If you’re heading to Mexico, you might be wondering whether you can use your credit card there.
Fortunately, the answer is yes. Credit cards are accepted widely at most larger hotels and restaurants. However, you should carry some cash wherever you go, as many small merchants won’t take cards. If you’re going to a big tourist city like Cabo San Lucas or Cancun, you can often use US dollars — but the local merchants are likely to give you poor exchange rates.
Compare credit cards for use in Mexico
When traveling in Mexico or anywhere else abroad, be sure to get a card without foreign transaction fees. Although they may seem small, these fees can rack up quickly over the course of a trip.
Potential credit card fees in Mexico
If you use your card in Mexico, you could incur the following fees:
Foreign transaction fees. Depending on your card, you could pay a fee of up to 3% of each transaction you make. That means $2,000 spent in Mexico would cost you $60 in fees.
Currency conversion fees. An ATM or a merchant might offer you the option to pay in US dollars. This is known as a dynamic currency conversion (DCC), and it usually has higher fees and a double exchange rate.
Can I incur both fees on a single transaction?
Yes. Avoid this by getting a card without foreign transaction fees and always decline DCC if offered.
Which credit card issuers are accepted in Mexico?
American Express cards are widely accepted in Mexico, but not as much as Visa or Mastercard. If you want to use an ATM to withdraw cash with your Amex card, look for HSBC or Scotiabank ATMs.
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
It’s easy to get cash in Mexico, as ATMs are widespread. Still, consider getting cash only from ATMs at bank branches, where you’re less likely to become a victim of fraud.
It’s best to use a debit card at an ATM. That’s because your credit card will probably charge a cash advance fee when you withdraw money. Further, you’ll immediately start accruing interest on the amount you withdraw. You may still pay ATM fees when you use your debit card, but at least you’ll avoid paying interest.
What is a cash advance fee?
A cash advance fee is assessed when you withdraw cash from your credit card. It’s usually the greater of a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction. For example, the cash advance fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is either $10 or 5% of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Do taxis in Mexico accept credit cards?
No. However, if you prefer to pay with your card, you can use Uber. It’s cheaper and you won’t have to worry about having cash in you.
Chip-and-PIN credit cards
In the United States, we’ve been using magnetic-stripe — or magstripe — credit cards for years. Only recently have we started the transition to microchip-embedded cards. What you may not know is that many countries around the world have already adopted these chip cards. We’re simply catching up.
In Mexico, chip cards are the standard. You can use a magstripe card at many locations, but you may run into merchants who will only accept chip cards.
It’s a good idea to get either a chip-and-PIN or a chip-and-signature card before traveling.
With a chip-and-PIN card, you insert your card and enter a PIN to complete your transaction.
With a chip-and-signature card, you complete your transaction with your signature.
Chip-and-PIN cards are becoming the norm around the world, so you may want to upgrade to one eventually. However, a chip-and-signature card should be widely accepted during your trip to Mexico — you’ll simply sign your receipt when prompted.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Mexico?
It’s generally safe to use a credit card in Mexico. However, you should always try to:
Use an ATM in a bank. If for some reason your card gets stuck in the ATM, you can quickly get it back. Also, it’s less likely that an ATM in a bank has card skimming devices attached to it.
Take two cards. A second card can be useful if you lose your first card or if it gets blocked. That way, you won’t be left without money.
Keep your card in sight. To avoid card cloning, make sure you keep an eye on your card whenever you use it to pay.
How to prepare before traveling to Mexico
Before you leave for Mexico, make a few arrangements to ensure you can use your card without a hitch.
Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Many cards will charge a 3% fee when you use your card abroad, so be on the lookout for cards that don’t. The best travel cards — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express (see rates & fees) — charge no foreign transaction fees.
Give your card provider a heads up. If your card company sees a foreign transaction on your card, they may put a hold on your account for suspicious activity. To avoid this, give your provider a quick call letting them know you’ll be traveling to Mexico.
Know what number to call if you have problems with your card while traveling. Your card might get stolen while you’re traveling, or you could lose it. In these cases, you’ll want to know the right number to call to get a replacement. Ask your provider for a Mexican phone number you can dial in a pinch.
Know where you’ll get cash once you arrive. Even if you have a credit card, it’s smart to have cash on you. So you don’t waste time or money, plan out beforehand where you’ll get your cash. Check if your bank has international partnerships that allow you to use some ATMs for free.
Mastercard, Visa and American Express are widely accepted in Mexico, especially in most hotels and restaurants. However, some of the smaller merchants may accept only cash. If you want to make cash withdrawals, consider getting a debit card, which usually has no cash advance fees. You can also get a travel card and decline DCC when offered to avoid additional fees and poor exchange rates.
We use banks to take care of all our other financial needs, so surely we should use them when sending an international money transfer, right? Not necessarily. While major US banks offer money transfer services, they usually present less competitive exchange rates coupled with high transfer fees. Learn how to send money to Mexico the smart way by reading our handy guide.
Mexico is using the peso with a currency code MXN and $ symbol.
If you withdraw cash, you’ll get banknotes of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000. However, the 1,000 bill is rarely used.
Some of the banks that operate in Mexico are:
There are also international banks, including:
American Express Bank
It’s always good to ask your bank if they have partnerships with any of these banks. If they do, you could avoid paying fees on ATM cash withdrawals.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
Kevin Joey Chen is a credit cards, banking and investments writer whose work and analysis have appeared on CNN, U.S. News & World Report, Business.com, Lifehacker and CreditCards.com. He's passionate about helping you get your finances in order by expertly navigating cutting-edge financial tools — including credit cards, apps and budgeting software.
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