Expats and Currency in Argentina
As a US citizen living in Argentina, finding the best way to get my income into Argentine pesos is always on top of mind.
I am using this post as a way to share some information that was shared with me on a private Facebook group for expats in Argentina. Before I share this, I should lay down some info about how I move money into this regulation-thick country.
Cash is King
I am always nervous about traveling with large amounts of cash, but it’s recommended to bring cash with you when you travel because the best exchange rates and lowest fees can be found when exchanging cash for cash.
We have two credit cards (and one US debit card) that don’t charge foreign transaction fees. These kinds of cards aren’t hard to find and are a must. Up-side: when you can use them, you’re not spending cash so your need to transfer money or exchange cash is abated. Down-side: watch your bank’s exchange rate on these, which generally is a little lower than cash.
Debit and ATMs
In Argentina, at the time I am writing this, the ATMs charge $630 Pesos for each ATM withdrawal and the limit is $4,000–8,000 pesos. That’s about a $10 USD fee to withdraw $70–130 USD. Not cool. If you’re like me, you have an account at a bank that refunds all ATM fees. Thanks Chuck!
Ok. Let’s get to business. Here is what I posted on the Facebook group:
Hey expats! Let’s talk currency exchange. The rules seem to be changing and I am trying to make sense of all of this. Please add what you can to this thread. Articles about new policies, tactics for moving money, etc.. I will post some observations/questions below.
I was talking to an Argentine friend who quoted me a black market price for USD, up in the 82:1 range. That’s way higher than what I see from Morningstar (about 59.8:1). I was paying a bill at Pago Facil and they were promoting a Buy rate of 68:1 and Sell rate of 74.5:1. I assume these rates are different because of new regulations on currency exchange.
Currently, our tactic for getting our USD > Peso is to transfer as needed through World Remit or through just using our debit card (Charles Schwab doesn’t change int’l trans. fees and refunds all ATM fees (including the criminally high $630 peso fee most ATMs charge international cards). But this tactic gets us the lowest ~60:1 rate.
I am just starting to look into using cryptocurrency again, but I can’t yet tell which is more volatile.
I’m not particularly interested in using black market sources. I just would like to get more insight into whats going on with currency stuff.
Thanks in advance!!!
Here are the replies:
The new government issued a new law which aims to deincentivize saving in dollars. Which most Argentines do since the peso is so volatile and historically poor as a method to store value. There is a 30% tax for people who exchange pesos for dollars or buy things in dollars. So effectively the exchange rate inside the country is 30% higher than what it would be. This means also that if you use an Argentine debit card abroad, then you will be paying for 30% more for things. It’s in effect for 5 years (or if the economy gets better 🤔).
The black market price is so high because along with this, Macri’s exchange limit of 200 dollars a month per person is still in effect, which increased demand and prices of the dolár blue.
If you want to be 100% legal AND get a good exchange rate then you need to talk to a broker (“agente de bolsa”) in Argentina, open twin brokerage (“ comitente”) accounts through them in Argentina and US. You can then get the “contado con liqui” (“CCL”) rate that is about 75 pesos per dollar right now for US$5k trade size. All that said, once you find out that 100% legal means 2.5% p.a. Bienes Personales tax on all your assets outside Argentina, etc you might reconsider :)
Official USD is what banks would pay if you get a transfer to your account in Argentina. That would be about ARS 60 today, whereas the “Blue” dollar, that is what brokers would pay is at around ARS 82. So if your bring dollars you may want to use one of these get the higher price.
If you have dollars and want pesos, black market is where you would get the best price for them. If you have pesos and want dollars, 60:1 is definitely the best price you’ll get
I’ve got a tactic for you, since I’m an Upwork freelancer and need to move USD to ARS constantly — Buy bitcoins (in localbitcoins.com) with your dollars, then sell them for ARS through that same platform. Yesterday I exchanged using this method, and got a 73:1 rate. The trick here is to move faster than the crypto volatility and sell quick, keep your dollars in your foreign accounts.
You could buy those bitcoins however you want, but selling them for ARS thru localbitcoins is quite safe.
This method could also help you get some USD in an Argentinian bank account. LB is just a P2P platform, so the options are wide.
(A quick note from me here: I have a lot of questions about this process and while I am open to using crypto, I am not super confident in it).
Some friends from Europe use Western Union or Azimo to exchange Euros into Pesos. Western Union had recentrly an interesting rate of 1€=80 pesos. Azimo is around 75 pesos for 1 euro. It could be worth looking into.
I agree with M.C.. Your best bet is to send yourself money online via Western Union without paying any transfer fees or commissions. You can transfer USD for a cash pickup now at $1 dollar for 72 argentine pesos. I exchanged cash today on the black market and got a rate of $1 dollar for 75 argentine pesos, so it’s not that much of a difference and safer than carrying a lot of cash with you. The other option is to take a trip to Uruguay and send yourself US dollars via Western Union or Xoom for a cash pickup there. The trip more than pays for itself if you get a decent amount of US dollars.
That’s the conversation from the past week. I may add other replies as they come. I hope this is somehow helpful to someone. Feel free to carry on the conversation in the comments. Thanks!