You’ll notice when traveling in Baja that many businesses give an exchange rate that is different from the current bank rate. This is because businesses are allowed to set their own rate if they choose to accept U.S. dollars. In order to get the current bank exchange rate for your dollar you must get pesos out of an ATM in Mexico, or use a credit card for purchases. We recommend using pesos instead of dollars to pay for purchases as you’ll get a much better exchange rate, and it’s courteous to use the local currency. Keep in mind that many establishments will not accept larger bills (of either currency), so it’s a good idea to have smaller bills. As with traveling anywhere in the world, exercise caution with your money. Don’t carry around large amounts of cash or flash your money around. Always deal with reputable sources.
The best way to get pesos is to withdraw them from an ATM in Baja. We recommend using ATMs at banks if you have that option. You should call your bank in the U.S. before traveling to ask if they have branches or any sister banks in Baja where you can withdrawal money using your ATM card without being charged a fee. You should also alert your bank to the fact that you will be traveling in Mexico so that they will not reject your attempts to use your card in Baja. If you travel frequently to Baja (or anywhere out of the U.S.), you may want to consider opening a free checking account with Charles Schwab. They do not charge you foreign ATM fees, and if the ATM that you’re using charges you a fee on that end, Charles Schwab will refund you the amount.
Many places in Baja do not take credit cards, but many large hotels and restaurants in bigger cities will. In Los Cabos and cities that are closer to the U.S. border, you’ll find more establishments that accept credit cards than you will find in the middle of the peninsula. Many credit card companies will charge you a foreign transaction fee, but there are credit cards available that will not charge fees for charges made outside of the U.S. Capital One credit cards and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card are two credit cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees. Make sure to call or read the fine print to find out what your card will charge before you travel. If using a credit card, ask the establishment to run the amount in pesos, not dollars, as you’ll get a better deal.
If you are carrying cash in dollars and need to exchange it for pesos, many banks in Mexico will not allow you to do this unless you have an account with them. You can exchange your dollars for pesos at any of the exchange houses in San Ysidro, CA before crossing into Baja. If you are a Costco member, the Costco in Chula Vista at 1130 Broadway does not charge a commission fee to exchange. You should call ahead to confirm the current rate 619-426-2620.
For the current peso exchange rate, visit www.xe.com