rate of exchange fluctuates a tiny bit daily, so you probably are
better off not exchanging too much of your currency at once. Don't
forget, however, to have enough pesos to carry you over a weekend or
Mexican holiday, when banks are closed. In general, avoid carrying
the U.S. $100 bill, the bill most commonly counterfeited in Mexico,
and therefore the most difficult to exchange, especially in smaller
towns. Since small bills and coins in pesos are hard to come by in
Mexico, the U.S. $1 bill is very useful for tipping.
bottom line on exchanging money of all kinds: It pays to ask first
and shop around. Banks pay the top rates.
houses (casas de cambio)
are generally more convenient than banks since they have
locations and longer hours; the rate of exchange may be the same as
a bank or only slightly lower. Note:
Before leaving a bank or exchange-house window, always count your
change in front of the teller before the next client steps up.
airports have currency-exchange counters that often stay open
whenever flights are arriving or departing. Though convenient, these
generally do not offer the most favorable rates.
hotel's exchange desk commonly pays less favorable rates than banks;
however, when the currency is in a state of flux, higher-priced
hotels are known to pay higher
than bank rates, in their effort to attract dollars. The bottom
line: it pays to shop around, but in almost all cases, you receive a
better exchange by changing money first, then paying for goods or
services, rather than by paying with dollars directly to an
in Mexico are rapidly expanding and improving services. New hours
tend to be from 9am until 5 or 6pm, with many open for at least a
half day on Saturday, and some even offering limited hours on
Sunday. The exchange of dollars, which used to be limited until
noon, can now be accommodated anytime during business hours in the
larger resorts and cities. Some, but not all, banks charge a service
fee of about 1% to exchange traveler's checks. However, most
purchases can be paid for directly with traveler’s checks at the
stated exchange rate of the establishment. Don't even bother with
personal checks drawn on a U.S. bank--although theoretically they
may be cashed, it's not without weeks of delay, and the bank will
wait for your check to clear before giving you your money.
to Mexico can also access money from automatic
teller machines (ATMs), now available in most major cities and
resort areas in Mexico. Universal bank cards (such as the Cirrus and
PLUS systems) can be used, and this is a convenient way to withdraw
money from your bank and avoid carrying too much with you at any
time. There is often a service fee charged by your bank for each
transaction, but the exchange rate is generally more favorable than
one found at a currency house. Most machines offer Spanish/English
menus and dispense pesos, but some offer the option of withdrawing
dollars. Be sure to check the daily withdrawal limit before you
depart, and ask your bank whether you need a new personal ID number.
For Cirrus locations abroad, call tel. (800)
424-7787, or check out MasterCard's Web site (www.mastercard.com/atm/www.mastercard.com).
For PLUS usage abroad, call tel. (800)
843-7587, or visit Visa's Web site (www.visa.com/atms).
be able to charge most hotel, restaurant, and store purchases, as
well as almost all airline tickets, on your credit card. You can get
cash advances of several hundred dollars on your card, but there may
be a wait of 20 minutes to 2 hours. You generally can't charge
gasoline purchases in Mexico; however, with the new franchise system
of Pemex stations taking hold, this may change as well. Visa
("Bancomer" in Mexico), MasterCard ("Carnet" in
Mexico), and American Express are the most accepted cards.
charges will be billed in pesos, then later converted into dollars
by the bank issuing the credit card. Generally you receive the
favorable bank rate when paying by credit card.
checks are readily accepted nearly everywhere, but they can be
difficult to cash on a weekend or holiday or in an out-of-the-way
place. Their best value is in replacement in case of theft.
Frequently in Mexico, a bank or establishment will pay more for
traveler's checks than for cash dollars.
every credit card company has an emergency 800-number that you can
call if your wallet or purse is stolen. They may be able to wire you
a cash advance off your credit card immediately, and in many places,
they can deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. The
issuing bank's 800-number is usually on the back of the credit
card--though of course that doesn't help you much if the card was
stolen. The toll-free information directory will provide the number
if you dial tel. (800)
555-1212. Citicorp Visa's U.S. emergency number is tel. (800)
336-8472. American Express cardholders and traveler's check
holders should call tel. (800)
221-7282 for all money emergencies. MasterCard holders should
call tel. (800) 307-7309.
you opt to carry traveler's checks, be sure to keep a record of
their serial numbers, separately from the checks of course, so
you're ensured a refund in just such an emergency.
are that if your wallet is gone, the police won't be able to recover
it for you. However, after you realize that it's gone and you cancel
your credit cards, it is still worth informing them. Your Credit
Card Company or insurer may require a police report number.