EXCHANGING DOLLARS FOR PESOS

It's very important to always use pesos while visiting the Zihua/Ixtapa area. This article is written mainly for U.S. dollar exchange. Canadian dollars are exchanged the same way but the exchange rate may be higher or lower. The normal U.S. exchange rate is around 18-1 and varies slightly each day. You can use and pay for things in dollars but you will only get an exchange rate of around 12-1.

Exchanging $500 U.S. dollars for pesos will give you about $9.000 pesos (as of January 2016).

Start your trip with getting pesos at the ATM inside the airport. Some of the ATM instructions that you will encounter during your visit, will be in both Spanish and English. It is important to remember that the amount you pick or enter will be the peso amount. When you exit the customs doors, you will see the taxi stand directly to your right. Turn to the left and walk toward the gift shops. The ATMs are against the wall on your left.   Always use a DEBIT card to save on transaction fees. Once you've done your exchange, go to the taxi booth and pay for your taxi in pesos.

BRINGING DOLLARS VS ATM DEBIT CARDS

Currently many banks in the area will not accept dollars for exchange; this is due to the problems with money laundering with the drug cartels. If a bank does accept dollars for exchange, you will need to have your passport with you and the usual maximum is $500 dollar per day.

Almost all banks have an ATM machine which is usually located outside the actual bank. Most of them can be accessed 24 hours a day. There will be some kind of transaction fee. Check with your ATM debit card bank and see who in Mexico is affiliated with them. An example is that Bank of America customers don't have to pay $5 transaction fee if using Banco Santander but still have to pay the 1% international transaction fee. Always notify your bank that you will be in Mexico and your travel dates. This step will insure that your card is not denied due to foreign transactions. Also try to find an ATM that “swipes” your card instead of inserting it. Some of the older bank ATM will “eat” your card and not return it. Then what are you going to do? ScotiaBank has the “swipe” system.

If you're going to use dollars for anything, they must be perfect. Any bill that is slightly torn, missing a corner, has any type of writing or drawings on it or are excessively worn will not be accepted by anyone.

Some hotels will exchange your dollars for pesos but the exchange rate will be much lower.

Never use a credit card for a transaction as the fees are very high and never use a "Casa de Cambio" as the transaction rate is also very low.

Traveler's checks are not widely accepted at banks and if they are, you must also show your passport and they have to match your name exactly as shown on your passport. This will also require you to have to go inside the bank and stand in line. This process can take quite a while.

If you choose to take a lot of dollars with you, most hotels have safes in the rooms. It's just a better practice to put what money you intend to spend, plus an extra amount, in an ATM debit card that you can use freely.

Most restaurants in the area do not accept credit cards for payment. It's too big of a hassle for them and sometimes takes 60-90 days to get payment along with the transaction fee that they must pay.

Tipping in dollars should be avoided. This applies to your waiter, bartender, taxi driver, maid or anyone else. If you tip in dollars they will need to go to the bank to exchange the dollars and this is a hassle for them. Tip them with pesos that they can use the same day. U.S. coins are worthless in Mexico and can't be exchanged.

Carry as many small pesos bills as possible. Most places including restaurants and taxi drivers don't carry a lot of change. If you have a $30 peso taxi bill and only have a $100 peso bill, don't expect any change. When you make a withdrawal from a bank ATM, you will usually get large bills. Go inside the bank and ask for smaller bills.

Last but not least, make photo copies (front and back) of any credit card that you may want to use. In the event it's lost or stolen, you will have the correct account number and telephone number to report it to your bank. You should also make photo copies of your drivers license and passport. Better safe than sorry!