The Travel Money Guide to Currency in Argentina
Argentina, home to the tango and smokey grills, fútbol (soccer), and the vast Andes ranges, it's a favourite location in South America. You mostly pay cash, so it's a good idea to learn everything you can about the local currency and payment options before you go.
The official currency of Argentina is the Argentine Peso (ARS). It's best to have small denominations of Argentine Peso to spend in Argentina. If you can't buy some before your trip, the next best options are US Dollars (USD), Euros (EUR) or Brazilian Reals (BRL). You can easily exchange these foreign currencies at currency exchanges and banks.
Want to learn more about the Argentine Peso and how to get your hands on it for the best value? Read on to find out:
What Currency is Used in Argentina?
In Argentina, locals use Argentine Peso, which has the international code ARS and the symbol $. The peso is subdivided into centavos, worth 1/100 of a peso.
The Argentine Peso has 6 coin denominations: 5, 10, 25, 50, and one and two pesos.
Argentine banknotes have 9 denominations: 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 pesos.
What is the currency of Argentina
The term 'Peso,' meaning 'weight,' originates from Spain. The peso form a part of the national currencies in most South American countries. It replaced the Argentine Austral to increase stability after experiencing hyperinflation.
Can I change my Australian Dollars in Argentina?
It is difficult to exchange Australian Dollars (AUD), even in the capital city of Buenos Ares. Banc Nationale at the airport, Recoleta Mall or possibly a few other Cambios (money exchangers) on the street might exchange AUD to ARS, but most places do not and if you can, you end up paying a less favourable rate.
Should I take US dollars to Argentina instead?
Yes, most money changers will exchange US dollars (USD). It can be tricky to buy Argentinian Peso in Australia before you leave, because there is little supply so getting US dollars is a good alternative.
How to Buy Argentine Peso Before You Go
There’s a certain reassurance that comes with stepping off the plane (or cruise ship) already cashed up with Argentine Peso.
Buying Argentine Peso before you leave Australian shores might be convenient, but cash supplies can be tricky to get because it isn't a common currency. It all depends on where you get your Argentine Peso in Australia. There are three main options:
- Buy ARS online and have it delivered or collect it in-store
- Buy from a money changer
- Buy at your home airport
Currency exchange offices at Australian airports are notorious for their poor rates and commissions so we recommend avoiding that option entirely.
You’ll easily find a bureau de change near you; even suburban shopping centres should have at least one. But it’s better to get your money from an inner-city bureau if possible. They have more competition, which is likely to drive their rates down.
If there’s already too much running around to do ahead of your trip, consider ordering Argentine Peso online. You can choose to have them delivered or made available for pick-up at a location near you.
Online orders are often the best value too, especially if you go with S Money, which offers the same rates listed on Google and XE.com.
How to Change Currency When You Arrive
Places like Buenos Aires and Mendoza receive great numbers of tourists, so there are facilities to cater to money exchanges. Beyond these major destinations, it’s best to get cash before you venture into remote territory.
ATMs are widely available, but you may be charged more at ATMs outside of Buenos Aires. Local banks with a green Link sign are cheaper to withdraw cash from, but have lower limits than the Banelco ATMs, with a red B sign.
Most ATMs have low withdrawal limits (ARS1,000-4,000), meaning you can rack up overseas ATM withdrawals and currency conversions with your bank. To reduce your fees, withdraw just the right amount of money you’ll need for the duration of your trip.
At times ATM’s can run out of money especially on long weekends and holidays. Places like El Calafate and El Chaltén in Patagonia quickly run out of cash in high season.
Don’t forget: Let your bank know you’re travelling! If they detect a foreign transaction, but aren’t aware you’re overseas, they could end up freezing your card.
Currency Exchange in Argentina
You won’t have any problem changing US dollars (USD) or Euros (EUR) cash. Avoid bringing other currencies as it is often hard to get changed at worst exchange rates.
There are plenty of cuevas or casas de cambio (currency exchange places) in the airport Ministro Pistarini Ezeiza or Aeroparque, but you’ll get a far better rate in the city centre along Florida and Lavalle.
We recommend you bring $100 or €100 notes in pristine condition, some places don’t accept torn or folded money. Bring your ID.
Argentina is home to illegal money changers, who supposedly offer a more attractive exchange rate or the “blue dollar rate.” Choosing proper currency exchanges over the illegal route is safer, you won’t receive counterfeit money this way.
Not worth the bother! Travellers cheques are so outdated, very few banks even accept them any more.
Using Your Bank Card
Most Argentine businesses are well set up to receive card payments. But before you use your bank card willy-nilly, it’s worth reading up on the fees and charges you might incur.
You’ll probably want a debit card if you plan to withdraw money from an ATM. While you may also be able to pay with a debit card in some businesses in the major destinations, you might discover some hefty fees on your account summary.
Depending on your bank, you could be hit with fees for foreign ATM withdrawals or currency conversions. But some banks are better than others; we recommend checking out ING, Revolut, and TransferWise, all of which have travel-friendly debit cards that waive these charges.
Credit cards can come with some enticing perks, including added security, loyalty programs, and even free travel insurance.
But are they worth it?
Major local businesses, including hotels, restaurants, airline offices, and department stores, accept credit cards. But you might have to pay a surcharge.
Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted. You may also be able to use your American Express card, though local ATMs won’t accept them.
Just be aware of additional charges you may incur for foreign transactions. These could include:
- International transaction fees
- High exchange rate margins
- ATM fees
- Potential ‘cash advance fees’ if you use an ATM
If you still prefer credit cards over any other payment, consider going with a company that offers cards that waive certain travel fees. Bankwest Platinum and 28 Degrees both have travel-friendly cards.
Prepaid Travel Cards
The biggest advantages of prepaid travel cards are that you can lock in a favourable exchange rate. You also get a handy back-up card.
Just remember that while they are convenient, you could end up paying a long list of hidden fees. Many travel cards still impose:
- Currency conversion fees
- Uncompetitive exchange rates
- International ATM withdrawal fees
- Initial load fees
- Reload fees
- Inactivity fees