Are you thinking about going to Mexico? Have you thought about taking a vacation? And also thinking about Should I Convert Dollars to Pesos Before Going to Mexico?. Even if you’re already an expat in Mexico, our advice can help you save money.
We at Expat Insurance have all lived in Mexico for at least five years. We’ve had to learn some hard lessons. This article will teach you how to save money when spending cash, transferring cash, and exchanging cash in Mexico.
Is it better to exchange money in us or Mexico?
Most businesses accept US dollars, but it is preferable to convert your currency to pesos. You’ll get better deals, and it’s Mexico’s currency. Before traveling, many people obtain pesos from their bank at home. When we arrive at Cancun International Airport, we usually use ATMs. We use a separate ATM card from our main bank account so that if your card is compromised, the thieves do not have complete access to your funds! We can also add money to this account online as needed, and we have the option of changing the pin number after each use. We have never had our ATM card compromised, so far. I frequently use the CI Banco ATM.
Bring cash with you and exchange it for pesos at a money changer or CI Banco. To exchange your currency for pesos, you must bring your passport to the bank. The disadvantage for me is that I don’t like having all of my vacation money on me. There is no way to get it back if it is lost or stolen.
- Tip #1: If you’re going to use dollars, find out what exchange rate the place of business is offering; some are close to the actual rate, while others may offer a really bad rate. You could end up paying nearly twice as much!
- Tip #2: If you did not exchange your money, do not complain about the prices or the poor exchange rate.
- Tip #3: Change your money! This may seem strange at first, but it will save you money, and it is always better to use the local currency.
Is It Better to Exchange Pesos in US or Mexico!
For knowing this read the whole article.
First and foremost, what type of trip are you taking?
You probably don’t need to worry if you’re going for a week and your destination is an all-inclusive resort where you plan on sitting on a lounge chair all day sipping those cold, delicious Mexican cocktails. Take a few $1 bills with you for tips and small purchases along the way, and you should be fine. Take an ATM card with you just in case (see below about using ATM machines in Mexico).
(However, don’t Mexicans have to exchange their dollars for pesos? Isn’t that a pain? They do not, in fact, exchange them. They use them in the same way you do! So I don’t think you’ll have any issues transporting small items to and from a resort.)
Second, how long will you be staying?
If you’re going to a B&B or a VRBO, staying in a city like Guadalajara or Puerto Vallarta, or staying for an extended period of time, I’d recommend exchanging $100 US for about $2000 Mexican pesos. This should be enough to get you from the airport to your hotel, plus a snack along the way.
Finally, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to replenish your cash, which could mean going to an ATM or a Mexican bank.
In Mexico, Using an ATM Machine
Using an ATM in Mexico is, for the most part, the same as using one in the United States. Walk up, insert your card, enter your PIN, request money, take it, and leave.
But then there are the minor details.
To begin, if you’re walking around a Mexican city looking for cash, you’ll notice dozens of small stand-alone cash machines on street corners.
They are frequently sitting out in the open, not inserted into a wall, and they frequently have the word “CASH” written on them in English. They have no bank affiliation, or at least none that you’ve heard of. Just keep walking when you see them. They either give you US dollars (which is the exact opposite of what you want) or pesos at a terrible exchange rate. Skimmers, which are fake overlays to the card slot or PIN pad entry, are more commonly installed on these machines, where thieves collect your personal information and use it to clone new cards. And, as was recently discovered in Playa del Carmen, they have been tampered with in order to prevent them from dispensing your money at all. When you leave in frustration, the thieves return to collect.
Instead, look for an ATM machine in or near the lobby of the bank that issued your card. Guards are frequently stationed outside for your protection and to monitor activity around the machines. They are commonly used by Mexican nationals.
Conversion Rate Reduction
Knowing when to decline the conversion is one trick to using an ATM in Mexico. During the transaction, you will usually be asked two questions: Do you want to pay the machine fee? (If you don’t answer yes, the machine will simply spit out your card and tell you to leave.) The second question is, do you accept dollar-to-peso conversions? Answer “No” to this question at all times. Your bank will calculate a rate for you that is almost always better than the one offered by the ATM. Don’t worry, it won’t cancel your transaction… it will just fine dispense your pesos.
A reputable bank’s ATM will convert your US dollars in your home account to Mexican pesos at a very low rate. I’ve been using them for years with no problems withdrawing money from a Mexican ATM.
Alternative Exchange Options
If you are unable to use your credit card and do not wish to use an ATM to obtain pesos, you can visit a currency exchange office or a bank in Mexico. Not all Mexican banks can exchange dollars for pesos, and some require you to have an account with them. You should inquire at your City Express Hotel about the nearest bank where you can exchange currency.
A bank exchanges US dollars for pesos
If you’re hesitant to use an ATM at home or abroad, you can convert US dollars to pesos at a bank. It’s a little more complicated, and the rules aren’t always applied consistently.
The official statement is as follows:
- To regulate the amount of dollars entering the Mexican banking system, beginning September 14, 2010, the Mexican government will limit the amount of dollars foreigners can exchange for pesos in banks and money exchange establishments to no more than US$1,500 per month.
- The measure has NO IMPACT on purchases made in Mexico using credit or debit cards.
- The measure has NO bearing on the amount of cash (in Mexican pesos) that an international tourist can withdraw from an ATM machine on a daily or monthly basis.
- To avoid any inconvenience caused by the exchange cap at banks, all travelers should bring Mexican pesos as well as their credit and/or debit cards.
Essentially, the rule is designed to reduce large exchanges of physical US dollars for physical Mexican pesos. This will have no effect on you if you use an ATM or credit card as much as possible. If you must exchange dollars for pesos, find a reputable bank and bring your cash in crisp, new bills (they frequently reject bills with even the slightest tear or crease) as well as your passport (preferably a color copy of your passport). You’ll have to wait in line for a while, but you’ll eventually get what you need.
Avoiding international transaction and ATM fees
We’ve done it all so many times that we’ve picked up a few tricks to help reduce some of the unnecessary costs of staying in Mexico. One example is the elimination of international transaction fees. These are fees that many credit card companies simply tack on to any transaction that takes place outside of the United States. Find a credit card that does not charge them at all. I use a Chase Mileage PlusTM Explorer card, which has no fees and gives me good mileage credits. There are probably other people out there.
We have a joint Charles Schwab bank debit card to avoid ATM fees. They do not charge ATM fees anywhere in the world. Even if you are charged a fee, you will receive a refund each month. If they omit one, you can call and complain, and they’ll refund your money. It’s been extremely helpful to us.
(Under no circumstances should a credit card be used in an ATM machine. They will gladly give you cash, but it is considered a cash advance, the interest rate is much higher than your regular rate, and it is charged immediately with no grace period.)
A Little Cash Etiquette in Mexico
I occasionally overhear friends joking about Mexican pesos, referring to them as “play money” or “Monopoly money.” This is obviously very offensive to Mexicans, so please do not do it.
I recommend making photocopies of the front and back of your current credit cards, debit cards, ATM cards, health insurance card, and several color copies of your passport before departing for Mexico. Keep these in a safe place in your room. If something is lost, having a backup will save you a lot of time and stress.
As in any busy tourist area around the world, pickpockets may try to steal your money while you’re on vacation in Mexico. The methods are all the same: a casual bump, a crowded bus, and “asking for directions.” The “Salsa Squirt” is a popular technique in Puerto Vallarta. Someone squirts some sauce on your shirt, and a “helpful” person comes over to point it out and assist you in cleaning up with napkins. They lift your wallet during the subsequent patdown.
Many Mexicans wear their wallet in the front pocket rather than the back pocket. I recommend sitting down and going through your wallet, removing anything you don’t need in Mexico (Do you really need that library card? Do you have a grocery store loyalty card? Nah!). You might discover that all you need is a small amount of cash and your credit card, which you can easily carry in your front pocket.
Do Not Spend Money in Dollars
As previously stated, never spend US dollars in Mexico. Locations will give you poor exchange rates, which is why they accept USD. They’ll give you 15 pesos to the dollar (or less), with a 20:1 exchange rate.
Tips for Obtaining Large Sums of Cash for Deposit
Some banks are better than others for withdrawing large sums of money. BanBajio is among the best. They charge around $1.50 USD to withdraw cash and have a higher limit than most other ATMs.
BBVA is one of the worst. If you don’t have an account with them, cash withdrawals cost about $8 USD.
Also, keep in mind that Banamex—which charges a reasonable fee of about $2 USD—only dispenses cash to non-Banamex accounts when the ATM has plenty of cash. If their funds are running low, they reserve them exclusively for Banamex users.
What do you think should I exchange Money Before I Travel to Mexico? These are mostly for newer expats, nomads, and tourists visiting Mexico. After you’ve lived in Mexico for a while, we recommend opening a Mexican bank account, which we’ll cover in another article soon.
However, with a keen eye and a little forethought, you can avoid the scams and exorbitant fees that banks and tourist operations use to get that little bit extra in exchange rates. We hope this was helpful!