We like to give our readers the real nitty-gritty of expat life in Cuenca Ecuador. People want to know, “What is it really like to live in Cuenca Ecuador”?
We have a really good story for you today. But first, let us make you aware of how paying a bill is done here in Cuenca Ecuador. When it is time to pay your bills, namely phone bill and Internet, the company does not send you a bill in the mail like they do in North America. Amusingly, instead you have to just remember when the bill is due, and then go pay it.
FYI: Houses in Ecuador do not have mailboxes. When you move here you will have to get a PO Box with the Post Office and then go to El Centro Post Office and get your mail that way.
You can’t go to pay your bill too early either or they will send you away and tell you to come back on the due date of the bill. We’ve already tried that one just because we were in the area. And you can't overpay two months at a time either. So every month, you will need to go stand in line and wait your turn. Put in your time in line to pay your bills. Its your duty. Besides, you're retired, remember? Don't be in such a hurry!
So, of course when we learned of this awesome service of “automatic bill pay” that the banks provide for its customers, we were elated!! How much more convenient we thought.
And this brings us to the meat of this article: BEWARE of using automatic billing service with your bank in Cuenca Ecuador. Why do we say this? Well, because maybe it won’t work. Here’s our experience with using automatic bill pay in Cuenca Ecuador. It may or may not be your experience.
Last time the Internet just shut off for no apparent reason was when the bill did not get paid and that was about 8 weeks after setting up the automatic payment system. Now, it totally makes sense that your ISP would cut you off when the bill doesn’t get paid for two payment periods; in fact that’s normal. But why wasn’t it paid, we were wondering?
First, we call Etapa which proceeds to tell us they did not receive the payment. So next, we go trekking downtown to find out what the problem is. The Etapa offices tells us they accidentally input the bank account number wrong. Is that something to be concerned about or not?
Well anyway, we didn’t make the error but we still had to go downtown, wait in line, etc. etc. half a day gone. Hey, you’re retired remember? What’s your hurry?
They apologized for the inconvenience.
Everyone makes a mistake from time to time. No problem. Moving on.
About two months passed without incident; now understand, we’re not sitting here thinking, “oh I wonder if the Internet got paid” because we use this wonderful service that a certain bank touts to its customers that makes paying your phone line and Internet more practical and handy…automatic bill pay, what a novel idea, for Cuenca that is. It’s so novel I guess they don’t have the kinks in the system ironed out yet because…
One evening we’re enjoying watching a mystery movie streaming from Netflix when the Internet goes out. Ok, so we just think they are rebooting their modem which they do about once a day. We’re waiting…and waiting… and still no Internet. We wait for about 20-minutes and still no internet and so we decide to finish the movie the next day. We go to bed.
The next morning at 6:30am we turn on the modem as usual, only to find out, still no Internet. “Umm, that’s odd?” We call Etapa and ask what’s going on with the Internet. They proceed to tell us the bill has not been paid. We explain to them that we have an automatic bill-pay with such and such bank. Etapa tells us they can’t do anything over the phone.
So, we head down to the Etapa offices and let them know we want to cancel our automatic bill-pay contract; that’s the first step. They tell us that they can’t cancel it until we pay the Internet.
Ok, we go stand in line at a different window to pay the bill where there are about 40 people in front of us because it’s a Monday morning.
About 30 minutes go by and we finally pay two months of Internet that the bank seemed to have a problem doing with automatic pay.
Next, we go to the service window, and fill out a “cancellation of automatic pay contract” we go outside to get a copy of our Cedula. Total about 45 minutes.
Next, we go to the bank to cancel the automatic pay from the banking contract. Yes, two contracts, one with Etapa to authorize the automatic pay, and one with the bank to authorize the automatic withdrawal that never happened.
They tell us that many expats are complaining of the same problem, so we’re not alone and you won’t be alone either, if you move to Cuenca and use the “automatic payment service”.
Another half day gone, not my mistake. But every one makes a mistake from time to time. And besides, you’re retired aren’t you? What’s your hurry?
Now, for those that think I’m being annoying by repeating this phrase, you should know that it’s what a banker asked me after I gave her my explanation that the lines are too long at the bank, in answer to her question as to why they hadn’t seen me lately.
It was nice while we thought it was going to make things easier for us. People often say that they pay more here in Ecuador for convenience sake. Good luck with that one.
We’re back to doing it the old fashioned way, waiting in line to pay our phone and Internet at either Etapa or at one of its local service centers just like we did before…this is just another day in the life in Cuenca Ecuador. No problem, we’re in paradise, what’s a little waiting in line…eh?
Until we write again…you might like these articles too!
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!