Argentine banks have started to block dollar purchases via online platforms to clients suspected of seeking a loophole to purchase greenbacks beyond the US$200 limit authorised by the government as part of capital controls.
Since last October, Argentines have only been able to buy up to US$200 a month at the official exchange rate of 75 pesos plus the 30 percent tax on all dollar purchases and spending at home and abroad, which still keeps the cost below 100 pesos per dollar whereas parallel markets charge around 130.
The Central Bank has detected a growing demand on the part of individuals buying up their full entitlement of US$200. It is presumed that some customers have bought dollars not for their personal savings but to transfer them against a commission. The Central Bank has ordered financial entities to control these movements.
According to the La Nación newspaper, at least three of the country’s five biggest banks as well as two digital banks and three minor institutions have started blocking the home banking of the dollar accounts of some of their clients. In the event of unusual movements, this intervention takes the form of blocking digital purchases and sales but the money remains available for physical withdrawal. To regain use of the account, the client must justify operations.
This week, one bank emailed its clients the warning: "You cannot buy more than US$200 monthly for saving purposes. This limit is personal (...) and not per account." In other words, a person cannot multiply their purchase entitlement by opening several accounts and nor may they lend or donate this quota nor buy on behalf of anybody else.
The shortage of hard currency is one of the problems besetting Argentina with a population accustomed to taking refuge in the dollar to ease the losses for the recurrent crises, inflation and devaluations.