Looking to exchange US dollars for Mexican pesos? With the right strategy, you can get the most pesos for your dollars and avoid excessive fees and poor rates.
This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to exchange dollars for pesos and get the best possible exchange rate.
Choosing Where to Exchange Currency
You have several options when it comes to where to exchange dollars for pesos. Each has its own pros and cons.
Large banks with international reach like Citibank and HSBC can exchange dollars for pesos. Rates may beat smaller banks but trail currency exchange services. Watch for high fees.
Currency Exchange Offices
Dedicated currency exchange offices offer flexible hours and locations. They deal in high volumes, so may offer better rates than banks. However, fees are usually higher.
Airports are one of the most expensive places to exchange currency. Rates are poor and fees are sky high. Only use airport kiosks as a last resort.
ATMs in Mexico dispense pesos. ATM exchange rates closely track interbank rates. Fees are usually less than 1%. But dollar withdrawal limits apply.
Some hotels will exchange currency for guests, but their rates are normally very unfavorable. Only exchange small amounts here.
Online currency brokers offer exchange rates competitive with interbank rates and low fees. But transfers take time and have transfer limits.
Getting the Best Exchange Rate
The exchange rate you’ll get varies hugely depending on where you exchange currency. Here are tips for getting optimal exchange rates.
Compare Rates Online
Before exchanging any money, compare online rates. Sites like Oanda publish real-time exchange rates that benchmark what’s competitive.
Use Credit Cards
Pay with a no foreign transaction fee credit card in Mexico to avoid exchange fees. The credit card company handles conversion at competitive rates.
Order Currency Online
Online currency brokers like Cuex and Continental Exchange offer excellent rates with low fees and quick delivery. But order 1-2 weeks in advance.
Use an ATM Card
ATM transaction fees are usually less than 1% and ATMs offer competitive exchange rates. Just know your card’s foreign withdrawal limits.
Exchange Smaller Amounts
Don’t convert your whole stash of dollars to pesos at once. Only exchange what you need for a few days to account for rate fluctuations.
| Method | Typical Exchange Rate | Fees |
| Airport Kiosk | 7-14% below interbank rate | $5+ |
| Hotel | 5-10% below interbank rate | None |
| Small Bank | 2-3% below interbank rate | 1%+ |
| Currency Exchange Office | 0-2% below interbank rate | 7%+ |
| Large Bank | 0-1% below interbank rate | 3% |
| ATM | 0-1% below interbank rate | 1% |
| Credit Card | Interbank rate | None* |
| Online Broker | Interbank rate | 0% |
*No foreign transaction fee card
Top Peso Exchange Locations in Popular Mexican Destinations
Where you exchange currency in Mexico can have a big impact on the rate you get. Here are great exchange options in popular tourist spots.
Cancun Airport has exchange kiosks but they offer poor rates. Instead, head downtown to any major bank or use nearby ATMs.
The best option is to order currency online and exchange small amounts at ATMs when you arrive.
Avoid the airport currency exchanges in Puerto Vallarta. Head to the Banamex or HSBC branches downtown for better rates and lower fees.
Using an ATM card is an excellent way to get pesos in Puerto Vallarta. ATM fees are only 22-55 pesos ($1-3 USD).
Cabo San Lucas
Cabo is full of bank branches and currency exchanges that offer fair rates with reasonable fees compared to the airport kiosks.
For the best rates in Cabo, order currency online or use an ATM card. ATM withdrawals limit fees to $2-5 per transaction.
As Mexico’s capital and a major financial hub, Mexico City offers many currency exchange options with excellent rates.
Bank branches are plentiful. Or visit the currency exchanges on Calle Monte de Piedad downtown. Using an ATM card is ideal for Mexico City.
The historic center of Oaxaca has many bank branches with better exchange options than the airport. ATMs are another good choice.
For Oaxaca, it can pay to order currency online and have it delivered before your trip. The rates offset delivery fees.
When to Exchange Dollars for Pesos
Timing your currency exchange properly can help you get optimal exchange rates.
During Business Hours
Banks and currency exchanges offer better rates during regular business hours, Monday through Friday. Rates may be 5-15% worse on nights and weekends.
Early in a Trip
Don’t wait until the last minute of a Mexico trip to get pesos. Exchange a small amount early in case rates trend down during your visit.
Before Big Purchases
Exchange larger sums immediately before making major purchases like tours or hotel stays to hedge against downward rate moves.
When the USD is Strong
Exchange dollars when the USD is appreciating relative to the peso, as your dollars will convert to more pesos during upward moves.
When the Peso is Weak
Inverse of above. The peso weakening means your dollars buy more pesos. Track currency trends to time exchanges favorably.
How Much Cash to Exchange
When exchanging dollars for pesos, how much currency you convert impacts your flexibility and exchange efficiency.
Exchange Exact Amounts
Only exchange the exact peso amount needed for upcoming expenses to avoid unused currency. Exchange additional amounts as needed.
Use ATMs for Daily Withdrawals
Instead of exchanging a large sum all at once, withdraw pesos as needed from ATMs. You’ll get excellent rates and pay lower fees.
Exchange $100-500 at a Time
Frequently exchange smaller $100-500 amounts instead of thousands of dollars at once. This protects against big losses from rate swings.
Hold Reserves of Both Currencies
Keep a reserve of $200-300 USD in cash as backup. Exchange small sums of pesos daily for spending money.
Avoiding Peso Exchange Fees and Scams
Hidden currency exchange fees and scams targeting tourists are common in Mexico. Here’s how to steer clear.
Decline Airport Kiosk Offers
Never exchange currency at airport kiosks before researching rates online. Savvy tourists exchange only small sums here.
Beware Stranger Exchange Offers
Illegal street money changers operate exchange scams targeting tourists with fake rates. Only exchange with reputable sources.
Check for Skimming Devices
Criminals insert “skimming” devices in ATMs to steal card data. Use ATMs attached to banks during daylight hours only.
Know Credit Card Foreign Fees
Many cards charge a 3%+ foreign transaction fee in Mexico. Use a fee-free card.
Confirm Exchange Rates and Fees
Ask tellers to confirm precise exchange rates and fees before any transaction. Opt out of bad deals.
Safety Tips for Paying with Pesos
Carrying large sums of cash pesos requires extra precaution. Follow these tips to stay safe.
Use Low Profile Wallets/Bags
Don’t flaunt cash. Keep money in plain wallets or bags to avoid attracting attention and theft.
Split Cash into Multiple Stashes
Divide cash into two or more stashes carried in different pockets or bags to minimize loss.
Use Secret Storage in Hotels
Secure the bulk of your cash in hotel room or lobby safes. Carry limited amounts when out sightseeing.
Avoid Dark, Isolated Areas at Night
To deter robberies, steer clear of poorly lit streets and alleys at night. Always walk purposefully.
Only Withdraw Small Sums from ATMs
Take out only what you need for upcoming expenses at ATMs. Withdrawing large amounts heightens robbery risk.
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Leave Unneeded Cash at Home
Don’t carry surplus cash. When possible, use credit/debit cards or do electronic transfers to enhance security.
Exchanging Leftover Pesos Before Leaving Mexico
Avoid getting stuck with unusable leftover foreign currency by exchanging pesos before exiting Mexico.
Exchange at the Airport
Though rates are poor, airport currency exchange kiosks are the most convenient way to exchange leftover pesos before flights home.
Exchange at Banks
In cities, swap leftover pesos for dollars at major bank branches with international operations. Rates beat airport kiosks.
Spend Remaining Pesos
If you have one last day in Mexico, spend down extra pesos on final meals, gifts, and sundries instead of exchanging.
Keep Small Sums as Souvenirs
Keep leftover pesos equivalent to $10-20 USD as souvenirs. But exchange bulk currency before leaving.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Where is the best place to exchange dollars for pesos?
For the best rates and lowest fees, order currency online for delivery before your trip. Otherwise exchange small sums at banks or use ATM cards to withdraw pesos. Never exchange at airports.
2. When should I exchange dollars for pesos?
Exchange a small amount just before your trip in case the rates move against you. Once in Mexico, exchange dollars for just the pesos needed for a few days to stay flexible.
3. How much cash in pesos should I get?
As a rule, exchange $100-500 at a time for upcoming needs. Withdraw extra as needed from ATMs. Avoid carrying excessive cash. Leave reserves at home or in hotel safes.
4. How can I avoid excessive exchange fees?
Check exchange rates online first. Order currency for delivery before your trip when possible. In Mexico, use ATMs attached to banks to exchange small sums as needed. Decline airport kiosk exchanges.
5. Is it safe to use ATMs to get pesos in Mexico?
Yes, ATMs are generally secure if you take precautions. Only use machines attached to banks during daylight hours. Check for skimming devices. Set withdrawal limits. Use discretion when carrying cash.
6. What’s the best way to exchange leftover pesos when leaving Mexico?
Before your return flight, exchange leftover pesos over $50-100 USD worth at airport currency exchange desks or Mexico bank branches in cities. Keep smaller leftover amounts as souvenirs. Don’t wait until you’re home as domestic banks won’t exchange pesos.
The Bottom Line
Avoiding poor exchange rates and hidden fees comes down to where, when, and how you exchange your dollars for pesos. Steer clear of airport kiosks. Order currency online or use ATMs instead. Exchange dollars strategically in Mexico when the peso is weak and the USD strong. Limit exchanged amounts. Using these tips will ensure you get the most pesos for your money.