During a recent trip to Argentina I discovered that the most effective way to get money from a US bank account is to send it to myself via money transfer. Sure ATM machines are ubiquitous but they don’t all work with US cards and the ones that do charge all kinds of fees. The biggest disadvantage of ATM cards, however, is that the exchange rate used is about 4.5 pesos to 1 US dollar while the unofficial exchange rate in Argentina is about 6 to 1. This spread alone is enough to make it worthwhile to not use ATMs.
I used XOOM to transfer the money to myself in Buenos Aires and found it much safer and secure than going to the shady money exchange “cambio” places which may slip in fake bills. A quick search online shows that others have had similar experiences with XOOM and consistently received rates of over 6 Argentinean dollars to 1 USD. The process to use this service is fairly straight forward. After setting up your account (basically who you are and where the money is coming from) you send money to a “More” pickup location. The main detail is to make sure to spell your name (as the recipient) exactly the way that it appears on your passport because that is what is going to be used for verification. The transaction takes about an hour from the time the money is sent to the time it is available for pickup. XOOM lists many pickup locations on their site but the main one that I found to work is the “More” office in Buenos Aires on Libertad 1057 near Santa Fe. To pick up the money, you just need your passport and the transaction id number. After the first transaction, sending additional funds is easy because all the information is saved on your account. You can go to the XOOM site from your cell phone, repeat the last transaction with a few clicks and the money should be available for pickup by the time you reach the office. (more…)