I am missing an older form of technology that I came to take for granted in the U.S. - direct deposit. We have interacted with the Nicaraguan banking system throughout our time here, but because of the way MCC handled finances, we now find ourselves much more involved in the banking process for the first time. We tell you this story not to put down the system that is in place here, but rather to reflect on the similarities and differences, record for ourselves what life is like now and also share with you our day to day life.
Sidenote: I want to make it clear that I am very grateful to have employment here in Nicaragua when such a large number of the population is unemployed and/or underemployed. I am very fortunate to receive a check for my work which forces me to go to the bank in the first place.
It all started with opening a bank account. Fortunately we were able to use an existing MCC bank account in Kevin's name. Without this we would have not been able to open an account as we do not have residency in Nicaragua. But adding Cassie's name to the account was quite the process. We both went to the bank multiple times, waited in lines that usually averaged 1-2 hours, turned in three personal references and after a few more visits, Cassie was finally approved, given her own debit card which of course did not end up working. This required a couple of additional visits and finally she had a working card. Keep in mind that this is not a credit card, but simply an additional debit card for an already existing checking account.
Now onto our desire for a direct deposit option. We are currently working for five different "employers". We receive four checks and one cash payment every two weeks. Each of our four employers bank at a different bank. In order to cash the check, we have to personally go to each bank, wait in line (we avoid going on payday as one could wait in line for half a day) and cash the checks we receive from each of our employers banks. Quick recap, we have to visit four banks every two weeks.
After we have cashed all four checks, which are given to us in US tender, we go to a money exchanger (normally on a street corner found in various places throughout the city) to exchange our dollars for córdobas. The rate that we are given on the corner is much better than what the bank gives. While it is an additional step, it can mean saving a large amount of money in the transaction. Last time I saved $80 by doing this.
We then carry this money on our person to our bank who will finally deposit it into our account. Ahhhh, what work this is. The whole process often takes a whole working day, sometimes two depending on the lines
What a process! You don't know what I would do for a direct deposit option again!