Ice Cream Inflation…and How to Beat It

Ice Cream in Argentina - Inflation and DiscountsI truly believe Argentina has some of the best ice cream in the world. Unfortunately, Argentina also has inflation of around 30%.

What does this mean for ice cream? Well, a kilo of Freddo ice cream has jumped 119% since 2011! (If you happen to have USD you’re lucky as the price has decreased almost 25%.) Here’s some sample prices from the past few years:

November 2011: $80 pesos (U$S 17.39)
December 2013: $130 pesos (U$S 13.68 )
March 2014: $145 pesos (U$S 13.81)
January 2015: $175 pesos (U$S 13.06)

There’s only one way these numbers are going to continue going… up.

So, what’s the ice cream lover to do? Luckily there are some ways to get that cost down…

Store Specials
Most of the stores offer specials of some kind. Volta offers 2-for-1 kilos on Mondays. Freddo offers 2-for-1 specials on their new online ordering system. In addition, there is usually a lower prices on basic flavors like chocolate, strawberry and dulce du leche. Check out each store for it’s offers. (Freddo even has it’s promotions page online.)

Go Off-Brand
While the major chains have high prices, there are numerous smaller shops that have more reasonable prices. You may not get the same quality, but it should add up to some savings.

Get a Discount Card
All the newspapers and most of the cellular/Internet services have their own discount cards that offer reduced prices at certain merchants. We have Club La Nacion and we get 20% off at Freddo every day and two-for-one kilos Tuesdays and Thursdays just for showing the card.

Get Grocery Store Coupons
You know those long strands of paper that you get when buying something at the grocery store? Yeah, most of those are useless coupons for Dish TV or tire balancing, but quite often they’re discounts on ice cream. Be sure to check them out before throwing them away.

Of course, now that summer is here, I have not seen an ice cream discount in some time, but wait a month and they’ll most likely make their return.

Use a Daily Deal Site
This is perhaps the best way to save on ice cream. The daily deals sites always seem to have ice cream deals. Last week I bought a kilo of ice cream from Groupon for $87 rather than $175. Checking today, they also have a deal for two kilos with delivery for $170. You will need a local credit card to purchase from any of the daily deal sites.

So, even though the posted prices are quite crazy, you’ll never really have to pay full price if you follow the tips above. Now, off to the gym…

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Health Care Costs in Argentina

Sister and BrotherWhile public health care in Argentina is free, most people who can afford it choose to go with private healthcare plans. Under private insurance, there is a much wider range of doctors and specialists available and less of a wait for services.

Private health care costs vary widely based on age, family size, plan options, etc. For a single person in their twenties, you may be able to find a plan for $800 pesos per month. One popular plan, OSDE 310, is available for around $1500 pesos per month. And yes, tourists can sign up for plans as well though terms seem to be 6 month minimums.

I thought it might be interesting to graph and show what my family of four pays for medical insurance. We have a mid-tier plan with a division of Swiss Medical, which is fairly comprehensive, but does not include free plastic surgery (yes, some higher plans include this).

The charts below show our insurance costs from January 2012 through today. First, here is our monthly cost in pesos:

And the same chart in USD at the blue rate:

As you can see, there is a huge increase in our peso cost. Our healthcare plan went from $2,334 in January 2012 to $5,474 in December 2014 – a 135% increase in three years! (Note: we added my son in August 2013, so that may have added some cost.)

However, in dollar terms, we went from U$S 542 in January 2012 (official rate and blue rate the same) to U$S 408 in December 2014 – a 25% decrease!

Unfortunately, most people live their lives in pesos, so health care costs that are increasing at least as quickly as Argentina’s sky high inflation are a real source of concern. I wish I could add more commentary to this post, but I am by no means an expert on this topic. I’d love to hear from others in the comments on their own experiences.

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Getting My Argentine Wife a US Credit Card… While Living in Argentina

As I’ve often written about on this blog, I do as much as I can to earn miles and points so that our family can travel for as close to free as possible. Most often, this takes the form of earning large signup points bonuses for new credit cards. In fact, I’m now up to about 18 active credit card accounts and continue to apply for new ones about every six months. (And yes, my credit score is pretty high and continues to stay that way even with this many cards.)

Of course, I’m always looking to earn more points and one easy way to do this is to get your spouse or partner to also sign up for credit card bonuses. Unfortunately, we live in Argentina and my Argentine wife had absolutely no credit history in the United States. That meant she’d have zero chance of getting approved for any credit cards

I started to work on building her credit history about two years ago. I first added her as an authorized user on all my credit cards that allowed additional users for free – American Express, Chase, etc. Luckily, she already had a social security number from previously being employed by a multinational firm and working in the US. That made this simple, but she could also have applied for an IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITN). I’d be responsible for any of her charges, but she’d start to build a credit history.

Building a Credit HistoryIt seems this strategy worked!

She just recently received a credit card application from American Express in the mail. (We have a US mailing address that we use.) We applied online and she was instantly approved! This was a solid offer for the American Express Gold card with a 50,000 point sign up bonus after spending $1000 in three months and first year fee waived. Not too shabby…

Now, with one credit card under her name, we’ll keep building her credit and apply for another round of credit cards in about 3-6 months and see how we do.

So, to recap, how can you build a credit history for a foreign partner?

If they have or can get a social security number, do that. If not, get them an ITN. ( This thread on Flyertalk has several reports of which banks approve credit cards with only an ITN, including Bank of America, Citibank, Discover, Chase, and Amex.)

Now, add them as an authorized user on your credit card accounts and use that card. Over time, they will build a credit card history and should start to get pre-approved offer letters.

That was all we had to do and now we can start building more miles and points!

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Uber Buenos Aires

This past summer, we had a chance to use Uber (and Lyft) while traveling around Boston and New York, and it quickly became apparent why everyone loves the service. For less than the price of a taxi (in many cases), you get a private car to come right to your location and take you wherever you want to go. It’s all billed to your saved credit card, so you don’t even have to worry about having cash, let alone a wallet.

Uber Buenos AiresSo, first things first – before I get your hopes up, no Uber is not launching in Buenos Aires.

While they have built a loyal following in many cities around the world, Buenos Aires is going to be a near impossible market for them to break into. Just look at what we’ve got for them!

  • Bureaucracy: The bureaucracy here is horrible. Getting anything approved in this city will take years.
  • Low Credit Card Use: Credit card use in Buenos Aires is minimal. People do not want the government to know what they are spending and do not like the idea of being tracked. Do you know how many people do not have wireless toll readers and would prefer to wait and pay cash for exactly this reason? Having them tie their credit card to a car ride app seems very unlikely.
  • Poor Cell Data: Cell data coverage is horrible in Buenos Aires. Got a 3G connection? Lucky you. Keep that for your whole trip? Not likely.
  • Low Smartphone Penetration: While Android smartphones are on the rise, Apple products are near-impossible to get here. Does Uber make a Blackberry app? Of course not. They may have to for Buenos Aires though.
  • Strong Taxi/Remis Unions: The taxi unions in the city are quite strong and have a lot of political ties. Anything that takes away from their business will be met with fierce opposition.
  • Safety/Crime: Tell an Argentine that you’re getting into the private car of someone you do not know and they’ll think you’re absolutely crazy. It took my Argentine wife a little while to get used to this idea with Uber and Lyft – and that was in New York and Boston!
  • Insurance: Insurance here is tricky (like everything else). It’s very doubtful that Uber would be able to get insurance policies to cover their drivers like they do in many other cities around the world.
  • Financial Instability: Uber exists to make money. They’d like to be able to get that money out of the country. Argentina makes that very difficult to do. Plus, with the difference between the official rate and blue rate life is even more difficult.

So, no Uber in Buenos Aires for the foreseeable future.

That being said, we do have some alternatives, though they rely on simply improving the existing taxi system rather than replacing it.

For the past month, I have been using EasyTaxi and it’s proven to be a much better way to get a taxi than hailing one on the street (especially at peak times and in the rain). You simply open the app, set the pickup location on the map and click “Call Taxi.” You can even specify that you want a taxi with a big trunk. A driver will respond and you’ll see their name, car model, license plate and approximate arrival time.

It’s safe and simple, plus it’s cheaper than calling a Radio Taxi  as you do not pay the “6 meter clicks” extra that they charge. At the end of the trip, you simply pay the metered fare in cash like always. (SaferTaxi is a competitor app to EasyTaxi, and has just started to accept credit cards if you prefer that.)

So, is it easier than hailing a taxi? Yes.
Is it cheaper than calling a taxi? Yes.
Is it safer? A bit.

Do the taxi drivers like it? Yep. It costs them less per month than being a part of a Radio Taxi service.

Do they taxi unions like it? Nope. One of our drivers told us that union members have been booking trips and then issuing a fine to the drivers for using it. Ahhh… there’s always some friction when older more established and expensive ways get disrupted.

Know of any other services? Let us know in the comments.

UPDATE: Ok, so here is where EasyTaxi failed me – 9am on a rainy work day there were absolutely no taxis that would take my request. I tried with SaferTaxi too, and while they have a cool feature that allows you to “offer a tip” during peak times, no one took my $20-$30 peso tip. I think they have a lot less drivers than EasyTaxi as well.

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