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Old Mar 19, 11, 12:30 am   #1
 
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U.S. Dollars Accepted in Santiago?

I have never visited Santiago previously, but will be there for a couple weeks next month. I have used USD for purchases in some other South American countries and would like to know if USD are accepted for some cash transactions in Santiago. Thanks.



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Old Mar 19, 11, 7:52 am   #2
 
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Not sure what kind of traction you'd get with USD here, I've only paid tour guides in greenbacks.

A word of advice though, if you are going to try to use USD, make sure the bills you bring are in pristine condition. They are very very particular here about dollars and if there's a slight tear, pen mark, or blemish no one will take your bill. I've been turned down by banks, cambios, and tour guides for things you wouldn't even notice back in the states.
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Old Mar 19, 11, 9:35 am   #3
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I've been there some twenty-odd times and have never found US$ to be a common currency for purchases. Some touristy places may take some, and don't expect a good exchange rate. The US$ is very weak in Chile.

One exception is your hotel bill. Foreigners don't pay tax and you cannot pay with CL$ to get this break. Your foreign-issued credit card is fine, and US$ may be, too (but I'm not 100% sure about that).
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Old Mar 19, 11, 11:23 am   #4
 
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Originally Posted by Eastbay1K View Post
One exception is your hotel bill. Foreigners don't pay tax and you cannot pay with CL$ to get this break. Your foreign-issued credit card is fine, and US$ may be, too (but I'm not 100% sure about that).
Correct, if the lodging establishment has registered with the tax authority, they can offer this discount to persons on tourist visas in Chile if they pay in cash USD or foreign credit card. Many small establishments are not registered for this with the tax authority and cannot offer it.

As far as cash goes, the most convenient way to access your funds is via ATM. And the best deals there to avoid a Chile-side bank fee of around 2500-3300 CLP is to use a 0%-1%, no per use fee, ATM card on the Cirrus network at a Banco Estado ATM or a Bank of America card at a ScotiaBank ATM.
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Old Mar 19, 11, 6:32 pm   #5
 
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To clarify a bit, if you're accustomed to how easy it is to use US$ in countries like Panama and Ecuador, which are fully dollarized, or Peru which is a partially dollarized economy, Chile is a different animal. Basically, you cannot use US$ for cash transactions anywhere except (as noted in previous posts) possibly to pay your hotel bill (and only then if they're billing you with a factura de exportación which exempts you from paying the VAT).

That said, you can readily change money at the airport and in many places in Santiago. Most money changers do not charge commissions and the exchange rates are competitive, with very narrow buy/sell spreads. As previously noted, the US$ is weak against the Chilean peso, but this has nothing to do with the money changers and everything to do with the high price of copper and the US government's idiotic fiscal situation.

As a carrier of a Canadian bank card I never seem to escape outrageous ATM charges in Santiago. If this is a concern, you should bring plenty of cash and change US dollars into pesos as required during your stay. You will likely be spending most of your time in the upscale neighborhoods of Las Condes and Providencia, and there are plenty of money changers to be found in these areas. For instance, try Av. Pedro de Valdivia just north of Av. Providencia.
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Old Mar 21, 11, 9:46 pm   #6
 
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I had a 24 hour stopover in SCL, and found that credit cards (including Amex) could be widely used in stores without any trouble. Can't recall the exact name/branding of the network - maybe Red or something similar? - but apart from exchanging the ~$15 or so of Argentine Pesos to Chilean at the airport before I left EZE, I didn't need to change any more currency.

Siempre Viajando - as another Canadian bank card holder, I agreed with you. >$5CDN for an ATM fee is a joke~ but at least I could use my CCs.
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Old Mar 21, 11, 10:25 pm   #7
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Originally Posted by sofasurfer View Post
maybe Red or something similar?
Red means network en español.
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Old Mar 22, 11, 7:34 am   #8
 
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RedBanc the name of the ATM network that accepts domestic and foreign cards.

RedCompra the name of the POS network that accepts domestic and foreign cards.

Last edited by Viajero Perpetuo; Mar 22, 11 at 7:41 am..
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Old Mar 22, 11, 7:40 am   #9
 
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Canadians who travel to Chile should bank with Scotia and use their card only at Scotiabank and Banco de Desarrollo ATMs in Chile to avoid the 2500 peso Chile-side fee.

Last edited by Viajero Perpetuo; Mar 22, 11 at 10:09 pm.. Reason: Corrected 2200 to 2500
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Old Mar 22, 11, 7:03 pm   #10
 
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Originally Posted by Viajero Perpetuo View Post
Canadians who travel to Chile should bank with Scotia and use their card only at Scotiabank and Banco de Desarrollo ATMs in Chile to avoid the 2200 peso Chile-side fee.
That's an interesting comment. My (limited) experience in the past is that Scotiabank (or any other Canadian bank for that matter) in Country X has little or nothing to do with the same bank in Country Y, so that I would have assumed that ATM fees would apply using a Canadian Scotia debit card to withdraw pesos in a Chilean Scotia ATM.

Thanks for the tip, now if I can ever get 'round to opening an account with Scotia and obtaining a Scotia debit card, perhaps I can save a few $$.
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Old Mar 22, 11, 8:08 pm   #11
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Originally Posted by Siempre Viajando View Post
That's an interesting comment. My (limited) experience in the past is that Scotiabank (or any other Canadian bank for that matter) in Country X has little or nothing to do with the same bank in Country Y, so that I would have assumed that ATM fees would apply using a Canadian Scotia debit card to withdraw pesos in a Chilean Scotia ATM.

Thanks for the tip, now if I can ever get 'round to opening an account with Scotia and obtaining a Scotia debit card, perhaps I can save a few $$.
I believe what he is trying to say (and I'm not speaking for him ) is that those two banks don't charge a fee to anyone, and if you are Canadi>n and have a Scotiabank account, your own bank won't charge you, either. Right now a lot of people are getting hit on both ends, which can end up being about US$10 to take out the plata.
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Old Mar 22, 11, 8:28 pm   #12
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Originally Posted by Eastbay1K View Post
I believe what he is trying to say (and I'm not speaking for him ) is that those two banks don't charge a fee to anyone.
I think that he meant that Scotiabank is a member of the Global ATM Alliance (I'm sure there's a thread somewhere that discusses this). They probably do charge fees to other cardholders.

Banco del Desarrollo is "de Scotiabank" so I'm guessing the same rules apply.

I use my Peruvian Scotiabank debit card at Barclays ATMs here in Spain and I've avoided the fees so I'm pretty happy with the system.
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Old Mar 22, 11, 10:01 pm   #13
 
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Sorry I wasn't clear.

For everyone, currently there are only two banks that do not charge a Chile-side fee:

Banco Estado, but their ATMs only take Cirrus network cards and
Banco Security, not many of them around and not all locations have ATMs

Then there are the two exceptions:

USA Bank of America debit cards and Chile Scotiabank and Banco de Desarollo (owned by Scotiabank) ATMs
Canadian Scotiabank debit cards and Chile Scotiabank and Banco de Desarollo (owned by Scotiabank) ATMs

In all other scenarios, Chile banks charge 2500 pesos per withdraw except for BCI which charges 3300 pesos per withdraw.

Of course the above is subject to change at any time though the first part about Banco Estado and Banco Security has remained stable for maybe two years now.

Last edited by Viajero Perpetuo; Mar 22, 11 at 10:12 pm..
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Old Mar 22, 11, 10:48 pm   #14
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Thanks for the latest. I should have known this (although I thought Scotiabank was one of the last holdouts). I do recall searching for Estado on my last couple of visits - fortunately they aren't too hard to find. I no longer take money out at the airport.
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Old Mar 23, 11, 8:21 am   #15
 
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My usual solution is to write the CLP$2.500 fee off as a business expense. So far so good, the boss hasn't complained.
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