Cabo Money Tips: Bringing Credit Cards, Using Dollars and more
By: Cara Gourley
One hot day last summer, my cousin and I walked from where we were staying in Cabo to the local video store. My cousin picked out a few movies and went to pay for them.
The woman quoted her a price in pesos (380 pesos), but my cousin, who didn't have any pesos, asked for the price in dollars. She was told that the movies would be 38 dollars.
This is where I stepped up and offered to pay in pesos, saving my cousin about $8. She could pay me the cash.
I know to a lot of people $8 is not a ton of money, but it can really start to add up.
Money in Cabo can be a funny thing. While American dollars and credit cards are widely accepted, you still can run into situations like the one above. Here are some tips to keep in mind about managing your money in Cabo
ATMs in Cabo:
There is no shortage of ATMS in Cabo, which means there's no need to bring a ton of cash with you on your trip. Most hotels have ATMs and there are many in downtown Cabo.
Be aware that most ATMs will give you your money in pesos and that some banks will charge you a transaction fee.
I sometimes use the ATMS as a great easy way to get pesos as the conversion rate is usually better than at the local "tourist" spots and they easier to find.
The numbers you will see on the screen are in pesos; you are taking 1,000 pesos out of your account, not $1,000 dollars.
Using Credit Cards in Cabo
Most stores, tour companies, hotels and restaurants will take your credit card.
Many cards have protection plans which means that you have extra insurance for large purchases and better return policies. If you are renting a car, many cards offer extra insurance (this does not cover the mandatory third party collision insurance). Not to mention the miles you can earn towards your next trip to Cabo.
If you are worried, do not use your credit card anywhere where you cannot see them swipe it.
Some places have minimums for credit card purchases, so it might be a good idea to save your credit card for larger purchases. Also, there are limits to how much cash a merchant can take in cash and how many USDs they can deposit, so again larger purchases are best done with credit cards.
Most major credit cards (Visa, Master Card and American Express) are widely accepted. Discover is not.
Using American Dollars in Cabo
Even though there are new rules regarding dollars in Mexico, American dollars are used throughout Cabo. Restaurants, taxis and stores will happily take your dollars. You will get pesos in change from most places.
Be careful because you may not be getting the best rate. Most people just use the 10 pesos to 1 dollar rate because it's easy. That's higher than the real exchange rate which has hovered around 12 pesos to a dollar for the last year or so. For example, if your taxi ride is 100 pesos, they are going to tell you it's $10 when it really should be about $8.
Dollars are accepted throughout Cabo, but you are going to end up paying for the convenience.
Also note that businesses are limited to taking $100 USD per transaction in cash.
Pesos Are a Good Thing to Have
Unless you are a cruise passenger only staying for a day, you should make an effort to have some pesos. It's easy for small purchases - for examplle I love buying Bubblaloo at convenience stores. American coins are not accepted and no store clerk would take me seriously if I handed them a quarter for the gum.
Having pesos makes sure that you are getting the right rate.
Most places will give you pesos as change.
Let Your Bank/Credit Card Company Know You are in Cabo
I cannot stress this one enough. Give your bank and/or credit card company a call a week or so before you leave so that they know the dates you will be traveling and that you will be in Cabo. Some banks even offer an online form that you can fill out ahead of time.
This prevents two things: your card being declined because it is suspected of fraudulent charges and it helps you in case of fraud (someone tries to use your credit card after you leave).
It's certainly not fun when your waiter tells you your credit card is declined and then it's even worse when you have to figure out how to call your bank from Mexico.
Exchanging Money in Cabo
There are many places to exchange money in Cabo - banks, hotels, currency places at the Airport and more. Know the exchange rate ahead of time and look for the place that you can get the closest to it. The exact rate changes daily.
The other alternative is to use an ATM. Also, keep in mind that most places will give you pesos as change.
If you are not coming from the United States, do not change your money into American dollars and then into pesos. Most banks and currency places can directly change your money and you don't have to lose money by converting twice.
Are you more likely to use American Dollars or Mexican Pesos in Cabo? Share!
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