Using Credit Cards in Mexico

A “foreign transaction fee” is the amount your card will charge you in order to exchange the pesos you used the card for to make a purchase in Mexico into the dollars your credit card company uses to charge you on your account.  Please check to see that any credit card you will use in Mexico has a zero foreign transaction fee.

Next, make sure that whatever credit cards you have utilize a good exchange rate from Mexican pesos.  Some are much better than others, and this can really add up.  For example, if you buy something in Mexico for 2,000 pesos and your credit card company exchanges your USD dollars at a rate of 20 to one, that 2,000-peso purchase will cost you USD $100.  However, if your credit card company exchanges your pesos for dollars at the rate of 22 to one, you’ll only pay $90.91 for your 2,000-peso purchase.  If your credit card company uses the 22 to one rate, it’s like getting a 9% discount on all your credit card purchases just for being smart enough to use the right credit card!

Also please check to make sure that your credit card will work in Mexico for an extended period of time.  Some cards do this without any intervention needed on your part while some make you indicate that you are on vacation every 90 days or so.  If you don’t know which policy your credit card company uses, it’s a good idea to call them to find out.  You don’t want to discover how they will react on day 91 while you’re standing in the checkout counter at your grocery store in Mexico with all your groceries bagged and six people behind you when your card is declined, the ice cream is melting, and those people behind you in line all wondering what would cause your card to be declined.

  • For each credit card you have, check the foreign transaction fee and exchange rate.
  • If you are not happy with any of your existing cards, apply for a new one that’s better.
  • Make sure that you have replicates of each card, for yourself, and if you’re moving with someone else, for that person, too.
  • Find out what the rules are for each card for using it outside the US and make sure you comply with those rules.