Cash-Only Buenos Aires

So something that was a huge struggle for me was that Buenos Aires is still a cash heavy society.  This makes it difficult for a few reasons, one reason is because many US Banks do not carry, nor will order Argentinian Pesos for you (full disclaimer the only bank I asked was WellsFargo, but as this is a huge bank I’m assuming if they do not order Pesos for you, other banks won’t). The other reason is the struggle I faced withdrawing money from ATMS in Argentina.

So there’s a few things I learned being in a cash-only city. Hotels and Hostels obviously accept US credit cards, but most local restaurants and shops are still cash only. For those who want to immerse yourself into the culture, going to local places is important so for the first night I wasn’t able to experience Buenos Aires as much as I wanted to.

The next day, I spent most of the day hunting down ATMs where I could get cash and here’s where the issues started. It’s important to get cash before the weekend because ATMs will run out of cash on Friday evenings or early Saturday morning and won’t be replenished until Monday. Many ATM that is an Argentinian bank will not accept foreign debit cards – I tried:

  • Banco Patagonia
  • Banco Argentina
  • Banco Buenos Aires
  • Banco Citi
  • BBVA

None of these ATMs work. I don’t know why but it was extremely frustrating (I almost cried). Finally I was able to withdraw money from BBVA Frances and it was the only ATM that worked for me. Per research I did (while being stranded trying to find an ATM) HSBC ATMs will also work as well but I did not try and find their ATM so I cannot attest to this. However Argentinian ATM fees are extremely steep, they run about $10USD for ATM fees.

I kept track of my spending and I withdrew about $150 USD and that ended up being enough for my 5 days in Buenos Aires. I put my hotel on my credit card and the few tourist shops they had, I placed on my card so I was able to keep my cash for food and the train.

For those wondering how you can save money on ATM fees, I suggest using Charles Schwab Bank (for US travelers). I switched over to Charles Schwab for all my travel purchases for numerous reasons. The first was no foreign transaction fees on ATM withdrawals and purchases. The second is ATM reimbursement fees. I ended up going to the ATM three times in Argentina and racked up about $40 in ATM fees, and I got them all reimbursed. The last reason is there are no account fees. I have an account that I use only for travel so I only put money in the account when I’m about to travel so for a majority of the year the account will sit at $10 or less and I don’t get charged for having it. I love this for my travel needs and it’s pretty easy to transfer money into the bank.

Hope this helps a little and you’ll be able to avoid the same mistakes I made. Read my overview of Buenos Aires here.

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3 comments

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  1. peacoattravels

    This is so interesting! I would not have realized that ordering cash ahead of time for Argentinian pesos would have veen an issue, but that is so good to know whenever I do travel there. I have by in large always visited rather card friendly areas but always try and keep at least 100/200 dollar equivalent in currency either by ordering ahead of time or by withdrawing utilizing my Capital One debit card with no foreign fees or atm fees, just currency exchange differential.

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