One unexpected shock for visitors to Argentina are the high atm fees. While international banking here has been somewhat normalized in recent years since the ‘blue dollar‘ days, many travelers still bring USD, Euros or Reals in cash to exchange on the black market in order to avoid obscenely high cash machine fees.
Travelers should be aware that those are the only three currencies in demand on the black market, and those who plan to exchange money will find it easiest with U.S. dollars.
Hot Argentina Money Tip: Do not exchange your foreign currency to Argentine pesos before arriving in Argentina. Argentine pesos are somewhat of a pariah currency and you will get a bad rate (if they even have Argentine pesos to sell).
How to Save Money on ATM Fees in Argentina
‘Low Withdrawals limits — High Fees‘ is the name of the game when it comes to accessing money from a foreign bank account in Argentina.
ATM withdrawals are limited to a maximum of about U.S.$82-$200 per transaction for most banks, and only two withdrawals per day are permitted. Crazy, right?
Since Argentina is still predominately a cash economy, that can present a problem for big spenders.
What’s worse is that the low withdrawal amounts are combined with an ATM fee of approximately US$10 or more per transaction. After blowing the budget with ATM fees it’s no wonder visitors seek out alternate options to access their money from abroad while they are in Argentina.
This is the main reason why people still bring dollars to Argentina — it can be exchanged (most easily on the black market) quickly and easily with no fees, and you may get a slightly better rate. Dollars, Euros and Reals can also be changed at the Banco Nacional (National Bank of Argentina), but often the lines are long and the rate may be slightly lower than on the black market.
Those who decide to change their foreign currency at the National Bank should also be aware that they will need to have their passport on them. Private banks in Argentina will not purchase foreign currency unless you have an account with them. Considering the difficulty using banks in Argentina, it is understandable that visitors go to the black market to get their hands on some pesos. While technically illegal, the black market trade of currency is common in Argentina and there are no cases of foreigners getting in trouble with the law for trading money with a private entity.
Visitors are advised to ask their hotel for a safe place to change their money into pesos.
Those who arrange activities, tours, or travel through this website can always ask us for a reputable place to change money on the black market in Buenos Aires as well.
While there are a few legal currency exchange houses, their rates are usually worse than the black market rate, so few people use them. Some supermarkets will also take dollars if you purchase something and give you change in pesos, but be sure to compare the rate they give to the official exchange rate.
Those moving to Argentina, or even traveling here for any length of time, would be smart to open a checking account with a bank back home that refunds ATM fees if they can find one.
-In the U.S., Charles Schwab and some credit unions refund ATM fees, while others such as Capital One and USAA refund a limited amount.
-Australians should look into Citibank Plus, an ING Orange Everyday account and Schwab checking.
-Canada doesn’t have many good options, but try out ScotiaBank/Tangerine-ING or HSBC Premier.
-In the UK most banks do not refund the banking fees, but Nationwide has some of the best rates. The mobile-based Starling Bank is also worth investigating.
Many of the checking accounts that refund international ATM fees have certain requirements, so you’ll have to figure out what works for your individual situation.
Regardless of your home bank, to get charged as little as possible withdrawing money in Argentina try to use ATMs that are on your home network.
The Argentine national bank mentioned above, Banco de la Nacion also has lower withdrawal fees at its ATMs than the private banks.
Even though many smaller local businesses in Argentina often don’t accept credit cards or charge a fee to do so, it is also a good idea to carry a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign currency fees as a backup.
In general, while visiting Argentina it’s best to have a few ways to access your money because sometimes ATM’s run out of money, or are out of service, which can be particularly inconvenient in a small one-ATM town such as Cachi.
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Money Transfer: Send Money to Argentina
A good alternative to avoid ATM fees is to use a international money transfer service to send yourself money. The company Transferwise, an electronic money transfer service recently started operating in Argentina, causing many to say hallelujah!
The rates are up to eight time cheaper than a bank transfer and definitely better than paying high ATM and foreign exchange fees.
This new way to transfer money electronically is cheaper because money doesn’t actually cross borders, but is done on a peer-to peer network.
Their system finds someone looking to transfer money in the opposite direction, and then conducts the transfer using mid-market exchange rate, paying out in the local currency.
Transferwise is fully regulated and its rates even beat out a previously more popular money transfer service, Xoom. It’s a bit more user friendly too.
For example if you send yourself $1000 USD on Transferwise you’d get AR$42.18750 (mid-June 2019 exchange rate).
Sending the same amount via Xoom you’d receive AR$40,117.20 at the maximum (and their fees are even higher to transfer using a debit or credit card). If you use this Xoom link to sign up you get a $10 Amazon gift card though, so it may be worth using Xoom once.
Every personal situation is different though and different countries have different regulations, so to save money it’s worth doing a bit of research to find out what works best for you.