Can I Use My Debit Card in Mexico?

Article Summary:

If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, you may be concerned with how you will access your money to pay for expenses. Although credit and debit cards are not accepted in all businesses in Mexico, they are widely accepted by larger businesses, such as hotels and restaurants.

Mexico may be inexpensive, but it’s certainly not free! As you plan your trip to Mexico, you might wonder about how to pay for all of your fun activities and cultural experiences. Luckily, today debit and credit cards are widespread in Mexico and accepted at the majority of large restaurants, hotels, and shops. However, using your debit card may come with foreign transaction fees, foreign exchange fees, and/or withdrawal fees. You can also withdraw money with your debit card from an ATM. Most cities in Mexico have an abundance of ATMs, which are called “cajeros” in Spanish.

Keep reading to learn more about using your debit card in Mexico!

Can I use my debit card in Mexico?

Yes, you can. Larger establishments, such as hotels and restaurants, often have electronic payment systems, and your debit card will work at these locations. However, you should be aware that not all places will accept debit and credit cards. This is especially true for small shops and businesses, such as taxis, food stands. In these cases, you should be prepared to pay in cash.

When you do choose to use your debit card in Mexico, your purchases will be charged in pesos, which is Mexico’s currency, and converted into your local currency. The exchange rate of the Mexican peso to the U.S. dollar fluctuated between 10 to 20 pesos over the last decade. Before traveling, you should look up the current exchange rate to understand how much you will actually be charged for your purchases.

Will I have to pay fees for using a debit card in Mexico?

The answer to this question depends on your bank and your card. Some banks charge a foreign transaction fee on purchases abroad. Some banks may not offer the best currency exchange rate. So, you may end up paying more than you expected based on the current exchange rate.

We recommend that you talk to your bank to see what fees are associated with your current card. Some banks offer cards that are designed to use abroad, so they do not have foreign transaction fees or ATM withdrawal fees. These types of cards will ensure that you are not hit with unexpected fees at the end of your trip to Mexico.

Can I use my debit card at an ATM in Mexico to withdraw cash?

Your debit card will work at Mexican ATMs to withdraw cash as long as it is connected to a global network like Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, or American Express. ATMs are found across most of Mexico and should be relatively easy to access, although they might be scarcer in small villages. You will be able to withdraw Pesos from ATMs in Mexico.

You will likely have to pay a fee for withdrawing cash at a Mexican ATM using a foreign card. This is true especially if you withdraw money at an ATM not associated with your bank. Typically, you will be charged about 1% of the transaction value for debit card withdrawals (note that withdrawal with a credit card can be much higher!). Therefore, whenever possible, you should withdraw money at the ATM associated with your bank to avoid international fees from both your bank and the ATM operator. That means using a Bank of America ATM if you have Bank of America or a Chase ATM if you have Chase. However, not all banks have global ATMs. Check with your bank to see where they have ATMs or international partner ATMs.

Some banks will also charge an additional ‘foreign exchange fee’ to convert your currency into the local currency when withdrawing cash at ATMs. It is a good idea to check with your bank before traveling to be aware of the withdrawal and foreign exchange fees.

Is it safe to use your debit card in Mexico?

Yes, using your debit card in Mexico is generally safe. Relying on a debit card to pay directly at establishments and to withdraw cash when needed is likely safer than carrying a lot of money on you.

That being said, take caution when withdrawing cash from ATMs in Mexico. Assaults on people who have just withdrawn money from an ATM are possible, and more common in large cities such as Mexico City. Make sure to never withdraw money at night in a sparsely populated area. Instead, look for ATMs located in enclosed spaces, such as in a grocery store. Some ATMs in Mexico have a ‘small lobby’ that protects you while you are inside, but be sure to be careful while you are leaving the protected area. As long as you use common sense and take simple precautions, you are unlikely to run into any problems while using your debit card in Mexico.

Other options for paying while in Mexico

Using your debit card is not the only option while in Mexico. In Mexico, tourists can obtain Mexican pesos in exchange houses, banks, ATMs, and through international credit cards. Here are some other common options:

Using a credit card

Most places that would accept a debit card will also accept a credit card, and the same rules apply regarding foreign transaction and conversion fees. However, credit cards often charge high withdrawal fees, so you usually would not want to use your credit card to withdraw cash at an ATM.

Exchange money before your trip

Another popular option is to exchange USD into Pesos before you arrive in Mexico. You should be able to do this at your bank, travel agency, or in the airport. However, expect to get a worse exchange rate than you would if you withdrew at the ATM or used your debit card directly.

Exchange money in Mexico

Visitors can easily exchange USD for pesos while in Mexico at most banks or a casa de cambio (exchange bureau). You can usually find the exchange rate advertised outside these locations. You can compare to see where you would receive the best exchange rate.

Paying in USD

You might be able to use USD while in Mexico, especially if you visit popular tourist destinations. However, be aware that the “over-the-counter” exchange rate offered by the vendor will likely mean that you end up paying more for your goods than you should. For example, most vendors will offer an exchange rate of 10 pesos to 1 USD, which means that your U.S. dollar may be worth less than if you changed it to the local currency yourself.

Using a prepaid debit card

A prepaid debit card essentially functions the same way as a regular debit card but is a better option for people who do not qualify for a regular debit card or a credit card. It is also a great idea for travelers who do not want to overspend on their budget. Learn more about how prepaid debit cards work.

Check out SuperMoney’s article about other helpful tips for using your debit card to ensure that you use your debit card properly.

Key takeaways

  • It is smart to plan and check what payment options are available before taking your next trip to Mexico.
  • Debit and credit cards are widespread in Mexico and accepted at most large restaurants, hotels, and shops.
  • Before traveling, we recommend you consult your bank to be aware of potential international fees and receive guidance about what ATMs will be your best option for withdrawing cash.
  • You should also arrive prepared with more than one payment strategy, just in case you lose your card or encounter other unforeseen accidents.
Article Sources
  1. Know Before You Go – Mexico Embassy
  2. How Do Prepaid Debit Cards Work? – SuperMoney
  3. Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Debit Cards in 2021 – SuperMoney
  4. 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Using Debit Cards – SuperMoney