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My Experience: Opening a Bank Account in Barranquilla

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

Y'know, I coulda SWORN I posted something about opening a bank account with just my passport, but I can't seem to find it. Maybe it was all in my imagination, haha!

In any case, here's how I opened my Bancolombia account using just my passport and other supporting documentation.

Location and Wait Time

Around 10 am I went to the Bancolombia Branch inside ÚNICO OUTLET here in Barranquilla. Even at that hour, the waiting hall was full, and there was a line to get INTO the waiting hall. So I stood in line, whipped out my SpanishDict app, and prepared (and verbally drilled) 3-4 Spanish phrases that I might find useful in communicating this special task of abriendo'ing una cuanta bancaria.

After some slightly confusing back-and-forth with the young and patient door "usher", I got an electronic "ticket number" and got into the waiting hall. For more waiting, I knocked out 3 lessons and 1 reading exercise in Duolingo, because why TF not, y'know?

By the way, folks, have you EVER seen a Bancolombia branch that did NOT have a fairly long-ass line to get in? I observed the same phenomenon in Cartagena. Why is this? Do people not like doing their banking electronically, or is that system unstable? If someone could offer some explanation, that'll add to my small but growing understanding of Colombian culture and "ways of living daily lives".

Anyway... eventually my ticket number was called, and I came up to see the banker. He knew few words of English, and he was adept at using Traductor Google (Google Translate). Between that, and my basic Spanish - for which he complimented me, yay! - he understood my need, asked for the documents, and got started.

Core Process

In addition to my US Passport, I'd printed out - and subsequently provided - the following documentation:

• Most recent bank statement

• 2021 tax return

• 3 most recent pay stubs • Employer information, or Employment Confirmation Letter. I only had the former because I am technically unemployed... But I didn't tell them that

• Pennsylvania State ID. I'd brought this along "just in case", and I am glad I did - he wanted to see my actual address in Los Estados Unidos.

The banker took maybe 20 minutes total, asking me a few questions along the way, but mostly examining the documents I provided. While he was working, I downloaded the Bancolombia app for Android. Eventually, he had me enter a PIN for my new debit card, completed the account creation process, had me sign some papers. I read the important bits and asked him a couple of key questions.

Account Usage

After I left the bank itself, I went to the "Multifunctional" ATM next door, to see if I could deposit a 50mil note (cuz I'm balling like dat, haha), but I could not find the "deposit" option. And there were people waiting in line behind me, so I figured I'll try again later. Besides, I was getting a bit hungry after all that time.

When I got back to my AirBnB and after I'd consumed some bomb-ass Nigerian Rice & Stew, I went to Bancolombia's website and tried to create my online account. I got errors in the process. So, I went to the Mobile App instead.. and THAT worked - I was able to create my credentials for online banking. Entonces, I came back to the website, and successfully logged in using my NEW credentials... easy peasy, lemon-squeezy

I was about to do an electronic transfer into my new account, using Ria Money Transfer, but I got distracted... once I successfully do it, I'll update this section of this post.

Overall Impression

Y'all know I have Complex PTSD from 30 years in the USA, right? So I embarked on this project solo, with my "heart on my sleeve", mentally prepped, FULLY expecting to be given the good ol' dUSA treatment - rushed (cuz sometimes I am a "slow talker"), addressed rudely (cuz I'm black so apparently "Less Than Full Human"), mocked or belittled (for not knowing much Español), etc.

I was mentally READY for all that, no cap!

However, much to my pleasant surprise, everyone... literally everyone - from the people in line to the "usher" kid to the banker - was very patient with me, and helpful. They reciprocated my humility with respect, putting me at ease and reducing my anxiety. One sweet Abuela in line commented to me that at first, my Spanish made her think I was an Afro-Colombian like her daughter's boyfriend (yo, why did I get dem digits tho???)

Anyway... the overall process - while a bit time-consuming and arduous - was not as bad as I thought it'd be. Obviously not as smooth and "quick" as it'd be in the good ol' Money-Bags dUSA, but definitely not as bad as it would be in, say, Nigeria!

So I am glad went through this process, found success, and now able to share this information with fellow tourists, and future ex-pats. Buen suerte, y'all!


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