Updated: Jan 3
The national currency for Mexico is the peso and in recent years it has become harder and harder to purchase items or services with any other form of currency due to new regulations. So which is better to use, pesos or dollars? The answer is simple and for several reasons, pesos. First and foremost it is important to remember that the exchange rate varies from day to day and from vender to vender. Each Casa de Cambio or House of Exchange where you can change currency has a different rate. Wal-Mart might have a different rate than the 7-11. Oh and taxis, their exchange is always at 10 no matter what, in this case you are losing money that you could have gained if you were to change to pesos first.
Let's break it down:
Right now the exchange rate is an average of 20 pesos to the dollar. ($ 1 USD = $ 20 pesos) The extra 5 pesos here and there might not seem like a lot, but look at it this way...If you need to change $ 100 USD = $ 2,000 pesos, the 500 pesos can actually buy you a lot of things. Depending on the rate, per 100 dollars, you could be gaining anywhere from $20 to
$25 dollars by making the exchange.
Are you really good at doing math in your head? Do you really want to think that much while you're on vacation? Uh NO, that's why it's called vacation! If you are given the price in pesos, you then pay with dollars and your change is in pesos, how do you know that the change that you get is correct? Just pull out your handy pocket calculator; everyone carries one of those right? Don't expect to get change in dollars, ever.
There are several reasons why using dollars is just not a good idea. Here in Mexico, US paper bills are accepted but coins are not. When you pay in dollars your change will always be in pesos and unless you check the math it is likely you will get short changed at least once by accident. If a bill is torn, ripped, marked on or really worn they will not be accepted. More and more venders do not accept anything other than pesos. Most businesses, even Wal-Mart, won't accept large bills. If you try to buy something that is the equivalent of $5 USD and you want to pay with a $20 USD bill, so sorry. If the difference in change is too large they will not accept it. Places like the Archaeological sites do not accept any currency other than the national currency.
Now we are going to talk about the pros of using pesos.
There is no second guessing, stressing or trying to do math in your head! You worked hard for your vacation, enjoy it!!
You will actually save $$$ money $$$ If you can change money at your hotel, a bank or casa de cambio you won't get short changed by a lower exchange somewhere else.
You will always know that you are getting correct change, without pulling out your trusty pocket calculator.
You won't be denied a purchase if you have pesos.
Where to make the change:
You can make a currency exchange before you leave the airport in Cancun or at your hotel when you arrive. It's a good idea to change your home currency to pesos in increments. You don't want to be stuck with a lot of pesos at the end of your trip because it will cost you more to buy back your original currency. There are several places around town where you can change currency and the rates are posted outside of the establishment. Be sure to remember that you will need your passport to change money at a bank or casa de cambio. Unless you want to carry your passport past the hotel lobby doors, it’s best to change before you go out and about. Sometimes the ATM will give you the best rate of exchange but you will get tagged with big fees. Some banks have Mexican affiliates that won't charge you to use the ATM. An example, CitiBank in the States has an affiliate called Banamex and Bank of America with Santander. For Canadians, you will find there are HSBC and Scotiabanks. Another thing to keep in mind is that it is always better to keep cash on hand because so many places don't accept plastic, especially places like the flea market. As a rule, only plan to use your ATM card when you need to withdraw cash. Some credit card companies will charge you an out of country fee when you use it for purchases such as
Muy Importante!!!! Very Important!!! What you need to do before you leave home:
So that you don't find yourself in a financial pickle while you are on vacation, here are some very helpful tips to prevent this.
Advise your bank / credit card company that you will be traveling to Mexico and when. To prevent fraudulent charges, many banks will put a hold on your account once a charge from another country has been flagged. You don't want to get stuck at the gas station with your rental car and no way to pay for gas!
Take a photo, front and back, of all the cards that you plan to take with you. Send these photos to your email, back up in Drive or Dropbox so that you have copies and access from anywhere you are. This should apply to your passport as well. Also ask for any out of country phone numbers you will need in case the 800 number on the back doesn't work outside your home country. This will save you a lot of time and Tylenol in the case that you lose your wallet on the beach after a long night at the club. Put the copies with your passport in the safe at the hotel for maximum security.
If you have a debit card (a card tied to your bank account that does not have a Visa/MasterCard logo) it should not accompany you too far from a secure location. It is very easy for your bank account to be emptied without recourse if your wallet should happen to be stolen.
This may be the most important advice we can give you: NEVER, EVER use your debit / credit card at an ATM that is not affiliated with a major bank. In recent years there has been a rash of ATM’s that have been hacked and people’s cards have been cloned. Even ATM’s at some of the major hotels have been hacked. Be mindful of where you use your card and remember cash is always a more secure way to pay!
If you have any questions, would like to share your advice or need advice be sure to use the comment section below! We welcome your input and participation!