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Best way to access cash in Mexico

Best way to access cash in Mexico

Old Dec 7, 16, 4:36 pm
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Best way to access cash in Mexico

hello,
I am going to Mexico for 2 weeks. What is the best way to deal with cash there? I don't want to carry too much at one time. Are there huge ATM fees? What about banks - are there big fees there?

Do people use travelers checks anymore?

Thanks!
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Old Dec 7, 16, 7:01 pm
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Where in Mexico are you traveling? Via which airports?

In Cancun, Mexico City & Tulum I had few issues getting money from an ATM. I did avoid random ATMs and used formal bank ATMs at branches and the airports. I don't pay ATM fees so don't really remember if they were high or not.
Travelers Checks are more of a pain than a standard. I still keep some when going on travel for more than 5 days abroad just in case.
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Old Dec 7, 16, 7:04 pm
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Where you are going is important. Many of the more touristy areas accept dollars though the exchange rate may or may not be favorable. Most hotels that target folks from the US price things in dollars (going to PVR myself in a few weeks and the stay was priced in dollars)
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Old Dec 7, 16, 8:01 pm
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Unless you're going to really tiny villages, any bank ATM will give you as many pesos as you need when you need them. You can minimize fees by making fewer large withdrawals rather than more small ones, but as a fraction of the cost of your trip, even doubling the amount you pay in ATM fees will be insignificant. Ask yourself: Would I have planned this trip any differently if the air fare had been $20 more? If you answer that with "no," why freak out over the same $20 when it shows up on a different line of the same trip budget?

Do people use traveler's checks any more? For all practical purposes, no. Totally replaced by credit cards and easy access to cash via international ATM networks.
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Old Dec 8, 16, 2:44 am
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I was in Mexico in May. Used my VISA card extensively at hotels, restaurants, stores etc + made 1 or 2 ATM cash withdrawals. There is a modest local fee for making ATM cash withdrawals in Mexico and your own bank may also charge a fee for cash withdrawals abroad. You can use credit card almost everywhere in Mexico (maybe not in some remote places but I have no experience on this), so do this to keep cash withdrawals at a minimum. As already pointed out making a few large ATM cash withdrawals rather than many of smaller amounts, will reduce the costs. In general there is 2-3% markup on the exchange rate used by your bank when converting Mexican peso to your currency.

Alternatively, purchase a large amount of USD and exchange it to peso as you go along in Mexico.

Forget about travelers check - it's a thing of the past.

Last edited by SK AAR; Dec 8, 16 at 4:51 am
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Old Dec 8, 16, 9:39 am
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I have a Schwab money market/checking account that comes with free ATM withdraws. I'd recommend using ATMs located at a bank or reputable place. Don't mess with sketchy places...

Not sure where you are located, so not sure if that's an option for you. I believe there was a credit pull when opening that account. It's been good for our travel.
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Old Dec 8, 16, 10:20 am
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Originally Posted by farbster View Post
I have a Schwab money market/checking account that comes with free ATM withdraws. I'd recommend using ATMs located at a bank or reputable place. Don't mess with sketchy places...

Not sure where you are located, so not sure if that's an option for you. I believe there was a credit pull when opening that account. It's been good for our travel.
I second the Schwab account. There was a hard pull for me when I opened it over the summer, but the account is worth it if you travel a lot. No ATM or foreign transaction fees from them. (The ATM's bank may still charge you a fee.)

I was in Mexico August/September 2016. Used the Schwab debit to pull cash in pesos. Used US dollars occasionally. Swiped Visa credit cards when they accepted credit - no issues in Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Tulum, or Valladolid. We just used cash for all the smaller places we went to, like Coba and Akumal.
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Old Dec 8, 16, 12:00 pm
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Bolding mine: The ATM fee from the outside ATM is refunded by Schwab at the end of the month cycle.

Originally Posted by financialhippie View Post
I second the Schwab account. There was a hard pull for me when I opened it over the summer, but the account is worth it if you travel a lot. No ATM or foreign transaction fees from them. (The ATM's bank may still charge you a fee.)

I was in Mexico August/September 2016. Used the Schwab debit to pull cash in pesos. Used US dollars occasionally. Swiped Visa credit cards when they accepted credit - no issues in Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Tulum, or Valladolid. We just used cash for all the smaller places we went to, like Coba and Akumal.
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Old Dec 8, 16, 12:53 pm
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Originally Posted by Yoshi212 View Post
Bolding mine: The ATM fee from the outside ATM is refunded by Schwab at the end of the month cycle.
You know what, you're totally right. That's the whole reason I love the account! Not sure what I was thinking when I typed that..
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Old Dec 10, 16, 5:14 pm
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Do avoid dodgy out of the way ATMs. Bank ATMs or bank branded machines should be OK, but may empty by Sunday afternoon.

Beware of the dynamic currency exchange scam where shops offer to accept your credit card and bill in dollars.

You may get good exchange rates from shopkeepers, but others will accept dollars at conversion rates that are out of kilter with the day's bank rates.
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Old Dec 10, 16, 9:58 pm
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In my experience, ATM have by far the best conversion rate and the least amount of fees. I would always avoid currency exchange kiosks in foreign countries (unless you have tons of left over money when you are going home)
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Old Mar 22, 18, 12:21 pm
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We bring cash only for tips. We use credit cards whenever possible. Capital One credit cards and some others don't charge fees when using the card in foreign countries.
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Old Mar 30, 18, 7:06 am
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As a general piece of advice, always use a credit card for anything. If your card gets stolen or compromised in any way, if the goods you purchased were fraudulent or damaged by law the credit card company is 100% liable for the loss. On the other hand if you use a debit card you are initially liable and the onus is on you to prove that you were the victim.

As others have noted credit cards seem to do the trick in most parts of the world (I suspect the same is true for Mexico). Visa and MasterCard seem to have the most acceptance overall (I travel with Visa/MC and AmEx for good measure). Ideally you'll want to find a card that doesn't charge any foreign exchange fees (many cards tack on 2-3% surcharge for the privilege of shopping globally). You'll want to ensure that you're billed in the local currency (Mexican Pesos) instead of having it convert to USD since your bank will almost always convert it at a better rate than any merchant (which often easily tacks on an additional 4-6% on top of the exchange rate for good measure). When taking out cash, use the ATM of a national bank (i.e. Santander) since they're less likely to charge an exorbitant fee for withdrawing cash, are likely more secure and is on a network that can communicate with your home bank. Always use your credit card to withdraw the cash (carrying a positive balance on the credit card so you aren't charged any interest for the "advance") that way if your card gets skimmed it's the bank that's on the hook and not you.

Safe Travels,

James
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Old Mar 30, 18, 10:16 am
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Moving this to our Mexico forum.

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Old Apr 1, 18, 11:10 am
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When I went to Puerto Vallarta a few years ago it looked like ~50% of stores accepted cards but so few people used them that I felt I'd stand out less by using cash. I'm sure it's different elsewhere, however, and could even be different there now.

Anyway, my Schwab debit card worked great in ATMs there but I'd pay close attention to what the screens say as you may otherwise accidentally agree to some sort of "insurance" (which won't be reimbursed at the end of the month). Didn't run into DCC, though, but I wouldn't be surprised if this changed in the intervening period too.
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