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ATM & bank questions for obtaining pesos?

In cooperation with: Visit Mexico
North Pole, New York
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ATM & bank questions for obtaining pesos?

I read in another thread that many people don't pay their bank any fees when wothdrawing pesos from an ATM in PV, and that an ATM fee may apply depending on whether their bank is affiliated with the bank in PV. I also posted there but was afraid my post was swallowed up by an ongoing "discussion" there so please pardon me for creating a new thread with this question. I also read the older threads in the Top Questions. But I have never used an ATM in our travels and am somewhat stupid on the subject! We don't arrive until May, but if I need to get a different card I should know that now...

I just became aware that my credit card companies charge a $10/transaction fee (or a 2.7% fee so same difference) for ATM withdrawals. These are AMEX, Visa (Capital One), and MasterCard (Barclays Bank). The Visa doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee for credit purchases but does hare a fee for advance purchases (aka ATM transactions). Do those of you who don't pay this heavier fee use "local" bank cards or something other than I use? Should I just go to a bank to exchange US $ for pesos? I know they have a dailymax. We will use the Visa where able but will certainly need pesos for other things and for tipping.

Also, I read somewhere that you can use US $ at the airport taxi booth to get a taxi to your hotel (Casa Isabel is our first stop), is that accurate? Or should I request pesos from my local bank before leaving? I will want to tip the driver in pesos I gather. And if that is an option, should I exchange several hundred US $ at a local bank before leaving for PV?

Sorry for my ignorance, have never had to deal with these question in the 15 yrs we've traveled the Caribbean!

Thanks all!

Calgary, Canada
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1. Re: ATM & bank questions for obtaining pesos?

Your question seems to surround whether to use a credit card to withdraw money...I wouldn't recommend that at all. Use a bank card, ie: your debit card from your bank account. What fees apply are dependent on who you bank with and what their international withdrawal fees are.

The affiliated US bank that people reference is Bank of America. If you are a BOA customer you can use Santander or Scotiabank ATMs and not have fees applied. If you bank elsewhere, your international withdrawal fee applies, as does the Mexican ATM fee (which is what is referenced in the other threads as ALSO varying from bank to bank, ATM to ATM).

None of us can really speak to what you would be most comfortable doing; only you can make that choice. Myself, I've used ATMs with my bank card quite comfortably in PV since 1998, and I rarely concern myself with withdrawal fees as I just go a limited number of times per trip and take out my daily maximum withdrawal (doing that means you pay less in fees, and for me my banking fees are just part of the convenience of using the ATM vs carrying a monster load of cash with me).

What I CAN say is don't limit yourself to one method by which to get pesos (taking some cash to exchange is recommended, Casa Isabel suites have in-room safes), and be certain to advise your bank before you leave where you will be, and when you will be using the card to withdraw cash reserves.

You could use USD for the taxi, just be prepared to pay about 20-25% more than using pesos as you'll only get a 10:1 rate quote 99% of the time (USD to MXN rates are closer to 12.5 to the dollar right now). That will be case when paying in USD in most places in PV...it's a rare place and/or merchant that uses the daily rate. That's why we recommend pesos here. That and everywhere you go pretty much everything is priced in pesos...so it's really easier once you're on the ground to think, and pay, in pesos. (-:

Puerto Vallarta...
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2. Re: ATM & bank questions for obtaining pesos?

There are about 3 ATMs in the airport. I agree with Jenny, don't use your credit card, get a debit card, even better get a debit card associated with a separate account into which you put just the money you'll need on your trip. Don't forget to tell your bank you'll be using it in Mexico, so they don't cut you off.

Calgary, Canada
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3. Re: ATM & bank questions for obtaining pesos?

JR has mentioned in the past that PayPal offers an ATM card if you have an account with them (US residents only, us Canucks get stiffed :-/). I seem to recall him mentioning the fee being $1USD per transaction. Maybe think about going that route and just have your PayPal account hold the money for your trip?

It's an option. (-:

Texas Gulf Coast...
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4. Re: ATM & bank questions for obtaining pesos?

crmoores m,

Why over complicate things? You have indicated that you have never used an ATM in your travels and are somewhat "challenged" in that regard. Just take sufficient USD for your trip; keep them in the safe, and exchange them as you need to for pesos. Yes, as others' have suggested, I would exchange some USD for Pesos before your departure, so that you arrive with some of the local currency in hand for the airport taxi and other little expenses / tips.

PVJennybean, quoting you: "I rarely concern myself with withdrawal fees as I just go a limited number of times per trip and take out my daily maximum withdrawal". I really don't see much of a difference in taking a significant amount of USD from home in cash and traveling with that risk vs. going to a local ATM once in country and "taking out my daily maximum withdrawal". You are still carrying around a somewhat large amount of cash even just from the ATM back to your hotel room. I would think a well secured hidden money belt put on before I leave home for the airport is far less of an attractive nuisance than going to an ATM, withdrawing a large amount of pesos to reduce the impact of the transaction fees, etc. and then the pure joy of wondering whether or not my card has been skimmed (either while I am on my vacation or after I return home). Just my opinion; to each their own.

Personally crmoores m I'd get one of those discreet money belts, load it up with USD and then place it inside of my shirt (and shorts) and not take it out or touch it until after I was already in my hotel room behind a closed and locked door. Then simply put the money into the room safe and only take out daily amounts to exchange either at the hotel front desk or any Casa de Cambio along your way.

Let's face it; a well secured money belt is rather safe on your person at either your departure or arrival airport; and certainly while on board the aircraft itself. No one other than you or your traveling partner will know that you are even carrying it; except for maybe the TSA person who sees your body scan. Since you are not very familiar with an ATM while traveling, I do not think that a trip to Mexico is the way to get familiar or comfortable with the concept. And as you have noted, there has been a plethora of threads recently about ATM cards being skimmed recently in Pto. Vallarta. Granted this problem is not unique to Pto. Vallarta, but why bother putting yourself through this whole ordeal??

Good luck; I am sure you will figure out which makes you the most comfortable.

!Se divirtieren!

Calgary, Canada
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5. Re: ATM & bank questions for obtaining pesos?

You also don't have to travel over 3,000 miles to reach PV, and everything that entails, do you? (-;

Hence my personal reasoning for why I do what I do (key words being what I do).

Oceanside...
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6. Re: ATM & bank questions for obtaining pesos?

No need to tip the taxi unless they do something extra besides just dropping you off.

Guadalajara, Mexico
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7. Re: ATM & bank questions for obtaining pesos?

This may not be useful information, but Barclays Bank (who issued your MasterCard) is a member of the same "Global Alliance" as Bank of America, Scotiabank and others. It might be worth checking with Barclays to see if they waive any fees for ATM withdrawals at Scotiabank machines, in Mexico.

North Pole, New York
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8. Re: ATM & bank questions for obtaining pesos?

Thanks all!

I'm not affiliated with a local bank and have never had a use for a debit card but it sounds like I may need to look into that and I'll also look at the pp option. Rather than being "challenged" I'm just accustomed to using credit cards or easily getting cash exchanges without ATM's and so never concerned myself with those fees. Just a unique situation on this trip that I need to investigate. And it's not a matter of comfort really but simply avoiding unnecessary fees. I was also under the impression banks in PV are not a great option for an exchange due to daily limits but that shouldn't be an issue since larger transactions will be on a credit card. But yes, sounds like my best option will be to use the bank/exchange house and make one withdrawal if necessary.

I gather Caso de Cambio is a currency exchange and I'll look at that. And yes I always attach a note on my accounts when traveling anywhere, even within the US.

Thank for the responses!

North Pole, New York
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9. Re: ATM & bank questions for obtaining pesos?

PV Jenn I just came across your thread from a year ago (Casa de Cambio vs. ATM Exchange Rates: An Update) and there's also good information in all of the responses there (good education on atm vs change house).

Thanks ElCachorroPerdido, I did contact Barclays and unfortunately they are not affiliated with boa and charge a 5% fee for ATM transactions.

And I now know that using a cc for atm transactions is just not smart at all. Not only do they charge the 5% fee for each transaction, but the 24.9% interest is accruing starting at that moment. Crazy!

I realize that the atm card is the way to go, but we will probably just get some pesos here and then use the casa di cambio or bank to exchange currency as needed since we're staying right in town. But I can see the benefit of getting a debit card (or looking into the cap one online option) if we return here often vs other destinations we frequent...

Thanks all for the info!

Puerto Vallarta...
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10. Re: ATM & bank questions for obtaining pesos?

Another point is that many stores and restaurants here do not accept credit cards at all (high fees and slow payment).

Some banks no longer exchange US dollars, with those that do and the casas de cambios, you will need to carry your passport as ID. Some places that will accept your dollars will only give you a 10-1 rate