Thursday, November 21, 2013

Brazilian banking - the best and worst of times - São Paulo

A Brazilian boleto, or bill. For US$10 million, yikes! Photo credit: wikipedia

One of the most pleasant surprises for me in Brazil has been the banking system. In reality, I have to say that there have been some unpleasant surprises related to banking here as well, but in general, thumbs up. Why? Something called Brazilian internet banking.

When I lived in Miami (my last US address), bill paying was just starting to move to internet bill pay. In general I still sent a check through the mail to pay various bills, unless there was a way to do an automatic payment through my bank, which I will call ummm, California Bank. Mostly I was able to pay electric, gas, water, credit card and this stuff on line, but if I wanted to  pay a friend back, I would have to write the check myself or fill out an online form which would have the bank cut a check to this friend. Not so efficient.

It is completely insecure to send a check through the mail in Brazil. So, how do you pay your bills? There are a couple of ways. One, a "boleto" or "ticket" (okay, wikipedia wants to translate as ticket, I would have said "bill") winds its way into your mailbox. You take it upstairs, faint (this one is for $10 million dollars--not my bill thank you), and then pop open your bank account online. Once you have typed in the huge long number at the top (or you could have an optic reader at home which I don't cause I am cheap) and click a few security things, your bill is scheduled for payment. Cool. 

Sometimes it is uncool. Like when there is a mail strike for 3 months and not one bill arrives (true story. Often). So then you can get your peeps to do the bill DDA (Debito Direto Autorizado, or Authorized Direct Debit) which gives you a view of the bill online without it ever hitting your physical mailbox. Cool. Again.

Then you transfer money to your friends by "doc" (pronounced "Docky") or sometimes a TED (yep, you guessed it--pronounced "TEH-GEE"). Also I pay some of my corporate taxes on line through my bank. It is all so civilized.

Unless you are trying to do something a little out of the ordinary, like say, update your passport (security) information. Then you have to go into a branch, wait for a while, be told your branch manager is not there and no one else can help you (really? Write down a new passport number?) and wait x weeks for the change, where x is not limited to any real number.  I am not bitter. Just truthful.


  1. And just when I figured out all the Portuguese so I could do online banking they go and change the web pages and I need more than 5 minutes to find all my stuff again!!!

    1. At least you could do it from the comfort of home and not in the bank branch!

  2. I think that's a very good assessment. I'm always surprised to see expats moaning about long queues in banks in Brazil as if it were a common annoyance. Sure, it's frustrating when you have to go into the branch but who does that on a regular basis any more?

    1. I would never enter a bank branch in any country unless I had to. Well, okay maybe the one in my parents' town in Illinois where they are so glad to see an actual person, they give even the adults a lollipop.