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Best method for getting u.s. dollars in Tijuana?


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#1 sycho

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 08:25 PM

I agreed to pay my rent in u.s. dollars. I can walk a half block from my home to get all the pesos I want from the atm, but I'm not sure how to get the currency I'll need to pay my rent. In that vein, I have two questions.

First, does anyone know if any ATM's in Playas de Tijuana offer the option of dispensing u.s. dollars? I was told somewhere along the line that such machines exist. (Outside of Playas as well? as others may have the same question)

Second, why would it not be a good idea for me to get pesos from the ATM and walk to an exchange house to buy the u.s. dollars. If the banks are selling 14.03 for each dollar and the houses are selling each dollar for 13.45 pesos, it seems that would be preferable to just getting u.s. dollars from the ATM.

Thanks in advance for your help.

#2 Cyanide41

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 12:40 AM

The Bananorte ATM on Calle Ensenada right next to the Solo 1 precio and Aki Sushi gives dollars. I am pretty sure the HSBC just south of Plaza Monumental does as well.

On another note Aki Sushi is my favorite sushi joint in this town.
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#3 sycho

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 01:04 AM

QUOTE (Cyanide41 @ Jun 12 2012, 08:40 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The Bananorte ATM on Calle Ensenada right next to the Solo 1 precio and Aki Sushi gives dollars. I am pretty sure the HSBC just south of Plaza Monumental does as well.

On another note Aki Sushi is my favorite sushi joint in this town.


Really?! That's the same Banorte where I got my refill of pesos! I just didn't have my dictionary with me, so I kept hitting si without knowing exactly what questions I was answering. That's great news. I'll just have to bring my dictionary with me and try a little harder. I know exactly where that HSBC is, and that's a great backup just in case I encounter a fuera de servicio. Thank you.

And I'll give the Aki Sushi a taste. I love good sushi.

#4 HK70

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 09:22 PM

Ask if you can pay your rent by check, I do.

The ATM's that I use near my place let you pull out either dollars or pesos and the screens are written in English and Spanish. Pulling pesos from an ATM will give you a better exchange rate than at any money exhange house. Depending on what bank you use in the US and the ATM you use in Mexico you can be charged a fee to use the ATM then you get charged by your bank for making a foreign withdrawl. So be careful of the double whammy.

In Mexico I pay everything with pesos other than the rent. I get pesos from the ATM. For dollars I just go to an ATM when I am in SD. I avoid the exchange houses because the exhange rate will be lower than what you can get from getting pesos from the ATM. When you see no commision they just monkey with the exhange rate so they make a buck.

#5 sycho

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 12:22 AM

QUOTE (HK70 @ Jun 13 2012, 04:22 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Ask if you can pay your rent by check, I do.

The ATM's that I use near my place let you pull out either dollars or pesos and the screens are written in English and Spanish. Pulling pesos from an ATM will give you a better exchange rate than at any money exhange house. Depending on what bank you use in the US and the ATM you use in Mexico you can be charged a fee to use the ATM then you get charged by your bank for making a foreign withdrawl. So be careful of the double whammy.

In Mexico I pay everything with pesos other than the rent. I get pesos from the ATM. For dollars I just go to an ATM when I am in SD. I avoid the exchange houses because the exhange rate will be lower than what you can get from getting pesos from the ATM. When you see no commision they just monkey with the exhange rate so they make a buck.


Yeah, you would think that would be an option since I do have a checking account, but I've never had any checks to go with that account. I'm just going to use the ATM to pull out dollars for the rent. I'll also use it to pull out pesos for everything else (except for where I use the debit card - which I've found to be the best way to get the most out of the funds I have). I've only been to the ATM once to pull out 1000 pesos. The rate worked out to a little more than 13.2 pesos per dollar with all fees included. The cross border fee was 75 cents, and I think the ATM fee was $5. I'm not too worried about fees because I figure I might use it three or four times each month. I'll also have to wait to see if the credit union refunds the ATM fees. I'm not holding my breath, but they do refund fees for ATM's in the u.s. when I squeeze in 12 signature based transactions for the month (some other conditions too, but only the number of signature based transactions changes for me each month).

The different rates for buying and selling pesos/dollars still confounds me, but I'm not going to try to play any buying and selling game. I'm sure it's not set up to be exploited like that. If it was, everybody would be doing it - right?

#6 Cyanide41

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 04:21 AM

I drove by the other day and realize that it s a Waldo's not a Solo 1 precio. I get the two confused, so I hope I didn't confuse you. If I recall only one of the two cajeros give dollars. I want to say the one on the right hand side.

You may consider looking into a bank that doesn't charge fees. I use a private credit union that reimburses my fees. I think Ally Bank does that as well.
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#7 sycho

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 05:00 AM

QUOTE (Cyanide41 @ Jun 16 2012, 11:21 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I drove by the other day and realize that it s a Waldo's not a Solo 1 precio. I get the two confused, so I hope I didn't confuse you. If I recall only one of the two cajeros give dollars. I want to say the one on the right hand side.

You may consider looking into a bank that doesn't charge fees. I use a private credit union that reimburses my fees. I think Ally Bank does that as well.


No, you didn't confuse me. I knew exactly where you were pointing me. Thank you for this follow up post. I used the one on the left when I withdrew pesos. I didn't see anything offering a usd option (also didn't have my dictionary with me). This explains it. I need to go to the one on the right (it was out of order when I there). You've just given me some peace of mind. My credit union also reimburses fees. I'm just not 100% certain that crosses borders. The fact that yours does gives me more hope that mine will as well.

Muchas gracias.

On a side note, guess who's drinking bottled water? My landlord put a bottle in front of my door with the edict not to drink any of "that other water." LOL. I just figured since I get to re-use the same bottle each time and they're getting the water locally and just filtering it, why keep swimming against the current? It does taste better. Thought you'd enjoy that.

Thanks again.

#8 Mary Ellen

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Posted 20 June 2012 - 04:41 PM

The credit unions and small banks are not going to be very useful across the border when it comes to exchanging money. You are better off with a large bank such as Bank of America which has a designated affilitate in Mexico (thus avoiding all those extra charges). The reason many rentals esp. in TJ are in dollars is because the landlord is guaranteed a certain amount every month whereas when the rental is in pesos is can fluctuate as much as $30 a month depending on the peso exchange. My rent has been approx $20 less for the past 2 months as I pay in pesos and simply withdraw them from my Bank of America account thru Santander bank. I also only pay a small international fee at all stores using my BofA debit card.

#9 sycho

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Posted 21 June 2012 - 04:01 AM

QUOTE (Mary Ellen @ Jun 20 2012, 12:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The credit unions and small banks are not going to be very useful across the border when it comes to exchanging money. You are better off with a large bank such as Bank of America which has a designated affilitate in Mexico (thus avoiding all those extra charges). The reason many rentals esp. in TJ are in dollars is because the landlord is guaranteed a certain amount every month whereas when the rental is in pesos is can fluctuate as much as $30 a month depending on the peso exchange. My rent has been approx $20 less for the past 2 months as I pay in pesos and simply withdraw them from my Bank of America account thru Santander bank. I also only pay a small international fee at all stores using my BofA debit card.


While I'm sure your situation works for you, I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that credit unions and small banks are not going to be very useful across the border when it comes to exchanging money. I bank with a credit union based in Louisville, KY (Park Community Federal Credit Union - https://www.parkcomm...y.com/home.htm). There is no minimum balance. There is a debit card serviced by Mastercard. I can use the same ATM's any account holder at a large bank can use. I can also use it to purchase goods and services anywhere Mastercard is accepted. I also earn 1.99% interest based on the average daily balance, have fee-free access to ATM's throughout the U.S. through a couple of different networks (the MoneyPass network having been the most useful in my experience) and get any ATM fees I do have to pay refunded at the end of each month. The caveat is that the 1.99% interest (a rate which can change) and the refunding of the ATM fees are contingent on me meeting three criteria each month. First, there has to be one ACH deposit during the month. I receive disability payments and the Social Security Administration only pays out via direct deposit these days, so that is not a problem. Second, I have to agree to receive my statements and other notifications electronically as opposed to via snail mail. This is actually preferable because I am nowhere in the vicinity of the address they have on file. It was also helpful recently because they needed to alert people that the debit cards could not be used in five states as credit cards due to some yahoos stealing card numbers (I was travelling at the time, so I needed to know this). The third requirement is that I use the card for 12 signature based transactions (as a credit card) in the month. This third requirement is the only one I'll have to pay attention to down here as I prefer making purchases at places that don't accept credit cards. There are no penalties if I don't meet these criteria. I just don't get the interest or the ATM fees refunded.

I can see how just not having to pay ATM fees in the first place could be preferable to some people. The flip side is I don't have to worry about which ATM's I use. I'm not confined to using a designated affiliate. Squeezing in 12 signature based transactions each month may not work for some (the small fees associated with these transactions appear to be assessed by Mastercard as opposed to being dependent on which bank issued the debit card), so I could see that as being a consideration to people deciding which bank to use. I also haven't been here long enough yet to say with 100% certainty that the ATM fees I incur down here will be refunded up there. As I said in a post in reply to Cyanide41, though, the fact that it seems that he enjoys a similar benefit from his credit union gives me hope (I also see no logical reason why the same rule wouldn't apply to ATM fees incurred here - other than Murphy's Law being invoked).

I also posted above that I thought the ATM fees were $5. I just pulled some more pesos out today, and it was around $3. The plan is to just do two pulls from the ATM each month - one for my rent in u.s. dollars and the other my monthly allotment of pesos (disability payments are not huge sums of money, so my monthly allotment of pesos will come in under the daily ATM withdrawal limit). Even if I had to pay $6 each month to use an ATM, it would be worth it to me not to do business with a large bank (being a henchman for several of them for six years contributed significantly to several suicide attempts in the past and I just don't want to ever come close to conjuring up those feelings again). Even an extra trip or two to the ATM each month would put the total fees at $9-12. Paying even that much would not upset me a whole lot.

Again, I'm sure using a large bank works out for you. I just don't agree that the other options aren't very useful. It seems to me that determining the better option (whether based on financial consideration, ethical concerns or both) can only be done on a case-by-case basis. We all have different circumstances, and different banks as well as different accounts within each bank offer different options.

As for whether to pay rent in u.s. dollars or pesos, I'm scared to delve into that subject because I did so on TalkBaja.com and got flamed for not agreeing with someone who said I should be paying in pesos. I understand that paying in pesos works out for those who get their funds in u.s. dollars as long as the exchange rate keeps moving in the direction it has over the past couple of years (I haven't researched it a lot, but I believe a dollar was bringing only 10 pesos like four or five years ago). You have to remember that the trend could always take an about face. I'm not a fortune teller. I do remember when investing in real estate was a no-lose proposition, though, because it only goes up. That didn't work out very well for a whole lot of people. Those considerations aside, I prefer to pay in u.s. dollars for budgeting reasons. Funds go into my account in u.s. dollars and I pay my rent in u.s. dollars. It makes that part of my life fairly straightforward. And even if the exchange rate keeps going in its current direction, I'm happy that it will work out favorably for my landlords. They're a very nice couple who have been nothing but kind to me. Besides, my rent is only $300 per month (fully furnished apartment - like really furnished down to plates, bowls, knick-knacks and the like - and all utilities - including cable and internet), so we're not talking about a lot of money. Again, what is best probably depends on the people involved and their individual situations as evidenced by my arrangement working best for me and your situation working best for you.

P.S. I did confirm today that it is the ATM on the right at the Banorte on Ensanada in Playas (by the Waldo) that gives one the option to withdraw in u.s. dollars. I didn't see that option at the one on the left the last time I was there. This is in line with what Cyanide41 posted earlier.

#10 sycho

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 02:18 AM

Just following up on my last post...

My small community credit union did indeed refund ATM fees incurred on this side of the border. It also appears that my original guess as to the amount of the fees was the one that was correct (about $5) as they refunded $10.11 for two withdrawals.




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