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Guide to Using the ATM in Argentina – And Should You?

I did something today that I haven’t done in over 4 years… I used the ATM in Argentina to withdraw money from my US bank account.

Argentina Money Transfer Services Require CUILThat’s right, with Macri’s new government recently eliminating restrictions on buying dollars and devaluing the peso, the gap between the blue dollar rate and the official rate has dropped to only about 5-10% from a high of almost 60%. You can once again use your foreign debit card or credit card in Argentina without having to worry about losing a lot of money.

So, what do you need to know about using the ATM in Argentina?

First, get ready for a whopping ARS $79.80 (U$S 6) fee per transaction regardless of the amount you withdraw. To help offset this, we recommend using a debit card that refunds your ATM fees (like Charles Schwab Bank) or, if you have a Citibank debit card, using a Citibank ATM with no fee.

Because of this hefty fee, it makes sense to withdraw as much money as possible at one time. Unfortunately, the maximum amount you can withdraw per ATM transaction is ARS $2400 (some people report $2500, but in our tests Supervielle and Galicia are both $2400). You may make multiple transactions (up to the daily withdrawal limit imposed by your bank), but you’ll pay the U$S 6 fee each time.

The exchange rate you get at the ATM is based on the previous day’s rate as calculated by Visa. You can find this rate on the Visa Exchange Rate Calculator website. For my withdrawal today, I got a rate of $12.90. If I would have had to pay the ATM fee, the effective rate drops to $12.49.

Also, make sure your bank does not charge additional debit card fees for foreign currency transactions or using another bank’s ATM. Bank of America has some crazy fees – U$S 5 – U$S 10 for using a non-Bank of America ATM plus a 3% international transaction fee. Paying these additional fees is going to lower your exchange rate as well.

So, how much did I lose by using the ATM versus exchanging dollars at the blue rate?

Since cuevas were offering a blue rate of $13.90 today, I lost about 8%. (U$S 13.39 on my ARS $2400 withdrawal.)

How does this compare to using Xoom?

If I had used Xoom to transfer the same amount of money (U$S 186), I would have gotten a rate of $12.53. Xoom beats the ATM if you have to pay the transaction fee ($12.53 v $12.49). Xoom also works better for larger amounts of money, paying up to $12.80 today for bigger sums and not requiring you to make multiple transactions.

So, what’s the best thing to do?

If you have have dollars, exchanging on the blue market is still the way to go. In my example from today, I would have made 8% more on my money. While I still have USD, I’ll keep exchanging on the blue market, but it’s nice to know that I can use the ATM again in an emergency.

If you don’t have USD and need larger sums of money, Xoom is the way to go. If you transfer the maximum U$S 2999, you’ll get a rate of $12.80. It would take seventeen separate ATM transactions over a couple of days to get this same amount of pesos.

Of course, the blue market fluctuates daily so we’ll have to see if it differs more than the five to ten percent it has been. One just never knows in this country…

UPDATE
Here are some recent transactions to compare the ATM to the blue rate:

1/15/16: ATM, $13.23 / Blue, $14.10 / 6.37% difference
1/29/16, ATM, $13.76 / Blue, $14.05 / 2.09% difference

2/22/16: Traveling outside of Buenos Aires (Mar del Plata) I was only able to withdraw $1,000 pesos at a time and had to pay a $91.20 peso fee. Thankfully Schwab refunds that!

Xoom Updates: Still Best Way To Send Money To Argentina

Money Transfer ArgentinaXoom has consistently been the US expat and tourist’s best way to send money to Argentina and take advantage of the discrepancy between the official exchange rate and the blue market exchange rate. For example, today’s official rate is $4.913, the blue market rate is $6.780 and Xoom is paying $6.313 before fees. We’re seeing more and more people choosing this option to extend their dollars’ purchasing power in Buenos Aires.

Of course, in Argentina things can change in a moment’s notice and Xoom and More Money Argentina (their local transfer partner), just announced that the sending limit has been lowered from U$S 2,999 per transaction to U$S 2,000 per transaction due to “new regulations.” At this time it appears that the 30 day limit of U$S 6000 has not changed. Unfortunately this means that you’ll be paying more fees to Xoom if you regularly moved larger amounts.

Also, when picking up money at More Money’s only location in Capital Federal at Libertad 1057, you’ll need to be prepared to provide the following documentation (as posted at their site):

Dear Customer:

Under present Argentine Authority’s regulations — A.F.I.P., Anit-Money-Laundering Law Nr. 25.246 and Financial Information Unit (UIF) Resolution 66/2012 — in accordance with F.A.T.F (Financial Action Task Force) rules, MORE MONEY TRANSFERS SERVICE is compelled to request from all its clients (those ordering or receiving money remittances) the following data:

  • Full name
  • Passport or MERCOSUR ID
  • Marital status
  • Address in Argentina
  • Telephone number (in Argentina)
  • E-mail
  • What links you to the sender?
  • Activity or purpose of your stay in Argentina
  • Purpose or destination of the money of this transaction
  • CUIT, CUIL or CDI (if applicable)
  • Source of funds involved in this transaction
  • If remittances amount is larger than AR $5,000, a sender’s identification number must be provided. Passport, ID Cards, Driver’s License and SSN are equally valid.
  • If remittance amount accumulates with previous transfers (on annual basis) a sum larger than AR $40,000, you must provide information about the origin of monies involved, such as: a sender’s bank statement, senders source of income (salary receipt, employment contract).

It’s a bit of a process but still very much worthwhile for the favorable exchange rate. And if you use our link, Xoom will send both of us a $25 Amazon.com gift card after your first transfer.

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