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Jorge Abila

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I'm a local living in Buenos Aires

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Americas > Argentina > Useful Info
Submitted on Jul 06, 2020 Useful Info

Tips for using ATMs traveling in Argentina (avoid them)

  • ATMs are outrageously expensive to use in Argentina for travelers between the various fees you'll pay and the terrible exchange rates. My suggestion is to avoid using it altogether, and instead bring foreign currencies to exchange (USD and Euros are the best ones to bring)
  • ATM fees:
  • Varies by which bank the ATM belongs to, but most charge the equivalent of USD$10, some. A very few (like Banco de la Nacion charges the equivalent of USD$5)
  • The amount of cash you can withdraw is usually limited to around the equivalent of USD$100
  • So just on the ATM fees itself you're looking at paying 5-10%. On top of that, there's also the additional flat international withdrawal fees that your own bank back home will charge you, though not all banks will charge this. Everything added up together you could be paying as much as 15-20% in fees, which is terrible (as a benchmark most ATMs elsewhere in the world should come out to about 5% total fee %)
  • ATM exchange rate
  • On top of the crazy fees, the exchange rate that the ATMs use is the official exchange rate, which is almost always much worse than the informal rate (called "Blue Dollar" rate)
  • For example, today, $1 USD officially can get you 69.61 pesos, but if you use one of the informal exchange houses (cambios), the $1 can get you 117 pesos, 68% better than the official (ATM) rateUser submitted photo of Argentina
  • This spread changes everyday. When inflation is high (like last year and right now), the spread will be extremely large like this. When inflation is low, the spread will also be low
  • This exchange rate is also what you'll get if you change your money at banks and other official exchange places
  • Only use ATMs for emergencies like if you run out of cash. So I still recommend bringing your bank card with you just in case. Here are some tips you should keep in mind:
  • The vast majority of the ATMs in Argentina are on either the Banelco or Red Link network. Both of these networks are compatible with major international networks like PLUS, Maestro, and Cirrus, which means the bank cards issued by the vast majority of the banks in North America, Europe, and Australia, are compatible. I'm not familiar with countries outside of these regions so it's best to check with your bank beforehand
  • ATMs are readily available anywhere in the country. You will not have any issues finding them in any of the cities here, at both banks and non-bank locations like supermarkets (although I recommend using only the ones at bank locations for security). However, if you're planning to do a road trip, note that not all gas stations outside of the cities may have ATMs that accept foreign bank cards (or at all), so if you're going to drive around in Patagonia it's better to prepare enough cash beforehand
  • As mentioned above, I still recommend only using the ATMs at bank locations for security reasons. It's not common, but there are card skimmers at sketchy places that can steal your bank card information. Aside from major domestic banks (like Banco de la Nacion and Banco Galicia), you're also going to find some major international banks here like Citi, HSBC, Santander, BNP Paribas, BBVA, and ICBC
  • Instead of using ATMs, the best way to get cash is to bring enough USDs and convert them at one of the cambios for pesos. Credit cards are also fairly widely accepted so I recommend using those for major purchases. Also, make sure to use credit card for hotels because if you pay your hotel bill with a foreign-issued credit cardyou avoid having to pay the 21% VAT tax that's applied to everything in Argentina (even if you have a foreign passport, if you don't pay by foreign credit card you will still be charged the VAT). More details here