Tag Archives | charles schwab

Send Money To Argentina And Get The Best Rate

Post Summary: If you have a US bank account, use Xoom to send money to Argentina and get the blue rate. If you have a UK bank account, use Azimo to get the blue rate.

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.
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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…

stopped using my Schwab ATM card and all my US credit cards in Argentina as of May 2012.

I have found a better option – Xoom. (If you have a UK account, use Azimo.)

xoom money transfer argentina Send Money To Argentina And Get The Best RateXoom 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:

  1. Go to their website, create an account and choose the amount you want to send
  2. Pay via direct debit from your bank account or choose to pay with debit/credit card (higher fees)
  3. 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:

Send
ATM / Credit Card
Xoom
Savings
Amount (USD)Official RatePesos ReceivedXoom RateXoom Fee (USD)Effective RatePesos ReceivedDifference (Pesos)Difference (USD)% Saved
$25$5.635$140.88$8.3292$2.99$7.4394$185.99$45.11$5.4232.02%
$100$5.635$563.50$8.3292$3.75$8.0281$802.81$239.31$28.5242.47%
$500$5.635$2,817.50$8.3292$15.75$8.0748$4037.40$1219.90$146.4643.30%
$1000$5.635$5,635.00$8.3292$30.00$8.0866$8086.60$2451.60$305.1443.51%
$2000$5.635$11,270.00$8.3292$30.00$8.2061$16,412.20$5142.20$617.3745.63%

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!

Some notes:

  • 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!

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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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