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Travel money guide: Mexico

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

Planning a trip south of the border? Preparing your travel money options beforehand is the key to a stress-free vacation. Credit cards, debit cards, prepaid travel cards and cash are all accepted in Mexico.

Outside of a few purchases like transportation fare or local shops, a credit card will be your best bet for everyday purchases. A card that waives foreign transaction fees like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card can help you save on extraneous fees. Here are all of your spending options during your travel.

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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. 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. And remember to have some cash too, as it can always come in handy if want to shop at a street market or if a business doesn’t accept credit cards.

ATM’s are widely available in Mexico and are compatible with debit cards, credit cards and prepaid travel cards.

There’s no single best travel money strategy, as the right one will ultimately depend on how and 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.

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 credit card

Use your credit card almost everywhere, but they aren’t accepted for buses, most taxis, tour guides, corner stores and taquerías. To beat foreign transaction fees, use a card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card .

Travel cards also often come with a variety of travel perks and the ability to earn rewards. If you pick the right travel card for your travel needs, you can rack up some miles toward your next trip.

Note that chip cards are the standard in Mexico. You can still use a magstripe card at many locations, but you may run into merchants who will only accept chip cards. As such, you may want to upgrade your card before you travel.

  • 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)
Merchant acceptanceATM acceptance
Visacheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh
Mastercardcheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh
American Expresscheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh
Discoverexclamation point iconMediumcross mark iconLow

Compare travel credit cards

1 - 3 of 29
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

2x miles on every purchase, every day, 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5x miles when you book on Turo, the world’s largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
$95
Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months ​from account opening.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Earn unlimited 1.25x miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card
70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $4,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
3 miles per $1 on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 miles per $1 on all other purchases
$50
Get 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $4,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
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Using a debit card

Consider cards that have no foreign transaction and ATM fees when looking at cards. Some debit cards, like the one offered by Betterment Checking , are designed to be used overseas, so they don’t charge foreign transaction fees on foreign transactions.

  • Tip: 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 and chip
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
Cons
  • Currency conversion and international ATM fees
  • No emergency cash
  • No backup cards

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 and 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

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
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Where can I get money exchanged in Mexico?

There are a number of places to exchange cash 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.

Your other option is to 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$ 20.1996

Refreshing in: 60s | Sun, Sep 25, 12:47AM 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 colonization, 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

You should have no problem finding an ATM for withdrawing cash in Mexico. You’ll find the lowest fees at established national banks like BBVA Bancomer and Santander. And a travel-friendly debit card from a bank like Betterment Checking can help you avoid international ATM charges.

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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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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