I’m compiling a list of 100 things you should know before you come to Argentina. Our fist category is about money. It builds upon our last post regarding the basics about Money in Buenos Aires. Thanks to all my friends on Facebook for adding their two cents.
Getting Money: Banks, ATMs & Cambios
- ATMs are not easy to find in all neighborhoods. Look for banks with the signs of Banelco or Link outside. These typically have 24-hour ATMs. They’re called cajeros automaticos here. You can also often find cajeros automaticos in gas stations.
- ATMs often don’t work, especially before a long weekend when they run out of money right away. Try more than one if you have to, but if you know a holiday is coming up, get your cash early.
- ATMs charge for each transaction. It started at 11.43 pesos, but now it’s just over 15 pesos (in just about four months really).
- ATMs limit your withdrawal, in some cases only giving you 1000 pesos at a time. If you need to take out more than that, you’ll have to do two transactions and you’ll be charged a fee for both.
- You can’t change money in a bank. Ok, some banks will change money, but not many. The majority will only change foreign currency if you have an account with that bank. So, you’ll have to find a Casa de Cambio to change foreign currency. There are many downtown near the pedestrian street Florida, but none in San Telmo, for example. You’ll need your passport to change money.
UPDATE: An exchange office has just opened in San Telmo. It’s on Defensa, right after Plaza Dorrego (between Humberto Primo and Carlos Calvo).
- A Casa de Cambio may give a better rate than an ATM. But make sure you go to a legitimate one. In downtown, you’ll hear people on the street saying “cambio, cambio, cambio.” Steer clear of these guys and go to the ones that have their exchange rates posted on the windows and require your passport. Fake bills are common, but in the legit places, you shouldn’t have that problem.(*When you stay with us, we’ll show you a fake bill and how to recognize it so that you won’t get stuck with fake money).
Spending Money: Tipping, Credit Cards, & Fake Bills
- Taxi drivers are notorious for giving fake bills. The way they typically do it is if you want to pay with a 50 or 100 note for a 30 pesos ride, you’ll hand them the money asking if they have change and they’ll hand you back a fake saying yours was fake. It’s always better to have small bills for cab rides. You can usually tell a bill is fake because the color is off and the texture isn’t right. Also, hold it up to the light to see if there is a watermark (be sure to look at both sides because sometimes it’s printed on one side instead of being a real watermark). See our post on how to identify fake bills and take the test.
- There’s no need to tip taxi drivers. Most will round down or up so as not to have to use coins. If you want to tip, you might just tell them to round up to the next full peso.
- No one has coins. Ok, I’m exaggerating. The coin situation has improved in the last year. But it was awful before.
- The credit cards most commonly accepted are Visa and American Express. Mastercard is often accepted, but the Discover card is not.
- Let your credit card company and bank know you’ll be abroad and using your cards and ATM in Argentina before you leave home. Sometimes they will block purchases or withdrawals when the card is being used overseas.
- While most places accept credit cards, some don’t. If you’re going to a restaurant, check the Guia Oleo for that restaurant before you go to make sure you can use a credit card.
- If you’re making a big purchase ask if you can have a discount if you pay in cash (efectivo) or if you pay in dollars. Some places will offer a 10% discount for cash purchases.
- Many credit cards charge about 3% for foreign currency purchases. It’s a good idea to check with your credit card company before traveling to see what their policy is on purchases in a foreign currency. This can really add up if you’re always using your credit card.
- Sales tax is 21%. It can be a shock if you’re used to 8% or 9% sales tax.
Did we miss any money tips? Let us know in the comments below.