Money and Getting the Best Exchange Rate in Mexico
An important consideration for both tourists visiting Mexico and Expats living in Mexico full time is what is the best way to access your foreign currency, and receive the best exchange rate while doing so. The answer is different if you are just wanting spending money for a day of shopping, or if you need a large sum because you are preparing to purchase a property here in San Miguel de Allende.
Using the ATM
For daily spending money, we recommend using national bank’s ATM machines. When using an ATM machine you are likely to receive a good exchange because of your bank’s ability to control the exchange rate. Many banks in the United States and elsewhere have an agreement with national banks in Mexico so you can avoid paying ATM fees. For instance, Bank Of America currently has an agreement with Scotiabank (it’s part of their Global ATM Alliance). These agreements change from time to time, so check with your bank before traveling.
Using Credit Cards in Mexico
Another way to receive outstanding exchange rates is to make purchases with your credit cards. Using credit cards where possible help you avoid carrying large amounts of foreign currency, which is safer, and you won’t end up with a lot of Mexican Pesos when it’s time to go home. At restaurants in Mexico that except your card, you can tell the waiter you want to pay with your credit card and ask him at that point to add the tip to your bill. The expected tip in restaurants is 10%. The waiter will usually bring a machine to your table, enter the amount of your bill plus 10% in your presence, and you sign the receipt. Of course, you need to specify the amount of the tip (propina) you want to leave.
Most banks charge a conversion fee when using credit cards or ATM cards in Mexico, but some do not. Use a credit card that doesn’t charge a conversion fee and save around 3% on your purchases. Chase has a great deal when you open an investment account with them linked to a savings account, they reimburse all ATM fees, don’t charge a conversion fee, and you’ll get a great exchange rate.
Transferring large amounts to Mexico takes more planning. If you plan to purchase property in San Miguel de Allende, we recommend using an escrow account into which you can wire funds, receive a good exchange rate, and your funds will be safe. Another option is to open a bank account in Mexico to receive your funds. In San Miguel de Allende, you can open an account with Actinver Bank. With Actinver you can wire money directly from your bank into a US dollar fund and hold it there until you want to convert it into pesos. When you decide the time is right to convert, coordinate with your banker to convert your dollars into pesos and move it into a savings account. You’ll be able to get cash from two different branches here in San Miguel de Allende, or write checks. Another easy way to receive money with a good exchange rate is to use a transfer service like TransferWise. TransferWise links to your out of country bank account, receives the amount you want to transfer, and arranges for a partner in Mexico to complete the transfer. They give the current spot exchange rate on transfers and currently charge 1%.
I realize we’ve presented a lot of information and you likely have questions about details we didn’t cover. Feel free to contact us with questions and we’ll do our best to answer them. Thanks for reading!