bank vs. banco

Abandoned Notary Building

It is fun and funny to compare experiences between U.S. and Brazil. Before I left for the U.S., I needed to get some documents notarized. Here is the process I went through…

1. Walked to the notary building (a.k.a. Oficial do Registro Civil das Pessoas Naturais).

2. Saw that the building had been vacated with no forwarding notice.

3. Looked up on my phone where they might have gone without getting my phone stolen.

4. Wandered streets until I found new location.

5. Explained what I needed in Portuguese. Had the agent stare at me blankly. Explained what I needed in Portuguese again. Gave documents at counter with I.D.

6. Sat down and waited.

7. Went back to counter and gave passport.

8. Sat down and waited.

9. Went back to counter and answered random questions.

10. Sat down and waited.

11. Went back to counter, collected documents, paid R$18.

In the U.S., I also needed to get a document notarized. Due to most recent experience in Brazil, I put this off as long as I could. Finally, I went to Citibank, remembering that banks in the U.S. often could notarize documents. Here was the process:

1. Asked the receptionist if there was someone who could notarize my document. She responded that she, in fact, was a notary.

2. Gave her my I.D. and she signed and stamped the document.

3. Asked how much it was and she said there was no charge.

Makes you wonder, why in a country with so much regulation, the process is so much easier.

Next stop was another bank. I posted a few months back about my banking experiences (Payments Predicament & Update: Payments Predicament ) in Brazil. Now, the following made be exclusive to smaller cities/towns in the U.S. because admittedly I never saw this in NYC. Or, banks simply may be desperate for customers these days as many Americans are simply shoving their earnings under their matresses. Here is what I witnessed:

Two bank employees were hanging around the entrance of the bank. As soon as we walked in, they asked us what we needed. I was with my mother, and she simply needed to make a deposit, and she was ushered to the nearest window and was assisted immediately. Another lady came in at the same time. When asked what she needed, she informed the other employee that she need to make a payment. This employee actually plucked the paperwork from her hands, brought it to a waiting agent, and escorted the lady to the window.

I’m not bashing Brazil, but it is interesting contrast, and I wonder why so stark. Again, here are my experiences at the banks in Brazil (Payments Predicament & Update: Payments Predicament).

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13 Responses to bank vs. banco

  1. Anna says:

    if u go to the bank in a small town in brazil they are usually very helpful and show a lot of courtesy. Very different from SP. i dont know which bank u go to in brazil but at BB has always guys near the entrance to guide you.

  2. I really like this post. I think Brazilian banks haven’t realized yet that they are businesses. Here’s my wish: can I shop without someone following me and can I go to the bank nd be helped within 10 minutes.

    • Brasilicana says:

      YES! The tagalong salespeople drive me absolutely nuts!

      There’s actually a law that says that banks have to help you within 15 minutes, if not they pay a fine, I believe. Wonder if it’s ever been enforced, though.

  3. Danielle says:

    I disagree with Ana. I lived in a small town, and my in-laws live in a medium-sized town a couple hours away from Sao Paulo, and now we’re at the beach town. No matter what city I’m in in Brazil, I have ridiculous experiences in the bank. We had an account with Banco Real, which became Santander. Then we had to open one at Banco do Brasil for Alexandre’s work. No matter which bank in which city, processes are unnecessarily bureaucratic, there are excessively long lines, and people usually make you wait just to tell you they can’t help you. Banks are the buck-passing capitals of Brazil.

    Brazil’s great and all, but the lack of business sense and lack of resources is maddening. This post made me homesick!

  4. Anna says:

    Danielle , I agree with you that banks in brazil suck!
    But I had a much better experience in the interior than in the city.
    Jennifer, I also hate to shop having a salesperson following me! I always tell them IF I need them I will look for them later on.

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments!

  6. Ray says:

    Dear B.A.B,

    I totally agree with you, Notarizing a document in Brazil is ridiculous. We have the Portuguese to thank for that! 🙂
    The “Cartorios”, Notary Public system was introduced in Brazil by the Portuguese Royal family, and they “Priviledge” to own and operate a “Cartorio” ( Notary Public ) was only granted by the Royal family to close friends they “trusted”. For the most part, the same families still hold the exclusive rights to own a Cartorio in Brazil.
    It makes a lot more sense in the US. I am a notary public in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and all it took me was a simple burocratic process that lasted about a month, now I have an official state stamp and I am authorized to notarize documents in the state, and I never charged anything from anyone either.
    I honestly haven’t been to a bank in Brazil in years and rarely ever go to Banks in the US either. I stick with automatic deposits for my paychecks and online electronic payments for everything else.
    Be aware that in Brazil, even in large cities, the way to go if you absolutely have to go to a bank is to sign up for preferencial treatment with your bank manager, you will never wait at a line and won’t have to spend more than 10 minutes to do anything in any bank.
    When I lived in Brazil I signed up to become a preferencial client and it is totally worth it. I had an account with Itau and if I ever needed to go to the bank I would walk up to my manager hand him “cash” or whatever bill I needed deposited or paid and he would take care of it for me and mail me receipts later. I never waited around more than 10 minutes at any bank in Brazil.
    Having said that, my experiences in Brazilian banks were over 10 years ago, back in the 90’s. I am sure things are different, a lot more people have access to banks nowadays and banks have been offering a lot more options to pay bills at ATMs and online, so it must be a completely different animal.


    • Thanks for this! You are always such a wonderful resource for historical information and explanations! So interesting about the Cartorio…
      You are right. My husband has a “prime” account with one of the banks and he just goes in and they give him a coffee and sit him down in front of someone. Unfortunately, seeing that I’m just not the big earner at the moment, my bank in Brazil isn’t impressed enough to give me preferential treatment. HA. Maybe some day.

  7. Ray says:

    You can get creative, try to make friends with your manager, they might like the idea of training/practicing English conversation with you and give you preferencial treatment on the house. 😉
    Yes, I love history, half the books I read are history related. It’s amazing how that helps us understand a lot that goes on around us.
    I actually went to Law School with two brothers whose family owes a traditional Cartorio downtown Sao Paulo. Their family ( many generations ago ) were granted the “Cartorio” by the Portuguese Royal family and were also given some very valuable land as an incentive to come to Brazil and help “colonize” the new country. Keep in mind this happened around 400 years ago.
    They are the Brazilian equivalent of the folks who came in the Mayflower, the ones who landed on the Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. The ones who were given most of Weschester County in New York as a gift by the British Royal family also as an “incentive” to immigrate to America. Who are the same folks who created the “Pell Grant” that kids still use today to go to School. They all live in Newport, Rhode Island and Martha’s Vineyard Mansions today, real “old money” folks. 🙂


  8. Pingback: Update: bank vs. banco | born again brazilian

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