Visitors to Mexico, as well as foreign residents who have bank accounts in their home country, need to exchange their foreign currency into Mexican pesos. This article describes the various ways that you can by and sell foreign currency here.
Exchanging your money for Mexican pesos
There are three main ways that most people exchange their home currency into Mexican pesos:
- Using a local ATM in Mexico to withdraw cash from an account based outside of Mexico; or
- Exchanging foreign currency cash for Mexican pesos; or
- Transferring money from a foreign bank account to a bank account in Mexico.
- Some local banks in Mexico might cash a paper check drawn on a bank in the United States of America; and
- see the important note below about the use of paper Traveler’s Checks.
Using ATMs to get Mexican pesos locally
As we described in a related article, holders of bank cards issued outside of Mexico can withdraw cash in Mexican pesos from local ATMs. That article describes the process and the typical charges involved.
- The number of pesos you withdraw is converted and charged to the account where the money is held in the local currency, e.g., US dollars, Canadian dollars, British pounds, Euros.
- This is a quick and efficient way to buy Mexican pesos using a debit card linked to a checking or savings account abroad.
- All ATMs in Mexico have an upper limit of pesos they will dispense in any one transaction, and the amounts vary by bank.
- Typically, an ATM will allow foreign card holder to withdraw between 5,000 and 10,000 pesos per transaction. Also, check with your bank about any daily limits it may impose on cash withdrawals.
Exchanging your foreign currency cash for Mexican pesos
Some people bring cash with them from their home country to Mexico and exchange this for Mexican pesos.
Pesos can be bought for foreign currency cash at many retail banks, but the better places to sell your foreign currency for pesos are the exchange houses, Casas de Cambio—see notes below.
Note that if you carry US$10,000 (or foreign currency equivalent) or more in cash, you need to declare this when you cross the border into Mexico. There is no legal limit on how much cash you can bring or take from Mexico but failure to declare amounts in excess of US$10,000 (or pesos equivalent) may result in confiscation of the entire amount of cash you are carrying.
Exchange rate fees when buying pesos with cash
Most exchange houses and banks do not charge commissions to exchange currency but make money through the “spread”—that’s the difference between the rate at which they sell pesos and the rate at which they buy them.
Some exchange houses in need of certain units of foreign currency for their operations (for example, if they need US dollars) will offer better rates on certain days than even perhaps the international exchange rate, so it pays to shop around at various exchange houses at the airport or downtown if you plan to buy pesos using foreign currency in cash.—
Mexican banks and exchange houses will buy and sell all major currencies. US dollars, Canadian dollars, British pounds, euros, Australian dollars, and Japanese yen can be readily bought and sold across the counter at exchange houses and many retail banks.
Exchanging cash at the Casas de Cambio
The best place to exchange your foreign currency cash for Mexican pesos is at one of the local exchange houses, known as Casas de Cambio.
They tend to offer the best rates and their procedures for exchanging money are straightforward.
The ones at the Mexico City airport tend to offer the most competitive exchange rates; exchange houses situated in tourist hotspots offer the least attractive exchange rates.
Exchanging money using a local retail bank
Retail banks will exchange foreign currency cash for Mexican pesos, but their rates may not be as attractive as the local Casas de Cambio (check locally) and they might insist that you have a bank account with them to make the exchange.
Paying foreign currency cash at stores and hotels
Some stores might accept cash in foreign currency in payment of goods (exchange rates might not be favorable, though).
Hotels and resorts in Mexico are no longer allowed to accept cash payment in US dollars to settle stays, due to money laundering rules.
Transferring foreign funds to a Mexican bank account
If you have a bank account in Mexico, you can buy pesos by transferring money from your foreign bank account to your bank account in Mexico.
These funds get converted into Mexican pesos and become available for your use locally, where you can pay others electronically using online banking or a banking app; using your Mexican debit card to withdraw cash from a local ATM; or by making a cash withdrawal in person at the bank itself.
If you’re resident in Mexico this method is an efficient way to transfer funds from overseas accounts (e.g. your retirement income) to a Mexican bank where the pesos are held on account for your day-to-day use. By transferring larger sums, you avoid ATM fees and save time and money in the longer term.
Cashing a US dollars paper check in Mexico
Some Mexican banks will cash a paper check drawn on a US bank and convert the sum into Mexican pesos. You usually need to hold an account at the bank where the check is cashed.
If you want to cash a US dollar check into Mexican pesos ask your local bank if it offers this service, and if it does, ask about what fees it charges and what exchange rate it applies to the transaction. Compare this against using an ATM to access your money or by making a transfer from your foreign bank account to a Mexican bank account.
The trouble with Travelers Checks
In a bygone era, Travelers Checks were the de-facto means for travelers to carry or transfer their money in a safe way for exchange into a local currency abroad. Paper-issued Travelers Checks have fallen out of favor as the widespread use of bank-issued ATM cards has made them obsolete.
While paper-based Travelers Checks are still accepted at some places in Mexico, they are difficult to exchange: the exchange rates offered are usually unfavorable and it’s often time-consuming to exchange them due to all of the verification steps that need to be undertaken.
“Plastic” Travelers Checks
The modern replacement product for paper-based travelers check is a plastic bank card —like a debit card issued by your bank and linked to your checking account— with a key distinction that they are not tied to a personal bank account.
Instead, you top them up with a cash balance from your bank account (or over the counter) and carry the card with you when you travel. When you need to draw cash from the balance on the card, you visit a local ATM to withdraw money in local currency.
They work like regular debit cards. Some electronic debit cards only allow use at ATMs, others also allow you to use them in stores; however, check with the card issuer about the foreign exchange charges they make for using the cards, as well as any other “per transaction” charges.
These ‘plastic card travelers checks’ are helpful if you don’t have a bank account in Mexico and want the convenience of using an ATM to obtain Mexican pesos, or if you don’t want to carry your bank cards in certain situations, for example, if you plan to travel into a remote region of Mexico and/or prefer to leave your bank cards at home or in the hotel when you’re touring.
Learn about managing your money in Mexico
Mexperience offers you a wealth of information about Mexico’s money, banking services, and banknotes.
- Learn more about managing your money in Mexico
- Articles about Mexico’s banknotes
- Latest articles about the Mexican peso
- Latest articles about Money and finance in Mexico
The information published in this article is provided for general information in good faith and is not intended as personal, legal, financial or investment advice.