If you are planning a trip to Mexico, you may be wondering how you go about exchanging your money. After spending two straight months in Mexico, I quickly learned the best way to get pesos. Below is a list of options for exchanging your money.
Best Way to Get Pesos for Mexico
1. ATM in Mexico
A convenient way to get money in Mexico is by withdrawing pesos at an ATM. Major credit and debit cards are accepted at Mexico ATMs and your bank will charge a foreign transaction fee of 1% to 3% of any amount withdrawn.
The ATM may also have its own fee ranging from $1.00 USD to 1%. You will be required to enter a 4-digit pin. Make sure to set one up with your bank if your card does not have one.
Keep in mind that the ATM amount will always be displayed in pesos, not USD. So if you want to withdraw $100.00 USD, you would enter 2,000.00 MXN (considering the exchange rate is 20.00 MXN per $1.00 USD).
Using an ATM doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all does it? There still is one thing to consider though.
Generally, using an ATM in Mexico is considered safe. However, there is a possibility of becoming a victim of a scam. The most common scam is called ATM Skimming. Skimming is a device criminals install on the ATM where you insert your card. This device will read your card information including your PIN.
Pro tip: Make sure to observe the ATM before using it. You can try to pull firmly on the piece where you insert your card to make sure it’s not a skimming device. Also, double-check that the keypad doesn’t have a cover over it that’s used to record your PIN. And if you can, always go with a couple of friends.
2. Send yourself money online
There are so many different options for sending money to Mexico, and all of them have their own pros and cons. You can send yourself money to Mexico online before you even arrive.
The best way to send your money to Mexico is by using Xoom. Xoom’s fee for cash pickup is only $3.99 USD. The maximum cash pickup amount in a 24hr period is $2,999.00 USD.
Exceed this amount and you will be required to provide additional information and documents in order to increase your cash pickup allowance to no more than $10,000.00 USD in a 24-hour period, and a limit of $20,000.00 USD in a 30-day period.
Generally, your money will be ready within minutes if using a bank card. Allow 2 to 3 days if you are transferring money from your bank account.
When you choose the amount you want to send, Xoom automatically converts your money to pesos for the receiving amount. So if you send $300.00 USD with an exchange rate of 20.8693 MXN per $1.00 USD, your receiving amount would be 6261.00 MXN.
Xoom usually has some of the highest exchange rates when compared to other options such as an ATM.
How Long Does It Take For Xoom to Transfer Money To Mexico?
In my experience, it is best to send your money 3 to 4 days prior to arriving in Mexico. This guarantees your money will be there waiting for you to pickup. If sending money directly from your bank account, it may take 2 to 3 days before it’s ready for pickup. However, use your bank card and your cash is generally ready in minutes!
When choosing your location to pick up your money such as an Oxxo or Elektra, make sure it is a location near where you are staying. That way you can walk down to the store and pick up your money upon arrival.
How To Pickup Cash Using Xoom
In order to pick up your cash when using Xoom, you will need two things: your Xoom transaction number and your photo ID such as your passport or driver’s license. With these two things, the teller will be able to pull up your transfer and give you your cash money.
My first time in Mexico I wasn’t able to communicate very well with the teller due to the language barrier. That said, it was still a simple process.
I walked up to the counter, presented my phone which displayed my transaction number, then showed my passport, and after that, the teller handed over my converted pesos. You can be confident that picking up your cash will be an easy process no matter the situation when using Xoom.
What’s the Best Place To Pickup Money When Using Xoom?
Elektra is the best location to pick up your cash when using Xoom. Elektra only permits one person at a time when approaching the window. This is much more secure. This allows you to do all your cash exchanges in privacy.
Other pick-up options include Oxxo (a Mexican convenience store) or Walmart if available. But Elektra will give you the most secure experience.
Pro tip: If you can, go to pick up your money with a group of people to scare off any potential criminals. Also, don’t pick up money wearing fancy clothes or accessories. Instead, dress casually and try not to stand out.
Canceling Your Xoom Transaction
If you need to cancel your Xoom transaction for any reason, it’s simple to do via the app or website. If you cancel within 30 minutes of your authorized transaction, you will be issued a refund within 3 business days.
Otherwise, your refund can take anywhere between 5 to 10 business days. You can be at ease knowing they offer a money-back guarantee also. Xoom guarantees your money will be received, if not they will refund the full amount to you.
There are so many different ways to exchange money for your trip to Mexico. The best way ultimately depends on your preference and individual situation. If you need money ASAP, the bank may be your best option.
If you plan ahead, then sending yourself the money is an excellent option for convenience and safety. You choose what you feel is best for you and I guarantee you will be satisfied exchanging your money for pesos.
I think we can all agree we work hard for our money. So it’s understandable that we all want the most out of our money. When you exchange your money, you are optimizing its potential and worth.
3. Foreign currency exchange
One of the most efficient ways to get pesos is by utilizing the numerous exchanges in Mexico. Although it might be difficult to find one in rural areas outside of the city, they are abundant in most tourist areas.
I like these shops because they display the exchange rates on a board facing the front of the shop. This makes it easy to compare rates when walking by.
When using an exchange house, make sure to ask about any fees and if there’s a charge to pay using your bank card as each location will vary.
Pro tip: Be sure to tuck away your cash before leaving the window. You don’t want any wandering eyes seeing you stuff a wad of cash in your pocket while walking down the street.
4. Airport exchange
Your last resort for getting pesos should be an airport exchange. Sure, these exchanges are extremely convenient, but you also pay a premium for them.
Not only are the fees usually higher, but the exchange rate tends to be lower than what you can find in the city.
That said, if you can hold off, I recommend waiting until you can find an exchange in the city you’re visiting for the best exchange rate.
Pro tip: You can order pesos online before arriving and pick it up at the airport. This method usually results in friendlier fees and a better exchange rate.
What is the Official Currency in Mexico?
In most tourist areas of Mexico, shops, as well as restaurants, will accept USD. But if you want to get the best bang for your buck, make sure you are paying with the proper currency. In Mexico, the peso is the official currency. There are 100 centavos (cents) per peso. Centavos denominations are found in 1,10, 20, and 50-piece coins. The more common form of pesos you will see are banknotes. Mexico prints banknotes in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 pesos.
You may not use centavos too often. Centavos are generally used to take a bus, or as a tip when dining out at a restaurant. The banknotes will be your most commonly used currency.
A peso may be displayed multiple ways, regardless of which way it is displayed though, it all means the same thing price-wise. 100 MXN, $100 MN or MX$100 are all different ways to write 100 pesos.
Exchange Rate Fluctuation in Mexico
The exchange rate is in constant fluctuation and is determined by the flow of currencies in and out of Mexico. If pesos are in high demand, their value will increase. Likewise, if there is less demand, the value will decrease.
The average low exchange rate in Mexico is 17.00 MXN per $1.00 USD. While the high rarely exceeds 25.00 MXN per $1.00 USD. You can expect the high season (Mid-December through March) to generally have higher exchange rates since these are the busier months in Mexico. This means you get more pesos per dollar.
What is the Best Currency for Mexico?
You may think that paying for things in USD in Mexico can get you the best results. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Exchanging your money for pesos is the best thing to do because it gives you the best buying power.
If paying using USD, different places will charge you a different rate. You could end up paying more for something because the seller determines the rate. Paying in USD gives them the determining factor of what your money is worth. Pay in pesos however and you are paying the exact cost.
For example, if the average exchange rate is 20.00 MXN per $1.00 USD at the time and you buy something that costs 100.00 MXN. Technically that would be $5.00 USD. They may end up charging you more. So it’s best to pay exactly 100.00 MXN that way there is no confusion with the conversion rate.
How To Get The Best Exchange Rate
You can get the best exchange rate by going to a local bank or local credit union. You may be charged a small fee (usually a few dollars). As well, there may be a minimum amount required to exchange and a maximum amount allowed.
Keep in mind that having Mexican travel insurance in hand is also very important, check out my in-depth review here.