

  1. HILARIOUS! I love this post. It's so true what you said…i finally got a bank account of my own here..through banco edwards/citi/chile/whatever it is…but only bc i have a girlfriend who works there AND bc my husband works at banco Chile (sorry) AND bc he is actually a co-signer on my account…i was appalled by the number of times i had to sign my name and how many stupid thumb prints i had to give…and yes, BEWARE of varying signatures…i had to RE-DO the entire process bc when i was signing the bazillion stupid forms i made the mistake of shortening the signature that appears on my carnet…apparently this is a HUGE no no. I've got a job, am married to a Chilean and have been living here nearly 2 years and this is what i had to go through. my husband on the other hand no sooner did he land on US soil back when we were still dating and he was just visitng me for a short vaca he pranced into the closest wamu and opened an account w/in like um 10 seconds…incredible

  2. Oh and just wait until you have a problem with your cuenta and your ejecutiva is the only person who is authorized to fix it…and she's on vacation or not answering her phone or whatever. Yeah, that's super fun 😛 A year ago we accidentally got switched over to a new ejecutiva but she was so efficient that we begged to keep her. I swear, she's the most efficient person in the entire country.

  3. I laughed out loud inappropriately here at work reading this. THANKS for making me sound like an insane person to my coworkers sitting around me. The best part about reading this post was that I truly felt as if you were sitting here telling the story to me in person. You type just like you talk, and I love it! I am going to try drawing the boxes and signing my name. I will let you know if I have success. Why? Because I will be telling you if I was successful. Why? Because then you will know of my success.

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