Currently hot topic among travelers to Argentina is the foreign tourist dollar exchange rate. Tourist credit 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.
THIS ARTICLE LAST UPDATE: December 13, 2023, due to the new devaluation.
UPDATE – December 12, 2023: The minister of Economy announced a devaluation of 54% against the USD. From 1 USD you get 365 to 1 USD getting 780 ARS.
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 exchange 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 = 780 ARS, Foreign tourist dollar is 1 USD = 945 ARS. For the same dollar, you will have more pesos to pay with.
There is no foreign dollar exchange rate for the EURO. It will follow the USD rate.
See the video below for the latest update:
How does it work the tourist dollar in Argentina?
First of all, it is the responsibility of the card issuer to process the payment at the tourist foreign dollar 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 and wait 6-8 days. Because it may happen that you don’t receive a refund and you end up paying the double. So my advice is never to pay directly a large amount without testing especially when they charge out at the MEP rate!
CREDITCARD OR DEBITCARD
I did all the tests. I used my Mastercard and VISA credit cards. They charged me both first at the official rate. After 7 days I received a refund.
My debit cards didn’t work. I used a top-up VISA debit card and Mastercard. It’s good that I did the test with a small amount otherwise I paid double.
Be careful and make your calculations!
Argentine companies charge you in Argentine pesos at the much higher Dollar Blue / MEP rate. So, first, you pay the double and later you get a refund if it works for your credit card. Many companies are honest about it and mention it clearly in the store or on their website. In the end, you make no profit.
But the situation has changed in Argentina on December 13.
The official rate at this moment is 1 USD = 781 ARS. The tourist exchange rate is 1 USD = 917 ARS. The MEP rate is 1 USD = 1010 ARS.
Two important things:
- If the company charges you at the official rate, you are good. You will make 17 % profit. You will have the benefit of a slightly better rate when you pay with your credit card. Example: cost of a ticket at the official rate converted to USD is 10 USD (=7810 ARS). You paid with a credit card, you have paid 8,51 USD.
- If the company charges you at the MEP rate, you will lose money because of the new regulations. The company wants to receive 10 USD worth in ARS at the MEP rate to buy USD. So, they will charge you 10100 ARS. If you paid then with your credit card, you have paid 11,01 USD.
I just did the test myself on December 13, 2023.
Important tip to make a profit from the exchange rate
Since December 13, the benefit of paying with your credit card is less. Because the gap between the official exchange rate and the tourist exchange rate is smaller.
The risk is now if you are going to pay a higher price! Number one tip from today: if the store of activity shows the price in USD? Then you will pay probably at the MEP rate which will be more expensive if you pay with your credit card. Unless the payment is done directly in USD. However, that will be unusual as the payment terminals in Argentina only accept ARS.
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 double the 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 benefit. 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 tourist foreign dollar exchange rate and here you don’t have the benefit anymore.
Conclusion: Yes, you can make a profit when they don’t charge you at the MEP rate. This is mostly the case in restaurants and shops, … For tourist activities and hotels, make your calculation. Often it is a bit cheaper to pay directly in USD.