Methods of Payments
There are several methods of payment authorized by the Bolivian banking system. Letters of credit are the most common. Other methods are open account transactions, documentary collection, and Bolivian credit cards. Foreign card holders can make credit card purchases within Bolivia depending on the regulations of their home bank. At this time, Bolivian companies cannot charge foreign buyers using PayPal or other internet transfer methods. There are no credit rating agencies to rate individual credit in Bolivia. The Financial Services Supervisory Authority (ASFI) is responsible for regulating and supervising financial services and stock market activity.
For more information about the methods of payment or other trade finance options, please read the Trade Finance Guide.
In 2013, the government enacted a Financial Services Law to protect consumers and promote universal access and transparency. The law created the Financial Stability Board consisting of the Ministry of Economy and Public Finance, the Ministry of Planning and Development, the Central Bank of Bolivia, ASFI, and the Supervision and Control Authority of Pension and Insurance. This board is responsible for issuing the decrees and resolutions to regulate the banking sector. The Financial Services Law requires and encourages a high degree of state intervention in the management of financial institutions. The state is expected to be a regulatory authority, an active participant in financial intermediation (through Banco Union and Productive Development Bank), and state agents attend banks’ board meetings and shareholder meetings. The law establishes a system wherein the state directs financial institutions to encourage economic growth. The state can instruct financial institutions to offer credit to sectors as the state considers appropriate. In addition, the state fixes the maximum interest rates that banks can charge, determines loan repayment grace periods, and the type of collateral that can be used against a loan. Government policy allows for unconventional loan guarantees such as machinery, animals, stored production, etc. The law allows the government to seek punitive punishment for financial institutions that do not comply. Punishment can be dispensed on specific individuals within an institution to include the personal assets of officers and executives.
According to the 2009 Constitution, the monetary and exchange rate policy is determined by the Ministry of Economics and Public Finance in coordination with the Central Bank of Bolivia. Additional laws authorize the creation of private financial funds, savings and loans cooperatives, and non-governmental organizations to improve access to credit and other financial services. In 2012, the government created a tax on U.S. dollar exchanges in banks and exchange houses. This tax does not affect the people or companies that use dollars, but rather diminishes financial institution profits generated by the difference between the exchange rate for buying and selling U.S. dollars. In 2016, the government increased by three percent the tax on bank profits (current taxes could reach 50 percent in total). For a foreign bank looking to remit profits, a 12.5 percent remittance tax is applied, increasing the tax rate to above 60 percent.
All bank transfers in U.S. dollars within and leaving the country must pay a Financial Transaction Tax (ITF) of 0.03 percent. Any banking transaction above $10,000 in one operation or transactions totaling $10,000 in three consecutive days require the filing of a form stating the source of funds. Any hard-currency cash transfer to and from Bolivia must not exceed $20,000. Quantities above this amount must be done through electronic transaction using financial institutions. The Central Bank also charges a fee for different kinds of international transactions related to banking, trade, and other transactions.
Foreign Exchange Controls
Currency is freely convertible at Bolivian banks and exchange houses. The official exchange system is described as an “incomplete crawling peg.” Under this system, the exchange rate is fixed, but undergoes micro-readjustments that are not pre-announced to the public. There is a spread of ten basis points between the exchange rate for buying and selling U.S. dollars. The Boliviano (Bs) has remained fixed, at 6.96 Bs/$1 for selling and 6.86 Bs/$1 for buying, since October 2011. The parallel rate closely tracks the official rate, suggesting the market finds the Central Bank’s policy acceptable. To avoid distortion in the exchange rate market, the Central Bank requires that all currency exchange occur at the official rate ±1 basis point.
U.S. Banks and Local Correspondent Banks
No U.S. banks currently operate in Bolivia. EXIM Bank does not currently offer any programs specific to Bolivia. All commercial banks provide regular banking services. They accept deposits for both checking and savings accounts and offer short-term and medium-term loans. Local banks are authorized to hold U.S. dollar-denominated deposits. The following banks have correspondent banking arrangements with U.S. banks: Banco de Crédito de Bolivia S.A.; Banco do Brasil S. A.; Banco Económico S. A.; Banco Ganadero S.A.; Banco Industrial S.A. (BISA); Banco Mercantil Santa Cruz S. A.; Banco Nacional de Bolivia; Banco Solidario S. A.; Banco Unión S.A. (State-owned); Banco Fomento a Iniciativas Económicas S.A.; Banco de La Nación Argentina; Banco FIE S.A.; Banco Fortaleza S.A.; and Banco Prodem S.A. For additional information, interested parties should contact the National Association of Banks (ASOBAN): https://www.asoban.bo .
Further details on financing in Bolivia can be found at the 2022 Bolivia Investment Climate Statement.