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Help with money exchange.

Bay City, MI
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15 posts
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Help with money exchange.

We are heading to Cancun in a couple weeks and we will be staying at a all inclusive. My question is what is the best way to exchange some US dollars to Pesos? I have read a lot and it seems a lot of travel sites recommend using my ATM card at a bank ATM machine. One of my concerns is will I be able to exchange it back over to US dollars before leaving Cancun? We don't plan on doing a lot outside of the resort other than some shopping in the hotel zone and maybe a round of golf. Can anyone who has any experience with this please give me some help? Thanks!

Destination Expert
for Akumal, Riviera Maya, Cancun
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1. Re: Help with money exchange.

The trick is not to exchange more than you need because you will definitely lose money if you convert pesos back to dollars again.

A couple of things to be aware of:

- some banks, especially those in the US and UK, charge outrageous fees for foreign transactions. Check with your own bank to see what their fees will be;

- some ATMs in Mexico give US dollars. Never, ever, EVER withdraw dollars from a Mexican ATM; you will be hit with multiple exchange fees and you will be very sad/angry when you see how much that withdrawal cost you;

- as with ATMs the world over, be cognizant of security. I prefer to use a bank-affiliated ATM that is firmly embedded in a permanent structure (like the wall of a bank). I avoid those stand alone units like the plague (and not just in Mexico). Always check the card slot for signs of tampering and shield your hand from prying eyes/hidden cameras when entering your PIN;

- you should advise your bank prior to travel so they don't freeze your account when they see a foreign withdrawal (this can be a red flag to their security departments). When you get home, you should change your PIN number - quite a few cases of fraud have occured months after the victim was in Mexico. It may be overkill but I use a completely separate account for cash withdrawals. That way, if do get scammed, it minimizes the damage inflicted and it won't t affect my day-to-day finances at all.

For larger purchases, I use my credit card. In some ways, I prefer credit cards to ATMs because I have more protection against fraud.

One last thing (and I know I could get flamed for this), US dollars are widely accepted in the tourist areas. However, the vendors accepting them are free to set their own exchange rate. Some are great and will give you very close to the bank rate. Others, well, not so much (taxis in particular) and you could end up getting as little as 10 pesos to the dollar. The net result is that you will pay more if you pay in dollars but if you're only talking about a few, inexpensive trinkets, the convenience of being able to use your greenbacks might outweigh the savings you'll get from using pesos.

You haven't mentioned tipping. That itself is a subject of great (heated!) debate on these forums as is the currency in which you should tip. IME, dollars or pesos are gratefully accepted. If you're going to use dollars though, ensure the bills are in good condition (not torn or defaced) and foreign coins of any currency are useless to the recipient.

Happy travels!

Edited: 21 January 2014, 16:00
Houston, Texas
Destination Expert
for Solo Travel
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2. Re: Help with money exchange.

<One of my concerns is will I be able to exchange it back over to US dollars before leaving Cancun?>

Just save them until next time OR exchange with a friend or family member when you return home - so they can start out with a small amount on their trip.

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3. Re: Help with money exchange.

JRP, U can always exchange pesos at airport, when going home... U may lose a couple bucks vs exchange rate; but u still have bucks in-hand...Better than going home w/ pesos...JMO

Just gauge ur spending while in CUN.....I "usually" pay in USD or credit card, no matter where I go in CUN......But I always have a limited amount pesos w/ me

Cozumel, Mexico
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4. Re: Help with money exchange.

If you are just going to stay in the AI compound for the entire time on vacation, them there is no need to change over to pesos. Just bring a lot of small small US denominations to spread out however you wish. Now if you are going to venture out and enjoy Mexico, then you can exchange at the front desk 50 or more to start out, then exchange more at the numerous exchange house in the city center. Then if you have extra pesos left over, you can use them for tips at the resort and save your USD.

Charlotte, North...
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5. Re: Help with money exchange.

Since USD is widely accepted in the area, you may want to bring some small denomination bills to use at the beginning and end of your trip, along with Lisa's suggestion of withdrawing from the ATM close to what you think you'll need. I usually get 3 days worth of spending and hit up the ATM as needed (up till just after my last trip my bank didn't charge for using the ATM within network while traveling abroad ).

The resort I stay will change pesos back to USD now a days so you may want to ask at your resort when you check in.

New York City, New...
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6. Re: Help with money exchange.

Thanks for all the info. I'll lucky that my bank doesn't charge a lot to give me foreign currency. So after reading all this info, I've decided to get a small amt of pesos ($100 worth) and other spending money in us dollars, small bills. This way if I don't use all the pesos, I can use them for tips the last few days of my trip. Then I just have to figure out how much pesos to tip!

New York City, New...
Destination Expert
for Yucatan Peninsula
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70 reviews
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7. Re: Help with money exchange.

Your bank may not charge, but they are probably not giving you a great rate. The peso is trading at about 13 to 1.

Chase claims no fee with my sort of account, but they wanted to sell me euros at $1.45 when they were trading at $1.22 (so even with a 3% fee, one would come out ahead just using the ATM).

For the amount of money it sounds like you will be spending outside the AI, it probably doesn't make a huge difference, but maybe get 1000 pesos out of an ATM when you arrive. You can always use it to buy a bottle of tequila at the airport if you have any left over.

Tipping is slightly more conservative than in NYC. 15% instead of 20%. Cabs don't expect tips, but I usually tip them if they schlep my bag in and out of the trunk/or are very humorous and filled with information.


8. Re: Help with money exchange.

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