Tag Archives | atm

Random Observations: Weeks 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, & 18

Yep, as the title shows, it’s been awhile since we’ve posted any of our random observations. Why you may ask?  I think it’s a combination of having too much work to do as well as becoming more familiar with our surroundings.  It’s amazing how quickly one adapts to their surroundings and things you once thought of as strange become commonplace. 

So, what are some of the things that we haven’t quite adapted to and still notice? Well…

  • Now that it’s summer, we’ve been constantly battling the mosquitos here. In NYC, mosquitos never seemed to be a problem, but here they must have ample breeding ground because we have them all the time. It doesn’t help that screen windows don’t seem to exist here either.  We’re about to make a trip to Easy (like Home Depot) to see about buying some screen and trying to rig something up.
  • There’s still dog poop all over the sidewalks. The summer heat makes it even more enjoyable.
  • Driving is still insane here – taxi drivers are crazy, lanes in the road are not observed, stop signs are simply “suggestions to stop,” and pedestrians never have the right of way.

And, we have noticed some new things too:

  • halls1 Random Observations: Weeks 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, & 18Halls are just another candy here, and not something that you only take when you’re not feeling well. Our Spanish tutor offered us some “dulces” (sweets) the other day and proceeded to pull out a pack of Halls.  They’re also sold in all the kioscos and come in a  lot of varieties.  I suppose this is much better for the Halls company as they can sell a lot more here.
  • My Spanish has improved a lot in the 4+ months we’ve been here (although I did originally think that at this point I would be much better than I am now, but that’s another story). Anyhow, the issue now isn’t knowing the right word to use, it’s how to pronounce it. I still can’t believe that it often takes me several tries to properly pronounce a word and the people I’m talking to still can’t figure out what I mean. It’s not like it’s that far off!  I would think that they could infer what I mean, but nope, that doesn’t seem to happen much.
  • Breaking a $100 peso bill here is always a real pain.  The $100 peso bill is worth about U$S 30, but breaking it is about the same as trying to buy a pack of gum with a U$S 100 bill back home. The stange thing is that $100 peso bills are the most common bills to get at the ATM. We’ve now reached the point where whenever we buy something over $50 pesos, we try to use a $100 peso bill if we have it just so we can hoard the smaller bills we receive back. We also use them whenever we go to the grocery store or a larger store, because small merchants hate breaking them.
  • I always wondered what the motorcycle helmet laws were here, and luckily, Michele and Tom’s Blog answered my question. It turns out that the law requires that you have a helmet on your person when riding a motorcycle. This means that it does not have to be on your head, so you quite often see people with the helmet half on their head, hanging on their arm, etc.

Ok, that’s all for now, but we promise we’ll try and post more frequently.

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Currency Exchanges and Rates

currency exchange 300x180 Currency Exchanges and RatesNow that I’m here, I’ve been taking a look at what the best way to pay for things is – cash or credit?  I’ve found that:

  • using my Citibank Visa, I’m getting AR $2.9517 to the U.S. dollar after fees are calculated.
  • using my Schwab ATM card I’m getting AR $3.0436 to the U.S. dollar with no ATM fees.
  • when changing U.S. cash to pesos, I got AR $3.00 to the U.S. dollar near the Palermo Alto mall.
  • the Carrefour grocery store near me pays AR $2.95 to the U.S. dollar and some stores pay AR $3.00 to the U.S. dollar.

The official rate today was AR $3.0540 to the U.S. dollar. So, it definitely makes the most sense to take out cash from my Schwab account when I can as those extra cents can really add up over time.

If you’re looking to exchange cash for pesos, DolarHoy.com is a great site which lists the daily exchange rate for buying and selling at various cambios and banks. The best deal for today was Cambio America at $3.045. The Argentina Private message board has a good post with more details on this and their favorite places to exchange currency, including some tips on negotiating a few cents more than the bulk rate at DolarHoy.com. Like many places in BsAs, they’re closed weekends and a few hours in the afternoon, so be sure to call for their hours first.

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Banking and Credit Card Fees

UPDATE (6/13/12): While Schwab is still the best fee-free way to get money from the ATM, I have stopped withdrawing money from ATMs due to the recent currency exchange rate differences between the official and unofficial rate. I have started using Xoom to get my money at a much better exchange rate and only keep my Schwab ATM card as a backup. You can read my blog post on why using Xoom to transfer money to Argentina is much better.

UPDATE (4/6/12): The Charles Schwab High Yield Checking Account is still the absolute best way to get access to money in Argentina. While the interest rate is no longer 2%, they give you the day’s exchange rate and refund all ATM fees. I routinely get over $100 refunded every month. The limit for withdrawals is $2900 pesos per day which must be withdrawn as $1000, $1000 and $900 amounts in separate transactions. This seems to be a limit in Argentina as my daily withdrawal limit from Schwab is higher.

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I’m not planning on opening bank accounts in Argentina and I’m going to bring my U.S. issued credit cards with me, so there were a few things I really needed to consider:

  • Access to cash
  • ATM and credit card fees
  • Depositing checks in the U.S.

Access to Cash
While researching how to best get cash and pay bills when there, I found a lot of discussion on ATMs in Argentina starting to restrict access to cash. After some research, it seems that the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires sent this as part of a newsletter to expats living there:

9. Update on ATM Withdrawal Limits

Last July [2007], Visa debit- and credit-card holders got a surprise when ATM machines restricted withdrawal limits to about USD $100. MasterCard cardholders got the same surprise in late March. ACS has contacted card companies, banks and Argentine government officials to determine the cause of the restriction. So far, no clear reason for the change has emerged and no party is willing to take credit for this inconvenience to clients.

The good news, however, is that in response to receiving hundreds of complaints both Visa and MasterCard have doubled their withdrawal limits to USD $200. Both companies also explain that cardholders are free to make multiple successive withdrawals at the same machine up to their bank’s daily withdrawal limit. ACS continues to research the issue to determine the exact cause for the restriction on international ATM withdrawals and learn how much international cardholders pay in ATM fees as the teller machines do not normally provide this information.

So the good news is that you should still be able to access the cash you need even if you have to make multiple withdrawals. The bad news is that your fees could be increased for making multiple withdrawals.

ATM and Credit Card Fees
schwab Banking and Credit Card FeesI decided that the best thing for me would be to reduce the fees I would pay by as much as possible.  Luckily, the Flyerguide Wiki has a complete guide to foreign credit card and ATM fees. After reviewing the list, I decided to open the Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account. Signing up was easy, and they provide online banking, mail-in deposit envelopes and free checks.  The account currently pays a 2.01% APY and also provides unlimited ATM fee rebates. According to the Flyerguide Wiki:

[Schwab] reimburses unlimited ATM-owner fees and many users report 0% forex fees applied by Schwab and customer service reports the same. Will not refund additional fees, on top of the transaction fees, applied by bank or atm you are withdrawing from. Confirmed on phone July 2008.

I also opened up an online savings account at Countrywide Bank because they were paying the highest interest rate (3.55%) and simply linked that to Schwab. The nice thing about Countrywide is that you can link up to five accounts which means you can use them as a middle-man to transfer money between your accounts if you have more than one.  I’m using this to transfer money between my personal and business accounts when needed (business account -> Countrywide -> Schwab account). Transfers are free but take one business day to complete. After this, you can close any other accounts that you do not need.

Depositing Checks in the U.S.
I was also waiting on some checks that didn’t quite make it before I left. Since I’m using Earth Class Mail (ECM), I know the checks will be forwarded to my online mail box, but since ECM does not yet have electronic check deposit (coming this year) I’ll have to have ECM forward those checks to my mom to mail in for me. I found out that checks do not need a signature to be deposited, just the words “FOR DEPOSIT ONLY” and the account number on the back, so while this is a bit inconvenient, it should work.

That pretty much sums it up.

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