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Travel money guide: Mexico

Pay for tacos, margs and more south of the border — without being crushed by fees.

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Our picks for traveling to Mexico

American Express® Gold Card logo

Our pick for travel credit card

American Express® Gold Card

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.6/5
Wise Multi-currency logo

Our pick for multi-currency debit card

Wise Multi-currency

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.5/5
SoFi Money logo

Our pick for 0% transaction fee debit card

SoFi Money

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.6/5

Prepaid travel card, debit card or credit 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.

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.

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.

5 options for spending money in Mexico

Whether you’re splurging on tacos, margaritas or are sticking strictly to business, here’s how you can pay for things in Mexico:

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.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Local ATM fee
  • Reloading time
  • No fee if you spend in currency loaded onto the card

Using a debit card

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.
Pros
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
Cons
  • Currency conversion and international ATM fees
  • No emergency cash
  • No backup cards

Using a credit card

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.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)

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.

Pros
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • Difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

Using traveler’s checks

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

Pros
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Photo ID needed to cash checks
Cons
  • Costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks

Compare prepaid cards

Be sure to compare loading fees, currency conversion fees, ATM withdrawal fees and potential rewards before choosing a prepaid travel card.

Name Product Annual or monthly fee ATM withdrawal Features
Brinks Prepaid Mastercard
Brinks Prepaid Mastercard
$9.95 per month (or $5 with a $500+ direct deposit, or $0 with pay-as-you-go)
$2.50
  • Mobile app
  • Direct deposit
  • Payback rewards
No credit check. No minimum balance. No late fees because this is not a credit card.
Netspend Prepaid Mastercard, WWE partner
Netspend Prepaid Mastercard, WWE partner
$9.95 per month (or $5 with a $500+ direct deposit, or $0 with pay-as-you-go)
$2.50
  • No activation fee
  • Payback rewards
  • No minimum balance required
No credit check, mobile check load, and now a WWE partner
Control Prepaid Mastercard
Control Prepaid Mastercard
$7.95 per month (or $5 with a $500+ direct deposit)
$2.95
  • Custom Card
  • Direct Deposit
  • Cash Back Rewards
No overdraft fees on card purchases. No credit check. No cost to order
Netspend All-Access Account by MetaBank
 Netspend All-Access Account by MetaBank
$5 per month
$0
  • Earn cash back on everyday purchases
  • Earn up to 6% APY with an optional Savings Account
  • Receive your paycheck up to 2 days earlier with Direct Deposit
With Netspend All-Access Account by MetaBank there's no credit check and no minimum balance to open an account.
PlayCard Prepaid Mastercard
PlayCard Prepaid Mastercard
$5 per month
$2.50
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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.

Live Rate

= Mex$ 20.3267

Refreshing in: 60s | Mon, Jan 17, 01:15AM GMT

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.

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.

Mexican 20-pesosMexican 50-pesosMexican 100-pesos
Mexican 200-pesosMexican 500-pesos

The main banks in Mexico are:

  • BBVA Mexico
  • Banorte
  • Scotiabank Mexico
  • Santander Mexico
  • HSBC Mexico
  • Inbursa
  • Banamex
  • Bancomext
  • Afirme
  • Banco del Bajio

ATMs in Mexico

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 20.225 MXN 20,144 WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups. Go to site Show details
$10 Within an hour USD 1.99 19.92 MXN 19,881 Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
Go to site Show details
$1 Within an hour USD 8.00 19.869 MXN 19,710 MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide. Go to site Show details
$1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 19.819 MXN 19,422 Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

How much should I budget to travel in Mexico?

Depending on how much you’ll be traveling around Mexico — and your appetite for expensive cuisine — you could need anywhere from $20 to $150 a day in Mexico — not including accommodations. While it tends to be cheaper than the US, you should still plan on spending about $10 for every meal (at least) and more for activities and transportation.

Here’s a cheat sheet to help while you budget your trip:

Mexico CityBudget (Cheap)MidrangeLuxury (High-end)
MealsLunch in economical restaurant
$4–$5
Dinner with drinks
$12–$20
Fine dinner
$20–$40
ActivitiesMuseum admission
$1–$4
Uxmal Entrance for two
$64
Personalized day tour
$100–$150
AccommodationHostel dorm bed
$10
Double room
$35–$70
Luxurious hotel double room
$70–$600

Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

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Our latest travel deals to Mexico

Deal

Flights to Mexico from under $150 round trip

Code

$20 discount on (1) international flight departing from the US or Canada

Arriving anywhere EXCEPT the United States, Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. New users only.

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2 Responses

    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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