I realized that HSBC's Chicago branch has a trick phone menu:
--Press 0 to talk to a customer service representative. . .
I press 0 once, then twice. Nothing happens. Then I press it 20 more times.
--I'm sorry that is not a valid function for this menu.
Talk about getting attitude from a phone labyrinth!
Finally I gave up and called their 800 number where I found out that we need a CDI number and a valid passport to open up a banking account (cuenta corriente) even though we're American and HSBC isn't an Argentine bank, since all foreign banks have to follow Argentina's bizarre self-protecting banking laws. So now it's like, what's the point? We might as well open up a bank account with one of the local banks in Buenos Aires (e.g. Banco Nación, for example) since HSBC will charge us $200 just to open up a foreign bank account and we'd still need our Passport and a CDI. But here's the clincher: in order to get a CDI number, I need to go to the AFIP office first, the Argentine Tax Authority, but you can't get a CDI number without a certificado de domicilio. And to get that, we'll have to take a copy of our temporary lease and then proceed to the nearest police station. And from what I've gathered, they're not obligated to give us that form if they don't want to. I can practically smell the bribe a million miles away.
So here's my question: why in the world is it so damn difficult for us to give our money to an Argentine bank? I mean with the memory of economic collapse still lingering in their fiscal unconscious mind, you'd think they'd be giddy about getting a fistful of Benjamins. I understand why they've come up with a bunch of strange withdrawal rules to prevent bank run hysteria before it gets copy-catted, like capping the amount of money you take from an ATM in one day ($300 ARS) but what I don't understand is making it so damn difficult for foreigners to deposit their money into Argentine banks. I mean, it's in their interest to make it easy for us. The more money we give them, the more spending and lending power banks have. The question now is: is it even worth trying to open up a cuenta corriente in Buenos Aires or should we just stash our cash somewhere that's easy to find with our X-marks-the-spot treasure map? What are all the rest of you expats doing? We've considered just keeping our bank account here in the States but we don't want to pay $5-$10 bucks everytime we withdraw cash. Any ideas, thoughts or solutions to this dilema? Any experiences worth telling?