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Money and Credit Cards

The official currency in Mexico is the peso.  The exchange rate varies daily.  Check the current exchange rate below.

 

The currency symbol for pesos is the same as used for dollars.  This causes a lot of confusion, and some ask why the peso uses the dollar sign.  It is actually the other way around, the $ symbol was in use for the peso before the dollar existed.  This article explains the history.

Nearly everywhere in Baja accepts US dollars, even the toll roads.  However, often the merchant will not have have change in dollars and will offer to give change in pesos.  

Most merchants will post their exchange rate for the day, if you don't see it, ask them.  Based on their rate, you may be better off to pay in pesos.  If you are here for a weekend, the differences are usually small and may not be worth the trouble of using pesos.  If you live here full time, the difference can quickly add up to $50 USD a month or more.

When converting a price quoted in dollars to pesos:

  • If the merchant's rate is lower than the current published rate, it is best to pay in pesos.
    • Example: Total $100 USD / Published Rate $13 pesos per dollar / Merchant's rate $12... you save 100 pesos if you pay in pesos
  • If the merchant's rate is higher than the current published rate, it is best to pay in dollars.
    • Example: Total $100 USD / Published Rate $12 pesos per dollar / Merchant's rate $13... you save 100 pesos if you pay in dollars

When converting a price quoted in pesos to dollars:

  • If the merchant's rate is higher than the current published rate, it is best to pay in pesos.
    • Example: Total $1000 pesos / Published Rate $13 pesos per dollar / Merchant's rate $12... you save 6.41 pesos if you pay in pesos
  • If the merchant's rate is lower than the current published rate, it is best to pay in dollars.
    • Example: Total $1000 pesos / Published Rate $12 pesos per dollar / Merchant's rate $13... you save 6.41 pesos if you pay in dollars

Most larger stores, hotels, gas stations and convenience stores accept credit and debit cards.  Be prepared to pay a commission to use credit or debit cards in Baja, sometimes as much as 6% of the bill.  Large stores and hotels generally do not charge a commission.  It's best to ask first to be sure.  Then, depending on your account agreement, you may be charged 3% or more of your charge amount by your card issuer for International monetary conversion.  If you travel often, or live in, Baja, it will benefit you to find a card that does not charge any international fees.  This list can help identify which cards have low or no fees.

Another option is to open an account at a Mexican bank.  Most banks in Baja offer accounts in dollars to foreign residents.  Many have no monthly fees.  A debit card linked to a dollar account can be used to make purchases in pesos, or to withdraw pesos from the bank ATM at favorable exchange rates.  Over time, this can save a lot of fees.

 

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