Travel money Mexico 2022: How to pay & how much to bring (2023)

Planning a trip south of the border? Preparing your travel money options beforehand is the key to a stress-free vacation. Credit cards, debit cards, prepaid travel cards and cash are all accepted in Mexico.

Outside of a few purchases like transportation fare or local shops, a credit card will be your best bet for everyday purchases. A card that waives foreign transaction fees like the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card can help you save on extraneous fees. Here are all of your spending options during your travel.

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Prepaid travel card, debit card or credit card?

The local currency in Mexico is the Mexican peso and there are a few ways you spend it. A combination of a travel credit card, travel debit card and a prepaid travel card that allows you to preload the Mexican peso may be your ideal option for your next trip to Mexico. And remember to have some cash too, as it can always come in handy if want to shop at a street market or if a business doesn’t accept credit cards.

ATM’s are widely available in Mexico and are compatible with debit cards, credit cards and prepaid travel cards.

There’s no single best travel money strategy, as the right one will ultimately depend on how and where you’re traveling. If you’re going to be making a lot of cash withdrawals, consider a debit card with an ATM alliance or a prepaid card with low withdrawal fees over a credit card. A credit card will make the most sense for larger purchases and you’ll likely need one for hotels.

You’ll always need cash to make everyday purchases. Withdrawing a substantial amount of cash for when you arrive can be an ideal option to ensure a smooth transition into your destination country.

5 options for spending money in Mexico

Whether you’re splurging on tacos, margaritas or are sticking strictly to business, here’s how you can pay for things in Mexico:

Travel money Mexico 2022: How to pay & how much to bring (4)Compare credit cards for travel

Using a credit card

Use your credit card almost everywhere, but they aren’t accepted for buses, most taxis, tour guides, corner stores and taquerías. To beat foreign transaction fees, use a card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Travel cards also often come with a variety of travel perks and the ability to earn rewards. If you pick the right travel card for your travel needs, you can rack up some miles toward your next trip.

Note that chip cards are the standard in Mexico. You can still use a magstripe card at many locations, but you may run into merchants who will only accept chip cards. As such, you may want to upgrade your card before you travel.

  • Tip: Most major lenders can arrange emergency cash or card replacement quickly if you lose your card.
Pros
  • Protected by PIN and chip
  • Accepted worldwide
  • No currency conversion or transaction fees
  • Perks including reward points, 0% purchases and frequent flyer program
  • Emergency card replacement
Cons
  • Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)
Merchant acceptanceATM acceptance
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Narrow down top travel credit cards by welcome offers, rewards and annual fees to find the best for your budget and financial goals. Select Compare for up to four products to see their benefits side by side.

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Using a debit card

Consider cards that have no foreign transaction and ATM fees when looking at cards. Some debit cards, like the one offered by Betterment Checking, are designed for use overseas, so they don’t charge foreign transaction fees on purchases abroad.

  • Tip: Use your card to make a cash withdrawal from an ATM in Mexico, but be aware that you may need a card with a chip.
Pros
  • Protected by PIN and chip
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
Cons
  • Currency conversion and international ATM fees
  • No emergency cash
  • No backup cards

Travel money Mexico 2022: How to pay & how much to bring (17)Prepaid travel money cards

Using a prepaid travel card

Travel cards are generally a good way to take your funds overseas and spend in multiple currencies. Merchants in major tourist destinations like Tijuana, Cancun and Acapulco will accept US dollar as well as pesos preload onto a card.

  • Tip: If you don’t have a card that can load pesos, you should know that travel card currency conversion fees are among the highest in the market.
Pros
  • Protected by PIN and chip
  • Preload and secure your exchange rate in multiple foreign currencies
  • Accepted worldwide
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
Cons
  • Local ATM fee
  • Reloading time
  • No fee if you spend in currency loaded onto the card

Travel money Mexico 2022: How to pay & how much to bring (18)Compare cash pickup services in Mexico

Paying with cash in Mexico

You can use USD in Mexico, especially in the major tourist spots. Some merchants give you the option of paying in pesos or dollars and the vendor can give you an “over the counter exchange rate” between the two.

The price of the goods can be inflated by as much as 30% if you pay with US dollars in Mexico, as vendors generally use an exchange rate of 10 pesos to $1. Use Mexican pesos to make your money go further.

Pros
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • Difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

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Where can I get money exchanged in Mexico?

There are a number of places to exchange cash in Mexico, including Banco de Mexico (the national bank) and at casa de cambios (exchange bureaus). Bank during regular business hours between Monday and Friday.

Your other option is to get money changed at bureaux de change and casa de cambio outlets. These exchange offices are common and they can offer the same rate, if not better, than banks.

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Buying Mexican pesos in the US

Mexican Pesos are widely available at most currency exchange offices including Travelex and major banks. Exchanging at your bank can be a good idea to avoid extra fees and charges.

Banknotes

Dating back to Spanish colonization, Mexican pesos come in denominations of 10c, 20c, 50c, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $200, $500 and $1000. $20 is the lowest value banknote. MXN is the currency code for Mexican peso and Mexico uses the dollar sign ($) as the currency symbol.

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The main banks in Mexico are:

  • Afirme
  • Citi-Banamex
  • Banco del Bajio
  • Bancomext
  • Banorte
  • BBVA Mexico
  • HSBC Mexico
  • Inbursa
  • Santander Mexico
  • Scotiabank Mexico

ATMs in Mexico

You should have no problem finding an ATM for withdrawing cash in Mexico. You’ll find the lowest fees at established national banks like BBVA Bancomer and Santander. And a travel-friendly debit card from a bank like Betterment Checking can help you avoid international ATM charges.

How much should I budget to travel in Mexico?

Depending on how much you’ll be traveling around Mexico — and your appetite for expensive cuisine — you could need anywhere from $20 to $150 a day in Mexico — not including accommodations. While it tends to be cheaper than the US, you should still plan on spending about $10 for every meal (at least) and more for activities and transportation.

Here’s a cheat sheet to help while you budget your trip:

Mexico CityBudget (Cheap)MidrangeLuxury (High-end)
MealsLunch in economical restaurant
$4–$5
Dinner with drinks
$12–$20
Fine dinner
$20–$40
ActivitiesMuseum admission
$1–$4
Uxmal Entrance for two
$64
Personalized day tour
$100–$150
AccommodationHostel dorm bed
$10
Double room
$35–$70
Luxurious hotel double room
$70–$600

Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

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