Currently hot topic among travelers to Argentina is the foreign tourist dollar. The Argentine government announced that tourist card payments will be processed at almost the dollar Blue rate. Actually, it will be the dollar MEP rate which is close to the dollar blue rate. But what about the tourist card payment at the dollar blue rate? Read this article before you make any card payments in Argentina! Check out the video below.
What is the foreign tourist dollar?
In Argentina, there are many exchange rates. Those exchange rates do not follow the official exchange rate that you can find on XE.com or the National Bank of Argentina.
One of the exchange rates is the “Foreign tourist dollar“. When making a credit card payment in Argentina you have a much more favorable rate compared with the official. This means that payment at the official rate is not 10 USD but 5 USD for example.
The official rate is 1 USD = 365 ARS, Foreign tourist dollar is 1 USD = 700 ARS. For the same dollar, you will have more pesos to pay with.
What about the tourist dollar in Argentina?
They launched the idea that tourists can pay with their credit cards at the MEP rate. It would be easy, but the Argentine government said that it is the responsibility of the card issuer to process the payment at that rate. In most cases, it is Mastercard or Visa. Currently, Visa and Mastercard are processing refunds after a period. But you can get charged first at the official rate. Therefore, make a small payment to test the system.
Since shortly, Argentine companies are charging you Argentine pesos at the Dollar blue / MEP rate. So, in the end, you will pay the same amount in USD as it was at the official exchange rate. Some companies advertise it as that. The profit of the credit card is not there and gets charged first at the official exchange rate and waiting for the refund. This is because Argentine companies are adapting to the situation and they know that tourists have that “benefit” with the credit card. In this case, you first pay the double amount and get a refund later.
Situation 1 October 2023
Tourist activities in Buenos Aires are often charged at the MEP rate. The image below shows how it is. The Argentine peso amount – converted at the official exchange rate – is 123,70 USD. The amount converted by Visa brings the total to 73 USD after receiving the refund a couple of days later (Credit card bank fee not in the calculation). The company proposed to pay directly in USD which is 65 USD.
Those companies have 2 types of terminals. One that charges in ARS and another in USD.
I did the test! Did I get a good exchange rate?
Short answer, no. I did the test beginning May 2023. I make a comparison with other exchange rates available for tourists.
I went to buy a coffee and paid with my foreign MasterCard. At that moment the official exchange rate was 1 USD / 226 ARS. The Dollar Blue was at 464 ARS for 1 USD. The MEP where the tourist dollar should be based on was 433 ARS for 1 USD.
On my credit card statements, I saw that the coffee was paid at the official rate. Five days later I received a partial refund. I made the calculation and ended up with an exchange rate of 393 ARS for 1 USD. Ok, it’s still a 73% increase compared with the official exchange rate but 15% less if I exchanged money at the blue rate. And at the end, the exchange rate of my credit card didn’t follow the MEP rate.
Another example I had. Went on a boat trip in the South of Argentina with family. The price for locals was 13.000 ARS = 50 USD and for tourists 25.000 ARS = 94 USD. Tourists paid with credit card with the tourist exchange rate and ended up paying 51 USD.
Continue reading for more important information.
How to get the benefit of the tourist dollar?
I suggest testing your credit card first. Buy something small and wait until you get a refund or not. It can take up to 5-10 business days. This is how you avoid the surprise by paying the double amount in USD if they don’t process the refunds.
Afterward, you can use the credit card everywhere. The best is at restaurants and local stores. They will charge you at the official exchange rate and get the most profit. On top of that, almost no risk of paying double because it’s the official exchange rate.
For tourist activities, they will probably charge you at the MEP rate and here you don’t have the benefit anymore.
Just to let you know that you can make a profit out of it but not always.