One unexpected shock for visitors to Argentina are the high atm fees. While international banking here has been somewhat normalized in recent years (for Argentina anyway!), many travelers still bring USD or Euros in cash to exchange on the black market in order to avoid obscenely high cash machine fees. There is no demand for other currencies, and you’d probably do best to bring dollars.
How to Save Money on ATM Fees in Argentina
‘Low Withdrawals — 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-$135 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 when they are in Argentina.
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. 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 charge fees, but Nationwide has some of the best rates. The mobile-based Starling Bank is also worth investigating. Many of the accounts that refund 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 national bank, Banco de la Nacion also has lower withdrawal fees at its ATMs than private banks.
Even though many smaller local businesses in Argentina 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, traveling in 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 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 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. The company 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$29,442.22 (mid-Aug. 2018 exchange rate). Sending the same amount via Xoom you’d get AR$27,627.75 at the maximum (and their fees are even higher to transfer using a debit or credit card). Every situation and country is different though, so to save money it’s worth doing a bit of research to find out what works best for you.
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