It’s not that bad as many articles a year or more old suggest actually. But still it’s more complicated than in any other Latin American country I’ve been (well, apart of Venezuela).
So, myths and truth about money issues in Argentina (information is valid on December 2016).
Paying with your bank card
- You can pay with your Visa/Mastercard almost in any restaurant in any touristy city. I’ve tried in Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn, Puerto Iguazu, Ushuaya and El Calafate. Once I dined in a restaurant with “solo effectivo” in Puerto Iguazu and twice I hit such places in Buenos Aires. Though watch out! — both of those places in Buenos Aires claimed that they do accept cards on FourSquare.
- You can not include tips in the bill and pay it with your card. Tips could be left only in cash.
- There is “cubiertos” surcharge which is included by almost every restaurant. It could be counted per table or per person and usually not higher than 25 pesos per person but few times I hit places with “cubiertos” as high as 58 pesos per person. So be careful if you are on a budget.
- Small corner stores often don’t accept cards, so you would have to look for a bigger supermarket. As well small stores usually have some minimal threshold — you can pay with your card only if you purchase more than for 100-150 pesos.
- While paying with your card at the supermarket, they almost always will ask you for an ID. Sometimes they are OK if you say that you left it in the hotel but sometimes they are not. I don’t like to walk around with my passport but my driving license worked just fine.
- Often it’s cheaper to pay cash than with the card. Supermarkets and restaurants are an exception from this rule but other shops as well as transfers, buses and taxi services you can find at the airports charge you less if you pay in cash.
- It’s a ridiculous system but normally they gonna write down all data from your card and your ID to the forms they have. I guess the rule “never tell your CCV or credit card number to the third parties” does not apply to Argentina.
- Tourist agencies usually accept cards but all entrance tickets to the national parks and other sightseeing have to be paid in cash (there is an ATM in Iguazu falls right at the entrance to the park, but don’t expect such luxury in other places).
- Both Visa and MasterCard are accepted those in some places one might work and another not, so it’s better to have both just in case.
- There are ATM (cajero automatico) in any touristic city. Once again, you won’t have any problems with finding one in all above mentioned cities. Even though GoogleMaps says that there is none or just one in some of them. In all of them you can find Santander Río which worked the best for me. As well BBVA, CityBank and hell of local Argentinian banks have got ATM in gringo spots. I’d have to mention that a lot of those local banks have there doors to ATM sections closed and you can enter only if you have a card from that bank. As well I haven’t had problems withdrawing from Santander Río but it never worked with National Argentinian bank.
- You can not withdraw more than 2000 argentinian pesos per one transaction and the commission is almost 95 pesos(seems that this commission is fixed and doesn’t depend on how much you withdraw).
- ATM are usually available 24/7.
- Watch out: they don’t refill ATM during the weekend, so it’s better to withdraw on Friday as you might hit numerous empty ATMs withing the weekend.
- There is usually an ATM at the airport. The only exception from above mentioned cities is Puerto Madryn.
- I would say it’s better with the card. Airports are just a rip-off in terms of exchange rate and the most famous place for exchange in Buenos Aires — Florida street — is not much better.
- Though funny enough the exchange rate in case you wanna pay in bucks in restaurants (if they have such an option) could be relatively fare.