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Advice for exchanging USD on Calle Florida

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Montreal, Canada
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Advice for exchanging USD on Calle Florida

We will be in Argentina for 3 weeks. We are planning to bring USD with us since it seems that we can get a better exchange rates inside the country (we are Canadians so cannot use xoom.com). We rented an apartment in Palermo and our landlord suggested we exchange with the people crying "cambio cambio" on Calle Florida.

After looking into this online, my travel companions are not comfortable with it, especially since we would like to exchange a fairly large sum (2000 USD). Are there safer exchange houses on Florida (or elsewhere) that offer decent exchange rates? We are not aiming for the current blue market rate of 7.5 ARS to USD. Somewhere around 6 would be great.

Buenos Aires...
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1. Re: Advice for exchanging USD on Calle Florida

Personally , I would stay off Florida Street . period.

Hopefully someone will give you advice on where to exchange your money without risking being robbed or worse on Florida St.

Buenos Aires...
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2. Re: Advice for exchanging USD on Calle Florida

This is a very hot topic now... and it is very hard to have one answer that will suit everyone. It depends on each visitors risk appetite... or to put it in perspective, what you are willing to risk to get a better deal from your vacation.

Yes, it is possible to trade your US$ on Florida and be fine, but you have to remember that if you get unlucky then there is no recourse.

For those that know people down here, its best to try to sell your Dollars to locals that you know, or have them suggest a place that they may use for their ForEx trading needs.

Another option is to use your US$ cash with merchants and service providers, make sure you ask about what exchange rate they will offer. I suggest first fixing a Peso price, then see if you can agree on an exchange rate for your dollars and settle the amount to be paid accordingly.

Edited: 26 January 2013, 02:47
Chicago, Illinois
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3. Re: Advice for exchanging USD on Calle Florida

Hi--I was just in Buenos Aires last month. Here is the deal. Be careful anywhere in the country. Theifing (if that's a word) and con games with tourist is big business. Keep your personal belongings CLOSE. Nothing happened to me, but a local on the street told me i shouldn't be carrying my dlsr camera on my shoulder, and a tour guide asked the wife why she wasn't scared of having her wedding rings stolen. Please be careful.

As far as the exchange--you are best not to deal with the cambio people. There are some that are running an honest ship, but there is a lot of fake money out there.

It kind of makes no sense--when i was there, the official exchange rate was $1 USD to 4.88 peso, and the cambio people were offering over 5 peso for one usd. From a finance point of view, that's giving money away. What an argentine in the US told me was that locals rather have usd becuase the peso is being devalued--it really is, look at the chart.

That being said, you can get a better exchange rate in some shops using usd like many have said. In a few shops, they would convert at 5.50 - 5.75 pesos for one usd. I'm a finance guy, and it doesn't make sense to me--but whatever.

You need a two prong approach--1) bring usd--negotiate an exchange rate, 2) get money out of ATM--this is the safest.

Buenos Aires...
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4. Re: Advice for exchanging USD on Calle Florida

Please note that any Pesos you retrieve from an ATM machine will be exchanged at the Official Rate, the same is valid for any credit card purchases. So regardless of which option you care to use to get a better ForEx rate,remember you must bring down hard currency cash.

Also... everybody likes to quote a current "fair" exchange rate on any given day.... but its very important to point out a couple of things about exchange rates.

a) rates change in real time, so dont expect to read a certain number on a screen, or hear it from someone, or read a newspaper story and then expect to get the same rate when you go to place a trade

b) remember that there are bid/ask or buy/sell rates. So if you have a local friend that says "the Dollar is worth 7.30 Pesos" then that is a reference sell rate - ie. the price you must pay in Pesos to get a US Dollar. The BUY rate will always be less than the sell rate

c) buy/sell rates have spreads, and this spread is not small in the current market. Remember this is an informal (yes, its technically not legal) market, so spreads are a lot wider than they would normally be if this market was legal. What this means is that a 12 to 15 cent spread between buy and sell rates is normal. Example, if a local tells you the rate is 7.30 then if you go to sell your Dollars, a rate of 7.10 to 7.15 per dollar would be a good rate

d) Rates will vary depending on where you trade (actual location), and how many middlemen you go through (ie. how large the trader is, if he is a dealer or not, etc.), the size of your trade, and what additional services are provided (delivery, etc.). Do not expect to get a low spread transaction if you are only trading 300 or 400 Dollars and are not doing so Downtown near the financial district. If you have a delivery service, the related costs will usually be implicit in the exchange rate.

I get asked this one final question a lot.... " How can I get the best possible exchange rate? ". The answer is simple, but for most visitors the implementation is not without a few hurdles.

You need to have a reliable local connection, friend, relative or business associate that can refer you to a serious ForEx broker that deals in the financial district and is a dealer/market maker. These folks do not deal with people off the street (no walk ins), you must be properly introduced, you may have to be willing to fill out a short client form and provide proper form(s) of ID, and you have to deal in minimum trade sizes (usually US$2000).

Its important to keep these details in mind, because from experience I know many visitors and tourists that expect Merchants or non broker/dealers to give unrealistic rates for a few Dollars. While its OK to ask and be polite, after all, its not impossible that a Merchant or a Taxi driver may be happy to buy a few Dollars for longer term holding and will not mind paying more, its a good idea to manage your expectations. One good way of looking at things is that if you find a Merchant that will offer you a 6,50 exchange rate on a purchase you decided to make, your alternative at using a credit card that at current rates (1/26/2013) stands at 4.97 minus applicable forex fees still yields you a savigs of 1,50 pesos per dollar's worth of shopping, that takes your money at least a good 25% further.

WDC
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5. Re: Advice for exchanging USD on Calle Florida

My advice: DO NOT EXCHANGE ON AVE. FLORIDA .

I think your landlord gave you quick and poor advice. If I were you, I would change ~ $100 or $150 US dollars ONLY at the Banco del la Nacion at EZE airport (just after Customs).

Then I would ask other Protenos in or around your apartment, or merchants or restauranteurs, where is a safe place to change dollars for pesos. Often there are good places to change located on safe side-streets, and if you have the rec. of someone, you are in no danger of getting fake bills. We have changed in Recoleta and Palermo, and it was not uncomfortable or creepy (though we did, as always - especially when dealing with money issues - move about with caution) If you do not live near the place, take taxis wear inconspicuous attire - no Rolex etc.

Chicago, Illinois
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6. Re: Advice for exchanging USD on Calle Florida

Gaucho100K did a really good job explaining bid ask spreads. In my post, the 4.88 was the official rate at the time. It is closer to 5 now. You can use oanda or google finance to get the current rate at the time you go. Most atms charge a small peso fee, similar to around $4 USD, and then your bank / credit card will usually charge around 3% in the US. Chase bank is 3% + $5 USD as their charge.

You are better off either paying with USD or credit card. I was shocked at how many places excepted USD. Just ask.

Remember what someone once told you--if it is to good to be true, it is. If they official rate is 5 peso per dollar, and someone wants to give you 7, i would think twice. The person is in business to make money--some how some way--so the only way they would make this exchange is 1) the money is fake, 2) they think the official rate will go up over 7 if they are dealing with a legit bank, 3) interest rates are higher on USD, 4) there is a shadow market out there for USD for whatever reason.

Don't have your vacation ruined by getting scammed out there. Being penny wise and pound foolish is what I think its called. If you are from the US or Canada, besides food and souvenirs, you will find everything in the country very expensive. Using official exchange rates--over $100 for levis jeans just as an example.

WDC
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7. Re: Advice for exchanging USD on Calle Florida

If you pay by CC or ATMs, you will likely pay currency change fees in addition to the rather poor exchange fees. For a short stay, I agree with the above post, but for longer than that - I would explore other possibilities.

In the US, Schwab and Capital One offer CCs with no change fees.

Florence, Italy
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8. Re: Advice for exchanging USD on Calle Florida

No need to go to Calle Florida. Off Plaza Italia in Palermo there is a casa de cambio. It is on Calle Jorge Luis Borges on the first block (halfway down) on the right leaving Plaza Italia behind you, practically around the corner from the Banco De La Nacion en Plaza Italia. There is of course no sign outside. To give you an idea of the rate for euros this week: 6.4 official and 8.5 at the casa de cambio.

Buenos Aires...
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9. Re: Advice for exchanging USD on Calle Florida

Great advice above. I think that each visitor needs to do his/her own math, a certain discount may sound like a great deal to some and that same number may feel like only peanuts to another... so there is no harsh/strict rule with all the numbers crunching.

San Diego...
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10. Re: Advice for exchanging USD on Calle Florida

Be VERY careful if you go to Florida or any exchange house that is well known. One of my rental client's daughter, who has been living in Buenos Aires a while, went to an exchange house to exchange funds. Apparently, someone followed them from the exchange place and followed them home where they not only stole all their money but their computer, camera and many other things. It was very traumatic for them.

So be careful on Florida street and other exchange places that are very public in nature.