Best ways to spend travel money in Mexico: Debit & prepaid cards

Learn more about the best card to use, if you should use a UK debit card and other ways to take spending money to Mexico.

Planning a trip south of the border? Preparing your travel money options beforehand is the key to a stress-free holiday. Here you can 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.

Low cost travel money options for Mexico

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Zero fees when spending abroad
  • Includes interest on your balance
  • No foreign cash withdrawal fees
  • Open via app

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Earn interest on your holiday money with a savings pot
  • Make fee-free cash withdrawals
  • Spend abroad with no fees
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Spend in 20 major currencies for free
  • No monthly fees
  • Up to 3.5% cashback
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Using a prepaid travel card

Travel cards are generally a good way to take your funds overseas and spend in multiple currencies, but they’re not all suitable for use in Mexico:

  • Supported currencies. At the time of writing there are a few prepaid travel cards you can load with Mexican Pesos, including products from Wise and Travelex. Merchants in major tourist destinations like Tijuana, Cancun and Acapulco do accept U.S Dollars; however, this may not extend to card payments.
  • Currency conversion fees. If you’re using a prepaid travel card that charges currency conversion fees and doesn’t support Mexican Pesos, you’ll be charged a currency conversion fee. Travel card currency conversion fees are among the highest in the market. This fee alone makes it more cost effective to use another type of card in Mexico.

Using credit cards

A credit card can be a good option for financial security and emergency expenses on your trip to Mexico. There are some features and drawbacks that you’ll want to keep an eye on to ensure that you’re getting the most out of the credit card you choose:

  • Currency conversion fees. Unless you have a credit card that is designed for overseas use, you’re likely to be charged currency conversion fees (of around 3%) when you make a purchase in Mexican Pesos. Some merchants may accept US dollars, which are also supported across all British travel money cards.
  • ATM withdrawals. Cash advance and interest charges, ATM fees and currency conversion fees can wipe about £10 off your balance for every cash withdrawal. ATM withdrawals using credit are treated as a cash advance, so the transaction accrues interest right away and a cash advance fee is charged per transaction.
  • Emergency card replacement. Most Visa, Mastercard or American Express cards can be locked and replaced if lost or stolen. For example, Visa can arrange for emergency cash from a Western Union if you’re stuck in a tight spot while you wait for a replacement credit card from your bank.
  • Acceptance. Credit cards and other forms of plastic are widely accepted in Mexico. Keep in mind Visa and Mastercard are not accepted on buses, most taxis, tour guides, corner stores and taquerías. Look for a sign saying “No Tarjetas De Credito” or ask first if you want to find out whether you can use your card.

Can I use my debit card in Mexico?

Generally speaking, yes. Most shops, restaurants and bars accept debit cards from UK banks, however some smaller businesses may not accept them and it would be worth taking cash too.

Like a credit card, using a British debit card in Mexico has both benefits and drawbacks. Consider the following when comparing your options:

  • Currency conversion fees. Some British debit cards are designed to be used overseas, so they don’t charge currency conversion fees on foreign transactions. If you’re using your regular debit card, it’s likely that you’ll be charged a currency conversion fee of at least 3% per transaction when you make a purchase in Mexican Pesos.
  • ATM withdrawals. Look for a card that has an international ATM presence, as you might be able to use ATMs without being charged withdrawal fees.
  • EFTPOS card. You can use your EFTPOS card to make a cash withdrawal from an ATM in Mexico. Some ATMs take EFTPOS cards without a chip, but these ATMs can be few and far between. EFTPOS cards cannot be used over the counter; you need a Visa or Mastercard debit card to make purchases.

Paying with cash in Mexico

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

Using a digital banking app

Digital banking apps like Revolut or N26 work in much the same way as conventional bank accounts do, coming with a debit card authorised by Visa or Mastercard which can be “topped up” from your mobile phone. The key advantage, though, is that they don’t charge withdrawal of transaction fees.

How many Mexican Pesos do I need to bring?

Mexico CityBudgetMidrangeExpensive
to-sleepHostel dorm bed
Double room
£30 – £55 per night
Luxurious hotel double room
£80 – £220+ per night
to-eatStreet food
£3 – £5 per dish
Casual dinner with drinks
£10 – £20 per person
Fine dinner
£15 – £22 per dish
to-seeMuseum admission
£1 to £3
Uxmal Entrance for two
Personalised day tour
£65 to £90

*Prices are approximate and are subject to change

Travel card, credit card or debit card?

The local currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso, and there are a few ways you can make purchases in Pesos in Mexico. Here we compare prepaid travel cards, credit cards and debit cards to help you determine which one is best for your trip down Mexico way. ATMs are widely available in Mexico and are compatible with debit cards, credit cards and prepaid travel cards. You can find an ATM at every bank, supermarkets, shopping centres and at hotels.

Travel money options for Mexico at a glance

Travel money optionProsConsiderations
Debit cards for travel
  • Avoid currency conversion fees on foreign transactions
  • Emergency cash facilities
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
  • Fees. Currency conversion and international ATM fees
  • Can’t be used over the counter
  • No emergency cash
  • No backup cards
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Pre-load 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 – Assuming cardholder is spending on a currency loaded onto the card
Credit cards for travel
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Access to funds up to your credit limit
  • Accepted worldwide
  • No currency conversion/ transaction fees
  • Benefits including rewards points on spending, 0% purchases, frequent flyer perks
  • Emergency card replacement
  • Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)
Traveller’s cheques
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Photo I.D. needed to cash cheques
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveller’s cheques
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • More 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.


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Buying Mexican Pesos in the UK

1 GBP is worth approximately 28 MXN according to Google Finance, which means you will be paying approximately £40 for a double room in a midrange hotel, £13 for a good dinner including drinks and £3 for a taxi ride in the city. Mexican Pesos are widely available at most currency exchange offices including Travelex and major banks. Exchanging at your local/member bank can be a good idea to avoid extra fees and charges.

Where can I get money exchanged in Mexico?

Cash, ATMs and how to exchange money in Mexico

There are a number of places you can get cash exchanged in Mexico, including Banco de Mexico (the nations national bank) and at casa de cambios (exchange bureaus). You can visit a bank during business hours between Monday and Friday. British pound are a common international currency; however, you may only be able to change British pounds to Pesos at larger banks. 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. Some cases de cambio offices may only exchange US Dollars, so shop around to find out where you can get British pounds changed to Mexican Pesos.

Using US dollars or Mexican Pesos in Mexico?

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

Bottom line

There is no single best travel money strategy, as the right one will ultimately depend on where you’re travelling, how you’re spending your money and what you can afford. For example, 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.

If you want a backup to make emergency or large purchases, a credit card could come in handy. Plus, 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. Make sure to organise more than one option so you always have a backup plan should something go wrong.

There are many ways you can take your cash to Mexico, but the best option will depend on how you’re spending your money and the features that you are after. 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.

Frequently asked questions

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you. Most of the data in Finder's comparison tables has the source: Moneyfacts Group PLC. In other cases, Finder has sourced data directly from providers.

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