Mexican Living Survival Tip #8- Credit and ATM Cards

Posted by Nick Niesen on October 29th, 2010

Something too few tourists will ask before coming to Guanajuato, Mexico, for a visit is, ?Can I use my ATM and credit card for everything or anything?? I have seen many a display of the Ugly American Syndrome in many restaurants and shops over this very issue.

So, to avoid the temptation of reinforcing the Ugly American Syndrome stereotype here in Guanajuato, let?s have a go at this topic.

The truth is that while you might be able to use your credit card in most of the typical tourist resort areas, I would not count on being able to use it here in Guanajuato. In some of the bigger, two-hundred-dollar a night hotels in this Colonial Mexican town, you can use your credit card. The hotels that have restaurants will usually take your credit card. However, outside the confines of your hotel, I wouldn?t bet the farm on being able to use your card.

The automatic teller machines are plentiful in Guanajauto and will dispense the local currency. You can get cash with different limits depending on the local bank. One of the banks will not dispense more than $3,000 pesos a day while others will dispense almost three times that amount.

There will be fees involved. Before traveling to Guanajuato, you need to check with the bank that issued your credit or ATM card to see what fees they charge. Some will charge for the use of foreign ATM or those outside their network. Make sure you tell them that you are going to be in Mexico and ask if your PIN will work in Mexico (some don?t work outside the USA). I would even go to your bank and talk with someone in person rather than call on the phone.

Banks in Mexico charge a fee for you to use their ATMs. So, you are going to have fees upon fees. Be sure you know this ahead of time to prevent yourself from going into shock. Currently, we are charged about 75 cents for using our American ATM card here in Mexico. We keep accounts in both the U.S. and Mexico.
You will be charged extra fees at any Mexican ATM. There is no avoiding it so be prepared and do not let something like this ruin your trip. You might be able to find banks in the U.S. that do not charge a fee for using an ?alien? ATM in another country. Check around but this might be more of a hassle than it is worth.

Try to ask around to see what local Guanajuato banks will permit the biggest ATM withdrawls. Then, to avoid too many ATM fees, take out the maximum amount of pesos you can each day. This will keep you from incurring ATM fees each day.

In the state in which I live, but so far not in my city, there have been some ATM thieves that attach a false computer front to the ATM machine. It will have a slide mechanism for your card. This false front will tell you that there is no cash in the ATM while it recorded your account number and password.

Then these nasty characters clean out your account. The lesson is always go to the ATM?s where you have to insert rather than slide your card.

Local merchants, and there are very few, that do accept credit cards, seem very nervous when completing a transaction. This could be for several reasons. I always pay for everything in cash so as to avoid hassles. Even travelers checks are rarely accepted in the city. With your passport, you can go to most banks to cash these. But the banks have certain hours that they do this, so check before you get too low on cash.

A lot of gringos who want to see more of Mexico than the beach resorts have a difficult time adjusting to the differences. This credit and ATM card business seems radically different than it is in the coastal resorts. Too many fly into the costal resorts, spend a little time, then bus from the coast to central Mexico where one finds a different kind of tourism.

If the coastal areas take your credit card without a hitch, do not expect that in central Mexico. It is almost entirely a cash based society here. Pay with cash. It is so safe here compared with the resorts that you can walk around with larger sums of money than in other areas.

I?ve been in line in the bank when men, women, and children, yes kids, withdraw large sums of pesos. They fold it up, put it in a pocket or purse. They?re done.

You can do it too!

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Nick Niesen

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Nick Niesen
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