cash in Mexico

Old Oct 21st, 2023, 07:16 AM
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cash in Mexico

For a six night stay at a resort, but with outings into town and around, what would you recommend in terms of bringing pesos? I'm guessing that smaller shops and restaurants still take cash rather than cards. advice appreciated
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Old Oct 21st, 2023, 09:34 AM
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“Bringing”? On occasion I buy pesos in advance of travel, enough to buy food & coffee between planes, to pay for my taxi on arrival & walking around money the first day. Once there I just use ATMs as I need cash. Kind of like at home. No need to try to figure out what I’ll need in advance. It works for me.

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Old Oct 21st, 2023, 10:12 AM
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Pretty much agree with Mme. Just get pesos at the airport. $2000 ($111 US) would be a good start, depending on your spending habits and how many times you will get off the resort. The biggest thing to keep in mind is you'll want to somehow get smaller denominations like $50's & $20's, which are good for tips, taxis & trinkets. The 3 T's, lol. If you do use an ATM, be sure to decline the prompt where it shows you the conversion rate in your home currency. The withdrawal will then continue at a better exchange rate. If your home bank can for sure order smaller denominations like 100's & 50's, that wouldn't be the worst thing, although they're not going to offer the best exchange rate. Although on small amounts (2,000-3,000) it's not a big deal. If you do use an atm, maybe try to withdraw an odd amount like $2,300 to try to at least get some 100's. Santander typically has one of the lower fees. Scotia one of the highest.

Last edited by bald0ne; Oct 21st, 2023 at 10:40 AM.
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Old Oct 21st, 2023, 01:55 PM
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Just use ATMs - no need to buy pesos ahead of time. Don't use the stand-alone ATMs if you can avoid it.
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Old Oct 21st, 2023, 02:07 PM
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thanks all for the good advice. It's been a few years since we've travelled and I need to get my head back on the road.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2023, 10:05 AM
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I buy peso in advance from my bank. Ordered online and delivered to a local branch (Bank of America). Too many times I've encountered various issues using an ATM in Puerto Vallarta I would never count only on only that one method. The problems have been both local with a machine or once with my home bank where the card would not work anywhere.

Another easy method is to use a "casa de cambio" (house of change) where you hand them USD, they run a receipt showing the transaction, and they give you peso. The rate is not as favorable as you'd get at an ATM or standing in line at a bank but it's super simple.

You don't say where in Mexico but in tourist areas usually USD is accepted as well. Probably at a less favorable rate, but not always (encouraging you to shop there -haha).

This is current information for Puerto Vallarta travels. suerte, suze
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Old Oct 22nd, 2023, 10:08 AM
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If you use an ATM and get large denominations (do your transaction during business hours), just go inside the bank and ask the teller to break a few of the largest bills. That's a lot easier than trying to get small change around town.
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Old Oct 24th, 2023, 04:48 AM
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It sounds as though you are only going to need a small amount of cash. In the greater scheme of things it probably won’t matter too much whether you get it at home or in Mexico though usually , the convenience of getting it at home will often cost 5-10% more than from and ATM or cambio in Mexico.

I tend to use ATMs for most countries including Mexico when I need cash but increasingly, more and more places accept and prefer card payments. Two months in Mexico and I doubt I used an ATM more than a handful of times. Always pays yo have a back up whether that be more than one card or cash $ ( always in new bills).

I have never experienced the problems using ATMs described in teh previous post. If I had, I would have changed banks to one where cards do work, or maybe looked at getting a no fee specialist credit or debit card.

Turning to how much cash you may need. No one can answer that without knowing your spending plans but I usually grab the equivalent of a couple of hundred pounds or dollars on arrival and see how it goes and use cards at ATMs if need be. Uber is increasing common these days so you don’t need cash for taxis in many places.
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Old Oct 24th, 2023, 08:58 PM
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I had never experienced it either, not before or since. It was a brand new chip system at Bank of America that hadn't been smoothed out in Mexico yet, as it turned out. Having that happen once, even for a vacation of only a few weeks, reminds a person to always have alternatives. The ATM problems were local and could happen anywhere when they run out of cash or are out of service. Lastly, plenty of places in old town Puerto Vallarta, as "touristy" as it is, do not accept plastic.

We don't know where in Mexico this person is headed to comment more exactly. While you don't need cash for Uber you do need a smartphone locally set up.
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Old Oct 24th, 2023, 10:03 PM
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"in tourist areas usually USD is accepted as well. "
Not necessarily. Mexico City, Guanajuato, Oaxaca & San Miguel de Allende get plenty of tourists and dollars are not readily accepted.
"just go inside the bank and ask the teller to break a few of the largest bills."
Not always a viable or convenient option, since the most accessible ATM's aren't attached to a bank, like those at the airport or in a major supermarkets. Plus, lines for non-account holders can be onerous.
​​​​​​" It was a brand new chip system at Bank of America that hadn't been smoothed out in Mexico yet"
Not that it's a big deal, but Mexico was using EMV (chip cards) long before that was the standard in the US. Even then, all ATM's had dual technology capabilities, in that mag stripe & chip cards were both acceptable.
As far as not using 'free standing' ATM's, as long as it's a Mexican bank machine (Banamex, Banorte, Santander, etc) that won't be a problem. Typically found in supermarkets or malls and the like. No need to seek out a brick & mortar bank ATM. Not once in our time here have we had a fraud issue with ATM's or credit cards for that matter.
12+ years living in Mexico and I live off of ATM's and credit. Just not an issue.
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Old Oct 25th, 2023, 05:59 AM
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Originally Posted by bald0ne
As far as not using 'free standing' ATM's, as long as it's a Mexican bank machine (Banamex, Banorte, Santander, etc) that won't be a problem. Typically found in supermarkets or malls and the like. No need to seek out a brick & mortar bank ATM. Not once in our time here have we had a fraud issue with ATM's or credit cards for that matter.
12+ years living in Mexico and I live off of ATM's and credit. Just not an issue.
You're there, obviously, and so can comment better than anyone else. When I travel, I always feel most comfortable using an ATM inside a bank during opening hours. It seems more secure to me. Plus, if there's a problem, I can find someone there to help me.
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Old Oct 25th, 2023, 06:34 AM
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I too would only use a ATM attached to a bank during open hours when travelling. Two reasons:
  1. ATMs attached to banks are much less likely to be hacked or cloned.
  2. Any ATM can occasionally "eat" a card for no good reason. I have had it happen to me on a handful of occasions. if it does it is way easier to go into the bank and get it sorted out, retrieve the card.
I think it is very different if you live in the country concerned.

as far as chips in US cards are concerned, I doubt that it has much to do with the Mexican banking system. More likely due to the fact that the majority of American retail banks are way behind the curve when it comes to card technology and have been for decades. The exceptions seem to be Goldman Sachs and JPM Chase. I have accounts with both of those and they do seem to have adopted the leading edge tech used elsewhere in the world. If my bank had issued cards that didn’t work anywhere, I would be changing my bank very quickly!

good point though that it always pays to have more than one source of funds. I always have a small amount of cash €$ , whatever I have handy and take at least two cards making sure that one is MasterCard and one Visa in case one or other network goes down or a country does not use one or other network.
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Old Oct 25th, 2023, 10:28 AM
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If my bank had issued cards that didn’t work anywhere, I would be changing my bank very quickly!
They fixed the problem. It was a brand new chip card to me and just happened to receive it right before a trip. I'm not going to change a bank I've liked for decades because of a one-time mix-up.

I think it is very different if you live in the country concerned.
Of course, but I assume a resident ot Mexico would not be here on Fodor's asking this question.

easier to go into the bank and get it sorted out,
When I have done that, the bank said they were not responsible for the ATM machine.

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Old Oct 25th, 2023, 01:27 PM
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lauramsgarden ~ Is the resort you are staying at an "all inclusive" so you have meals and drinks already covered in advance? And you just need tip money? And for a few outing around town with a little bit of meals, restaurants, shopping, taxi, etc.?

For a 10 day trip I take:
300-500usd dollars stashed away, could be changed if needed
300-500usd-worth of peso already converted at my home bank
one debit card that could be used at ATMs
one credit card that my choice is to use for emergencies only (or pay the hotel bill, but apartments I've usually paid in full in advance)
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Old Oct 26th, 2023, 05:37 AM
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thanks all, this is an interesting exchange and helping me get my head back into the travel game. We will be staying in Playa Del Carmen - not an all inclusive resort and hope to go on at least one adventure to ruins/cenotes, and/or shopping and have several dinners in town. I'm thinking I'll get maybe $200 in pesos from AAA or our bank (Santander) and use ATM's wherever I find them if need be. We will bring several cards (I have occasionally had cards not work abroad, even when bank was notified in advance). Muchas gracias.
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Old Oct 26th, 2023, 09:20 AM
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de nada. But if you are going to bother ordering in advance at home, why get such a small amount? Since you say "we" I'm assuming at least two people. And since you aren't at an all-inclusive, I typically budget $100 per day. Why run around looking for ATMs so often (and depending your home bank arrangements you may have a fee per transaction from them in addition to the fee at the ATM machine)? If you want to go the ATM route better to make fewer but larger withdrawals.
buena suerte!
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Old Oct 26th, 2023, 12:59 PM
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It's been several decades since I worked in banking and I'm sure different banks have different policies.

Back when I was a banker, if someone came into the bank because their ATM card was munched, we absolutely never gave it back. If the person was an account holder at our bank we could replace the card. But if they were a non-account holder, we refused to give it back because we didn't know why their bank had ordered the capture. For all we knew, it could be a stolen card.

Additionally, many banks these days don't service their own ATMs, they outsource that function. So even if they believe the card was captured in error, they can't open the machine.

Needless to say, I don't know how banks work in Mexico, I'm just saying that you can't always expect a bank to retrieve your ATM card.
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Old Oct 26th, 2023, 01:19 PM
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P_M ~ My experience in Mexico is exactly as you described. The tellers inside were not getting involved in anything to do with the ATM functions.
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Old Oct 26th, 2023, 01:21 PM
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Especially at the beginning of a trip $200usd-worth of peso would be gone that first day, especially with two people, having a few drinks and a meal, maybe a little shopping if you need to set up a condo or your hotel room. l'm not saying you have to get peso in advance, but if you do decide to go that route, might as well get enough to last for at least a few days expenses!

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Old Oct 26th, 2023, 05:28 PM
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"Back when I was a banker, if someone came into the bank because their ATM card was munched, we absolutely never gave it back. If the person was an account holder at our bank we could replace the card. But if they were a non-account holder, we refused to give it back because we didn't know why their bank had ordered the capture. For all we knew, it could be a stolen card."

100% agree. Think of the security risk a bank would run if tellers or even 'ejecutivos' had keys and thus the access to the upper housing where a skimmer could be easily placed. And certainly not the cash vault these days, where the locks can only be opened by vetted & bonded armored car personnel with random combination protocols.

Last edited by Moderator1; Oct 27th, 2023 at 11:26 AM. Reason: removed unnecessarily argumentative comments
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