Using Mexican & Foreign Bank Cards at ATMs in Mexico

In a related article, we shared some insights about using your debit or credit card when you’re in Mexico.  This article describes use of ATMs in Mexico, whether you have a card issued by a bank outside Mexico, or a local card issued by a Mexican bank.

About ATMs in Mexico

Mexico’s banks manage an extensive network of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) that can be used to withdraw Mexican pesos in cash from your local account if your card is issued by a bank in Mexico, or from funds held in an account outside of Mexico if your card was issued by a foreign bank.

Some ATMs also accept deposits in cash, allow you pay bills, and enable transfers of money between bank accounts based in Mexico.

It’s easy to find an ATM in Mexico. They are usually open, dependable, and will dispense Mexican pesos to anyone with a card connected to one of the global networks, including VISA, MasterCard, and AMEX, as well as those holding debit or credit cards issued by a Mexican bank.  Some ATMs dispense US dollars in addition to Mexican pesos, and will offer card holders the option of either currency if they do, but this is not common.

Typical charges for using an ATM in Mexico

How much you pay in charges for using your bank card at an ATM in Mexico will depend on two key factors: first, what country the card is issued in; second, the fee charging structure your bank applies to the account.

Mexican bank card charges

When you use a debit or credit card issued in Mexico, there are usually no charges for ATM use if you use your own bank’s ATMs (of that of its affiliated network), and within the limits set out by your bank’s terms for that account. (Some banks offer a set number of free cash withdrawals per month, and charge you if you go over that.)

Foreign bank card charges

When you use a debit or credit card issued by a bank based outside of Mexico, charges will vary depending on the bank and the account type you have.

When you use your foreign-issued card to withdraw cash in Mexican pesos several charges might be applied to the account, either lumped together or separately, depending on the bank and account type, thus:

  • a fixed-fee charge made by the Mexican bank ATM. This fee is displayed before you agree to proceed with the withdrawal, and added to the withdrawal amount charged to your account; and
  • a “foreign exchange charge” made by the card-issuing bank; and
  • a currency exchange rate charge (see below); and
  • if you use a credit card, additional charges including interest from the date of the cash withdrawal might also apply; furthermore
  • additional charges might apply if you withdraw cash over the counter at a bank or exchange house instead of using an ATM.

Although banks have increased charges for ATM use abroad in recent years, ATMs are by far the quickest and most efficient way to get access to local currency in Mexico from a foreign-based bank account.

Currency exchange rate charges

When you’re using a foreign-issued bank card in Mexico, the exchange rates the bank applies to convert the Mexican pesos into your local currency are usually the same whether you spend at a store, or withdraw cash from an ATM.  The rate applied will be based on the foreign exchange rate that day.

You will not be given the ‘wholesale’ exchange rate you see quoted on websites and on the news.  The bank earns an additional ‘hidden’ fee because the foreign exchange rate the bank applies to the cash withdrawal will be different to the wholesale exchange rate that day.  This is called the ‘exchange rate spread’ and typically works out to between 2% and 5% of the transaction value.

ATM cash withdrawal fees example

Suppose the ‘wholesale’ exchange rate is $18 pesos to $1 US dollar.

If you use a bank card drawn from funds in a US account, and withdraw $5000 pesos based on that rate, your US account will not be debited with ~$278 (5000/18).

The amount debited to your account will be higher than that because the Mexican bank will add a fixed-fee to the withdrawal (typically around $100 pesos) and you’ll be charged other bank fees as described above.

In this example, you could typically expect to see a debit for around $295 on your account (6% increase), making your real exchange rate $17.28 pesos to the US dollar. [5,100 (including the fixed fee of $100) / 295]

Cash withdrawals using credit cards

Note that currency conversion and transaction fees for cash-advances drawn using a credit card account tend to be higher than those where money is drawn down from savings or current/checking accounts.

Additionally, interest is often charged from the date of the cash withdrawal, and sometimes whether you clear your credit card balance or not.  Check with your credit card company to find out what charges they make for cash withdrawals from Mexico—the charge structure is usually different than that for purchases.

Learn about managing your money in Mexico

Mexperience offers you a wealth of information about Mexico’s money, banking services, and banknotes.

The information published in this article is provided for general information in good faith and is not intended as personal, legal, financial or investment advice.

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