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Travel money guide: Mexico

Hola, amigos! Learn which payment methods are safe and convenient in Mexico and compare travel money.

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Planning a trip south of the border? Preparing your travel money options beforehand is the key to a stress-free holiday. Compare prepaid travel cards, debit cards and credit cards to securely and conveniently access your money overseas.

We cover what money you’ll need to use in Mexico, the types of cards to take to save on fees and insider tips on bringing and spending travel money in Mexico.

Which option is right for your next trip?

A combination of a travel credit card, travel debit card and a prepaid travel card that allows you to preload the Mexican peso may be your ideal option for your next trip to Mexico. Don’t forget about having cash either, as it can always come in handy if want to shop at a street market or if a business doesn’t accept credit cards.

How much should I budget for my trip to Mexico?

Mexico is a huge country with a rich history and culture. Depending on how much you’ll be moving around the country will determine how much money you’ll need to bring. Budget travelers can plan on spending less than $20 a day! While midrange to luxury vacations can run from $50 to $150.

Mexico CityBudgetMid-rangeLuxury
to-sleepHostel dorm bed
$10
Double room
$35–$70
Luxurious hotel double room
$70–$300
to-eatLunch in economical restaurant
$4–$5
Dinner with drinks
$12–$20
Fine dinner
$20–$40
to-seeMuseum admission
$1–$4
Uxmal Entrance for two
$64
Personalized day tour
$100–$150

*Prices are approximate and are subject to change

How to send money to Mexico

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Travel card, credit card or debit card?

The local currency in Mexico is the Mexican peso and there are a few ways you spend it. Here we compare prepaid travel cards, credit cards and debit cards to help you determine which option is best for your trip to Mexico.

ATM’s are widely available in Mexico and are compatible with debit cards, credit cards and prepaid travel cards.
How to use a credit card in Mexico

Travel money options for Mexico at a glance

Travel money optionProsCons
Debit cards for travel
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
  • Currency conversion and international ATM fees
  • No emergency cash
  • No backup cards
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Preload and secure your exchange rate in multiple foreign currencies
  • Accepted worldwide
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
  • Local ATM fee
  • Reloading time
  • No fee if you spend in currency loaded onto the card
Credit cards for travel
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Accepted worldwide
  • No currency conversion or transaction fees
  • Perks including reward points, 0% purchases and frequent flyer program
  • Emergency card replacement
  • Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)
Traveler’s checks
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Photo ID needed to cash checks
  • Costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks
Cash
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • Difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

How different travel money products work in Mexico

Using debit cards

Like a credit card, using a debit card in Mexico has both benefits and drawbacks. Consider cards that have no foreign transaction and ATM fees when looking at cards. Some debit cards are designed to be used overseas, so they don’t charge foreign transaction fees on foreign transactions

  • Tip: You can use your card to make a cash withdrawal from an ATM in Mexico, but be aware that you may need a card with a chip.

Using a prepaid travel card

Travel cards are generally a good way to take your funds overseas and spend in multiple currencies. Merchants in major tourist destinations like Tijuana, Cancun and Acapulco will accept US dollar as well as pesos preload onto a card.

  • Tip:If you don’t have a card that can load pesos, you should know that travel card currency conversion fees are among the highest in the market.

Using credit cards

You can use your credit card almost everywhere, but they won’t be accepted accepted for buses, most taxis, tour guides, corner stores and taquerías.

To beat foreign transaction fees, use a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card® credit card. As for the ATM fee, that will be the least of your concerns when you calculate the interest you’ll be subject to for a cash advance transaction.

  • Tip: Most major lenders can arrange emergency cash or card replacement quickly if you lose your card.

Using a traveler’s checks

Unfortunately, as credit card and debit cards have become more secure and offer more protections, traveler’s checks have become a dated form of travel money.

Paying with cash in Mexico

You can use USD in Mexico, especially in the major tourist spots. Some merchants give you the option of paying in pesos or dollars and the vendor can give you an “over the counter exchange rate” between the two. The price of the goods can be inflated by as much as 30% if you pay with dollars in Mexico, as vendors generally use an exchange rate of 10 pesos to $1. Use Mexican pesos to make your money go further.

Our pick for a prepaid travel card
Travelex Money Card

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a huge signup bonus worth $$1,000 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
American Express® Gold Card
35,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
$250
Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $350 with this upper-mid tier travel card. Rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Get a generous $300 in annual travel credits, 3x points on travel and dining, and a 50% bonus on point redemptions with Chase's premier card.
Hilton Honors American Express Card
80,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
$0
With a massive welcome offer for a no-annual-fee card and up to 7x points at Hilton, this is a solid pick for Hilton fans and occasional travelers. Rates & fees
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
N/A
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1% for cash back
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
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Banknotes

Dating back to Spanish colonisation, Mexican pesos come in denominations of 10c, 20c, 50c, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $200, $500 and $1000. $20 is the lowest value banknote. MXN is the currency code for Mexican peso and Mexico uses the dollar sign ($) as the currency symbol.

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Buying Mexican pesos in the US

Mexican Pesos are widely available at most currency exchange offices including Travelex and major banks. Exchanging at your bank can be a good idea to avoid extra fees and charges.

Where can I get money exchanged in Mexico?

There are a number of places you can get cash exchanged in Mexico, including Banco de Mexico (the national bank) and at casa de cambio’s (exchange bureaus). You can visit a bank during business hours between Monday and Friday.

You can also get money changed at bureaux de change and casa de cambio outlets. These exchange offices are common and they can offer the same rate, if not better, than banks.

Using a combination of travel money options

There is no single best travel money strategy, as the right one will ultimately depend on how an where you’re traveling. If you’re going to be making a lot of cash withdrawals, consider a debit card with an ATM alliance or a prepaid card with low withdrawal fees over a credit card. A credit card will make the most sense for larger purchases and you’ll likely need one for hotels.

You’ll always need cash to make everyday purchases. Withdrawing a substantial amount of cash for when you arrive can be an ideal option to ensure a smooth transition into your destination country. Consider your financial situation, your travel plans and how you’ll be spending your money to determine which combination of travel money options is the right one for you.

Cash pickup services in Mexico

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 22.241 MXN 22,152 Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details
$0 1 - 2 days USD 1.99 21.905 MXN 21,862 Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Quick, affordable transfers around the world with both express and economy options.
Go to site Show details
$1 Same day USD 8.00 21.849 MXN 21,675 Easily transfer cash to more than 350,000 locations around the world. Show details
$1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 21.794 MXN 21,358 The biggest name in money transfers can get your funds to friends, family, or businesses in almost every corner of the globe. Show details

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Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.
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Get travel insurance quotes for your vacation in Mexico

Name Product Trip Cancellation Emergency Medical Expenses Baggage Coverage Trip delay
Allianz Travel OneTrip Emergency Medical Plan
$50,000
$2,000
$1,000
Budget-friendly policy designed for international and domestic travelers who want medical protection. Trip cancellation and trip interruption not included.
Allianz Travel AllTrips Basic Plan
$20,000
$1,000
$600
Annual policy that offers affordable protection, but doesn't include trip cancellation or trip interruption.
Travelex Travel Basic
100%
$15,000
$500
$500
Essential travel coverage — with the option to customize — that can protect the cost of your trip.
Travelex Flight Insure
$10,000
$1,000
$100
Protect the cost of your flight and choose the coverage amount that meets your needs — trip delay protection included.
RoamRight Essential Travel Insurance Plan
100%
$15,000
$750
$500
Basic policy with coverage that includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
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Full guide for travel insurance

Frequently asked questions

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    ValerieSeptember 1, 2018

    With the rate changing daily , how do I create a quick cheat sheet to use during my one week stay?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      AnndySeptember 2, 2018Staff

      Hi Valerie,

      Thanks for your question.

      I would agree that exchange rates are so volatile, making it hard to predict future changes. If you are preparing a cheat sheet or budget for your future visit to Mexico, there are various ways on how you can lock in rates so you can effectively manage your finances.

      One option is by opening a prepaid travel card that allows you to load Mexican pesos before your trip. The exchange rate will be locked in at the time you load currency into your card. You may also consider exchanging your USD for Mexican pesos at most major banks and currency exchange offices prior to your travel. This way, you can pay like the locals do without worrying about fees and charges.

      Our guide above also discusses other travel money options for Mexico. It would be good to review the pros and cons of each option so you’ll know which one is suitable for your situation.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Anndy

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