When You Need Cash in a Crunch in Mexico

Being short of cash while on vacation is “no bueno”.

Mexico is still a cash economy. And the struggle can get real when you need to pay for the tamarind margaritas you just drank at a charming local restaurant or spot a Mayan embroidered shirt you’d like to get as a souvenir.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ATMs in the Riviera Maya where you can get much-needed pesos fast.

ATMs have been around for decades in Mexico. Now they’ve become easier to use. Just make sure you use one connected with a bank instead of one that just has a “sign” perched on top. You’ll know a sketchy ATM when you see one.

ATMs are still better than the old days of using travelers’ checks. Using the right ATMs can give you more time and money to relax, play, and explore.

Bank ATMs

Bank ATMs attached to or inside bank branches are your best bet. You get a better rate than exchanging cash. Some Mexican banks have U.S. affiliates. Banamex, for example, is owned by Citicorp and Santander is part-owned by Bank of America. CI Banco has the best ATM fee around.

Hotel ATMs

Hotel ATMs are the next best thing to those in or attached to banks. First, it’s bad for business when guests are at risk for being skimmed. Second, hotel ATMs are less likely to run out of money. This happens, especially in smaller beach communities like Akumal with one bank ATM and lots of visitors.

Grocery Store ATMs

Some retail chains like Chedraui, Soriana, and WalMart have bank-associated ATMs. They are tempting to use because you can grab pesos to buy extra sunblock, potato chips or bottled water. At certain times of the month, you also see Mexicans standing in line to use the ATM. It must be safe if the locals use it, right? Most times they are. But a local resident said she found false charges on her bank account after using an ATM in a grocery store in Tulum. Caution is key. Better to find a bank ATM.

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