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Banking in Uruguay

By David Hammond 
Banco de la República Oriental del Uruguay main branch in Montevideo's Old City
image by David Hammond
If you decide to become a resident of Uruguay, work in Uruguay, or buy real estate in Uruguay, you'll likely want a local bank account.

For an overview of banking in Uruguay and advice on how to open a bank account in Uruguay, read on.


Uruguay as a regional banking center


Many South Americans have firsthand experience with rampant inflation, currency devaluations, capital controls, account withdrawal limits, and forced exchange of deposits from one currency to another.

Uruguay’s banks offer financial protection in the region by providing customers with the option to hold their deposits in US dollars, a currency with a history of greater stability than the Uruguayan peso and the currencies of neighboring countries.

Another plus for banking in Uruguay is reliability. Uruguayan banks have never expropriated or forced the exchange of deposit from one currency to another. During the 2002 financial crisis, the government of Uruguay backed up banks experiencing runs to prevent defaults.

Reasons to get a bank account in Uruguay 


For living expenses in Uruguay 
BBVA Uruguay main branch
image by David Hammond

If you retire to Uruguay, a Uruguayan bank account provides a place to receive the proceeds from a pension, social security payments, or investment proceeds.

If you work in Uruguay, a bank account provides a place to deposit your paycheck and enables you to use a debit card to pay your bills.

To fund a real estate purchase
A Uruguayan bank account provides a means of transferring the funds for a property purchase from your home country to Uruguay.

If you buy a vacation rental or other income property, a local bank account is useful for depositing rent income and paying property expenses.

To facilitate regional investment and/or business activities  
The favorable demographics of South America’s Southern Cone are attracting investment and business expansion.

Uruguay’s relative stability and reliable financial services make it a desirable Southern Cone base of operations.

Private retail banks in Uruguay 


Uruguay has nine private banks that I know of. You'll find the main branch of most of them in Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja (Old City).

Scotia Bank Uruguay main branch
image by David Hammond

State-owned retail bank in Uruguay


Banco de la República Oriental del Uruguay, often referred to as Banco República or BROU is a government-owned bank that performs the same functions as a private retail bank, accepting deposits and making loans.

You'll find Banco República branches in each of Uruguay's 19 Departments and most Uruguayan communities.

What it takes to open a bank account in Uruguay 


Inside original Banco República building
image provided by BROU
While banking internationally grows more challenging, you can still open a bank account in Uruguay, without being a resident and without a local tax ID number—something not possible in Argentina, Chile, or Brazil.

The requirements to open a bank account in Uruguay can vary from bank to bank and change from time to time.

Requirements and procedures can also vary depending on the bank branch and the bank representative who helps you.

With that said, bank requirements often include:

  • Your personal presence. (You must come to Uruguay to open the bank account in person.) 
  • Your passport, and the passport of your spouse if you’re married.
  • Your driver’s license or a second ID
  • Proof of your address, such as utility bills (less than 30 days old) with your home address. 
  • Proof of your income sources, such as tax returns, letter from your accountant, or social security documentation. The proof-of-income documents may need to be “apostilled” in your home country, and then translated in Uruguay by a translator certified to translate legal documents.  
  • A Uruguayan resident to vouch for you (sometimes this is a residential specialist or attorney)

If you’re a US citizen or resident, your best bet is BROU, the state-owned bank   


In years past, US citizens could open a bank account at most private banks in Uruguay as long as they completed a form W-9 enabling the bank to comply with requirements to report accounts of US citizens to the IRS.

Now, however, most private banks in Uruguay will not accept US persons as customers in response to a US legislation included in the 2010 HIRE Act, which makes it burdensome for banks outside the US to have US citizens as customers.

However, Banco de la República Oriental del Uruguay (BROU), Uruguay's state-owned bank, is still known to open bank accounts for US citizens.

At BROU, you can choose an account denominated in Uruguayan pesos or US dollars with no monthly fee that comes with  debit card.

If you want, you can sign up to have BROU pay all your recurring monthly bills from your account at no additional cost.

Note: If you’re a US citizen with accounts outside the US totaling more than $10,000, you must electronically file an annual Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) FinCEN Form 114 with the US Treasury Department.


Tips for opening a bank account in Uruguay 


If you’re planning to open a bank account in Uruguay, I recommend contacting the bank where you want to open your account shortly before you come to Uruguay to learn the current requirements.

If you’re a US citizen, I recommend you hire the services of a professional, such as an attorney, accountant, or residency specialist who regularly (and successfully) helps people from the US open bank accounts at BROU.