Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bills Bills Bills

This is going to be a rant. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 
Paying bills in Mexico is a huge pain in the ass. The problem isn’t the money. I mean money is a problem, it always is, but that’s not the problem I want to talk about.
In the US, I utilized things like automatic bill pay through my bank or automatic withdraw to pay bills with a credit card. I could pay my rent with a check. Here I have to go to different stores to pay certain bills and down to a bank to pay my rent. Actually, I can't even pay the rent myself unless I want to take half a day off work because our landlord's bank isn't open on Saturdays.
I know a lot of people have issues with the mail in Mexico. I’m constantly hearing stories from expats. My sister sent me a care package and it’s been 3 months. I ordered a book online and it took 5 months to get to Mazatlan. Sometimes the package has been opened. Sometimes items will be missing. I think a lot of it may have to do with the shipping company. I’m not positive but there doesn’t appear to be a national postal service here like there is in the US. I actually have a mailing address in El Paso (one of the perks of border living) so I can have packages sent there, but nevertheless, I still have a huge hang up with the mail. We regularly get our mail late and/or find it in the middle of the street because the mailman just puts the envelopes in the curves of our wrought iron gate instead of in the actual mailbox so sometimes it blows away in the wind. Irritating beyond all belief.
None of this would really matter to me at all if I could just hop online and view our accounts and pay our bills. I know I mentioned this before in my Shit I Don’t Get About Mexico post and some of you schooled me about being able to pay my utility bills online. I honestly haven't looked into it because all of our money is in a US account and if it's anything like my automatic Netflix Latino payment, it will just become a hassle of international transaction fees and peso to dollar conversions and whatnot. 
So if they don't mail in checks or pay online, how do most people pay their bills in Mexico? Well, there are a couple options. You can go to the grocery store to pay your utility bills at no charge or you can go to each company’s office and pay at no charge. At a convenience store like Oxxo you can pay your utility bills and also other bills (like Cablemas or Telcel) for 7 pesos per bill. Here’s the kicker. Once you reach the 3 days prior to the bill’s due date, you can no longer pay at the convenience or grocery store. So let’s say your electric bill is due on the 9th and it’s the 7th. You can’t go into the store to pay that bill because it’s too late. You’re not late with your payment, but it’s too late to pay at the "convenient" locations.
Now you have to go down to the electric company’s office to pay your bill. Their office is open 8-5 Monday through Friday. I work 8-5 Monday through Friday. In a different country. And I drive our only vehicle to said job. My husband works 6-4 and is a slave to the city bus. This means he has to take time off of work and take 2-3 buses to go down and pay the bill. Two days before it’s even due.
So imagine the fury that runs through me when we receive our last Cablemas bill on April 30th with a due date of May 2nd and May 1st is Labor Day in Mexico. What. The. Hell. That was annoying. But obviously it wasn’t annoying enough for me to mouth off about it a month ago. What brought the whole mail thing full circle was an issue with the gas company.
We get home from work on Wednesday to see that that they have jumped our fence and physically removed our gas meter. They didn’t just shut off the gas, they removed the whole meter. Who does that? Holding our recent paid receipt in hand, Ray calls the gas company, ready to tear them a new asshole.
But instead we learn that we didn't pay a bill a couple of months back. We dig through our receipts and sure enough, don't have one for that month. Now did any of the bills after the fact indicate that we had an previous balance? Nope. Did we get a letter or phone call from the gas company? Nope. 
While I'm racking my brain trying to figure out how we could have possibly missed this bill, Ray goes outside and opens the mailbox. You know, that little box that the mailman has never, ever used in the 2 years that I've lived in this house? Guess what he found inside? Yup, the missing gas bill. Classic.
Señor Mailman: Could you please be a little more consistent? Gracias.

17 comments:

  1. LOL in complete sympathy and with full understanding of what you've described here. On Memorial Day (US holiday only), I was in Las Misiones and ran into a Mexican coworker who told me that he always uses these holidays to run around town paying all the effing bills while the Mexican companies are open. I question all the time how can companies/services be so efficient that they'll cut off your water/gas/TelMex if you're a day late with the bill, all the while existing in a country which for all intents and purposes has such an INEFFICIENT mail delivery system. We have a little mailbox decoration in front of our house, too, that I check just for giggles every week for the very same reason.

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  2. Errrr. What a pain. Rant away. Talk about irresponsible on the mail carrier's part. And taking the day off to pay a bill? Ain't nobody got time fo' dat!
    Wow.

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    1. Pues si... Ain't nobody got time for that!

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  3. I completely sympathize with you! I guess that when you grow up in Mexico like I did you get used to the idea that the mail CANNOT be depended on and you should always have a plan B, but now I no longer live in Mexico can see how frustrating that can be. Anyway, I would still suggest you to look into paying your bills online. I'm guessing your husband as a Mexican bank account so chances are it's just a matter of activating its online access and paying your bills from there. If you're still reluctant to the idea, here's something else you should do: Most utility companies allow you to download your bill online, so you don't have to wait for it to come in the mail. You'll need to sign up to the site, but in most cases all you need is a current bill. Here are some links:
    Gas: http://www.gnj.com.mx/consulta-factura.html
    Cablemas: https://pagoenlinea.cablemas.com/CablemasAutoGestionclientes/Logeo/Index.aspx
    Luz: http://www.cfe.gob.mx/paginas/home.aspx

    By the way, there is a national post service in Mexico. It's called Servicio Postal Mexicano (SEPOMEX) and they're the ones delivering (and losing) your bills.

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    1. Thanks for all the links. I'm going to look into it. For us, the main issue is really that my husband is only earning about $45 US a week and it isn't really enough to pay any of the bills other than the water bill. So we would need to deposit funds into the account and being that I work banker's hours in the US, it's tough to coordinate to pull out the money in cash in the US, exchange it for pesos, and then deposit it to his Mexican account.

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  4. Hello Emily. I know this is a weird post to comment this on, but I'm new at this.. I am too going to be following my fiance to Juarez in a few months. He will be deported, and it's life this time. After countless conversations about him reentering illegally I had to face the fact that one of us would have to sacrifice a lot. But I wouldn't be sacrificing my freedom as he would. So that was the decision maker of me moving to the border. I will too most likely be commuting daily to the US to work, as the money will be much better. But I'm nervous about finding a place to rent, I'm nervous about everything I guess and was wondering if you had any pointers to share as to where to look for a place to live. And even people to meet once I'm there. It's going to be lonely even though we have each other, I'm only 21 and I'm leaving everything and everyone except him. Ive added you on Facebook. My name is Natawnee. Thanks ahead of time. :-)

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    1. Not weird at all. I'd be happy to answer any questions you have. Can you shoot me an email to emilybonderer@hotmail.com? We can talk more there.

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  5. Maybe you can make a nice bird house in the mail box and get everyone's expectations straight and at least the bird will be happy.

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  6. I get my Telmex bill either the day before or weeks after it was due. Their excuse, we have no control over how long it takes to get to you. We send it out on time, yet I have seen plenty of bills dated the 20th when they are due the 23 or 24th. I hate this about Mexico! Grrr!!

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    1. It is very frustrating! Cablemas was the worse offender here though and it looks like you can pay online now. Let's see how that goes. ;)

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  7. Emily, have you considered opening a mexican bank account in Banamex or Bancomer? Banamex now allows you to pay bills on their ATM machines for a small extra fee (some bills don't charge a surcharge). I find the ATM service to be easy pansy convinient because I sometimes pay my bills at weird hours on the weekends. Of course, if I am going to make my payments at night I try to choose ATMs in grocery stores after dark where it's very safe. The ATMs print your reciepts.

    One thing many mexicans do to pay several bills at the same time without wasting time going to 20 places waiting in line like idiots is to charge all of their bills to their credit card then do what I do and pay the fee in full in an ATM at a convinient time for me. You can get credit cards now more easily in Mexico, do the monthly payment in full if you like (ATMs have daily max debit card account transfers of 6000 pesos something to be aware of). Banks now offer internet transfers where the transfer can be done online from your debit card account wherever you feel like (heck, you could pay your bills on vacation touring in Timbuktu!). The bill will create a pdf file which can be printed at any internet cafe.

    Check your billing company and see if you can change to automatic credit card billing which will make your life a LOT easier. Many mexicans do it this way. Banamex for example allows you for a simple easy pansy phone call to get into their cash point system. The basic 4000 MXN cash limit card obviously earns less points for each purchase but their best card offers a very nice 10% cash bonus. Basically they pay YOU money everytime you use your CC. You get a special card sent to your home in the mail which can work like a debit card. They return around 10% of the value of your purchase back as cash to you which can be withdrawn from an ATM machine and used however you feel like. I'd suggest using the bonus cash for a pagaré account as a nest egg.

    ATMs now allow instant easy pansy bank transfers for other bank accounts (for a small comission of course if it's between mexican banks). Some mexicans that have multiple jobs simply open several bank accounts but if it's possible I find the easiest way with the chance to actually make extra cash is via a point system mexican credit card.

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  8. Hi there!

    I struggled with the same types of problems when I first started paying Mexican bills. I have been paying CFE and Telcel bills for my in-laws through this neat website called regalii:

    regalii.com/en/mexico/cfe (for cfe bills)

    It is really easy to set-up and really easy to use. This payment system eliminated so many hours and headaches! Not to mention, it's not too expensive and it puts all of your statements in one place so you can easily pay them every month.

    Something to think about,
    Don

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  9. So what happens I wonder to a person in Mexico if they don't pay a bill like a house payment. I have a friend living there and he said if he can't come up with the money they a sending him to prison! Do you think that is true?

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