UPDATE: Xoom’s rates vary daily. This post was updated with their rate of $8.3292 on 8/27/13. The difference between the official rate and the unofficial rate has gone as high as 100%! Using your ATM card or credit card in Argentina is like throwing away money.
Most U.S. expats in Buenos Aires have Charles Schwab bank accounts. This had consistently proven to be the best way to get money from U.S. accounts while in Argentina. Schwab gives you the standard day’s exchange rate for all withdrawals, charges no international fees and also refunds all ATM service charges (about $17 pesos per withdrawal). I was routinely getting over U$S 100 per month refunded to me. With all these great benefits, this next statement might sound weird…
I stopped using my Schwab ATM card and all my US credit cards in Argentina as of May 2012.
Xoom is an international money transfer service (like Western Union, but with much lower fees). You can send up to U$S 2,000 per transaction and up to U$S 6000 in a 30 day period. Here’s how it works:
- Go to their website, create an account and choose the amount you want to send
- Pay via direct debit from your bank account or choose to pay with debit/credit card (higher fees)
- Pickup the money from a More Money Transfers location or have it deposited into any Argentine bank account. If you choose to pick up the money, it will be ready within 15 minutes at most locations. Deposits to bank accounts take a couple of business days.
So, why is this better than using an ATM or foreign credit card? Because even with the Xoom fees taken into account, their exchange rate is so good that you’ll actually be getting more pesos on every transaction. For example, today’s official rate is $5.635 pesos per dollar. Xoom’s rate is $8.3292. Here’s a quick breakdown of how that works out with an ATM withdrawal:
Amount (USD) Official Rate Pesos Received Xoom Rate Xoom Fee (USD) Effective Rate Pesos Received Difference (Pesos) Difference (USD) % Saved
$25 $5.635 $140.88 $8.3292 $2.99 $7.4394 $185.99 $45.11 $5.42 32.02%
$100 $5.635 $563.50 $8.3292 $3.75 $8.0281 $802.81 $239.31 $28.52 42.47%
$500 $5.635 $2,817.50 $8.3292 $15.75 $8.0748 $4037.40 $1219.90 $146.46 43.30%
$1000 $5.635 $5,635.00 $8.3292 $30.00 $8.0866 $8086.60 $2451.60 $305.14 43.51%
$2000 $5.635 $11,270.00 $8.3292 $30.00 $8.2061 $16,412.20 $5142.20 $617.37 45.63%
How much you save depends on how much you typically withdraw in a month, but you can see that at U$S 2000, you’re saving over 45%. Now you can see why I no longer use my ATM or credit cards, and send money with Xoom to my Argentine bank account and withdraw pesos from there. This also works great for tourists visiting the country – make a Xoom transfer before you come and then pick up your pesos at the More Money location in Buenos Aires when you get here.
You can also choose to use your credit card to transfer money to Xoom, but this has slightly higher fees and your bank will probably charge a cash advance fee as well as interest.
Want to give it a try? If you use any of my links to sign up, we’ll both get a $15 Amazon gift card from Xoom. This is pretty much free money too, because all you have to do is transfer $15 in order to get the gift card. So, if you only send $15, you’ll have $15 transferred plus an extra $15 on your bonus gift card for $0.29 more than a Schwab withdrawal would have cost you. Give it a try – there’s nothing to lose!
- The Xoom website lists that you can pick up the money in pesos or dollars, but that is not correct. You can only get pesos.
- I have transferred money to my bank account successfully and picked up money at More Money Transfers’ location.
- There is only one location in Capital Federal (Buenos Aires central). It’s at Libertad 1057 between Santa Fe and Marcelo T. de Alvear.
- If you have an ATM or credit card that charges fees, you can save even more money!
- This works because Xoom is offering a rate is very close to the official ‘dolar blue‘ rate.
- Xoom only works with US bank accounts or credit cards. You can use Azimo if you have a UK bank account.
Let me know if you were able to take advantage of this through our contact form and I’ll track that we both get the $15 Amazon gift card!