Over the past year, the conversion rate from US dollars (USD) to Mexican pesos (MXN) has been about 19 to 1. This means that 1 US dollar is worth about 19 pesos. This rate changes constantly, based on a variety of factors.

Over the past year it’s fluctuated a bit, with a low around 18.5, to a high just over 20. But in general, it’s been about 19. 

Past year

With the recent changes in the world, including the Coronavirus pandemic, an oil price war between Saudi Araboia and Russia, and the US Fed cutting interest rates to 0%, the peso has dropped considerably. This week it’s been at an all-time low.

As of today, it’s about 24 to 1. A month ago, it was 18.5. That’s over a 30% drop in 30 days!

Past month

To quickly check the rate, simply Google for USDMXN

A month ago, if you transferred 10,000 USD into pesos, you would have received 185,700 pesos. Today, the same 10,000 USD would get you 244,100 pesos. That’s a difference of over 58,000 pesos. Or about $2,300 USD. That’s a LOT of tacos!

By paying attention to when you transfer currencies – you can certainly end up with some big financial advantages. 

So now that we know that there’s some advantages to watching the conversion rates, and timing your conversions at a good point, we can look at how to transfer.

ATMs

As I wrote in a previous post, I typically use my Charles Schwab account for ATM withdrawals n Mexico, as I get a good conversion rate, and they reimburse all ATM fees.  I’m able to withdraw the equivalent of about $1000 USD daily from my account via an ATM.

30 days ago, $1000 USD would get me about $18,500 pesos from an ATM. Today, it would get me about $24,400 pesos. That’s an additional 5900 pesos, or about $245 USD. That’ll take care of your happy hour cervezas down here for a while!

So a good ATM card goes a long way, but it’s the daily limit that’s, uh, limiting. What if I wanted to convert more money? With an ATM, I’m limited to withdrawals of $1000 USD per day. As the rate will be different tomorrow, I’d like to take more advantage of today’s good rate.

Lets say I wanted to convert $10,000 USD into pesos

Wire Transfers

Doing a bank-to-bank wire transfer is one option. They seem a bit old-school, but they’re common, and they do work.

I can do a wire transfer from my Chase bank in the US, to my CI Banco account here in Mexico. Normally, an international wire transfer can cost from $25-$50 USD. Luckily for me, due to my particular account, my Chase bank waives the fee for wire transfers. Besides the fee, the other downside is that the conversion rate isn’t nearly as good.

Rate: 23.6012
Fees: $0
Total Cost: $10,000 USD
Received: $236,012 MXN

So my $10K USD gets me about $236K MXN.

TransferWise

TransferWise is an online service that allows you to transfer money between countries and currencies. I started using them a couple of years ago. Their slogan is The cheap, fast way to send money abroad.

I’m a big fan of them. Their website and app are easy to use, they’re upfront and transparent about their fees and conversion rates, and their multi-currency account makes it easy to hold and transfer between different currencies.

So, lets look at transferring the same $10,000 USD with TransferWise:

Rate: 24.2780
Fee: Bank debit (ACH): $34.88 USD
TransferWise fee: $62.00 USD
Total Cost: $10,000 USD
Received: $240,427.95 MXN

So my $10K USD gets me about $240K MXN.

Comparison

Wire TransferTransferWise
Send$10,000 USD$10,000 USD
Rate23.6012 24.2780
Fees$0$96.88
Receive$236,012 MXN$240,427.95 MXN
Difference+ $4416 MXN (about $184 USD)

Compared to a wire transfer, that’s a difference of about $4416 MXN, or about $184 USD.

So even with the Wire Transfer being free, and the fees that TransferWise charges, it’s still a better deal to use TransferWise.

Other services

There’s a number of other similar services, such as Xoom, Paypal, WorldRemit, Remitly, etc.

I’ve looked at a number of these, tried out a few, and I’ve found that TransferWise offers the best combination of conversion rates, low fees, transfer times, ease of use, and security.

Another cool feature of TransferWise is that they also show you how they compare to some of their competitors:

But what if I don’t need/want a large amount of cash on hand?

Yet another nicety of TransferWise is that you can have a multi-currency account. So you can keep that money in TransferWise, and then later decide what you want to do with it.

My Account with Multiple Currencies

What are some options?

  • Send it to another bank account, such as a Mexican bank account
  • Convert it to another currency (such as back to USD when the rate swings the other way)
  • Withdraw using a TransferWise debit card
  • Pay bills (for example, I can send money out of my TransferWise account directly into the bank account of my landlord, to pay my rent)
  • Transfer to other pre-paid cards (a topic for an upcoming post)

Rate Alerts

If you don’t constantly watch the conversion rates, you can have TransferWise send you a daily email of the rate. They can also notify you if it reaches a certain level

Do I have to report this to the IRS?

You don’t need to report currency transfers per se. For example, if you convert $1000 USD, or send it from one bank to another, you don’t need to report it.

But, for US citizens, if the aggregate value of your foreign financial accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year, then you have to file an FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts).

You just have to report your foreign holdings, if over $10K USD at any point in the year. It’s an online process, and not really a big deal to do.

Here’s a good article on FBAR.

Summary

As we’ve seen, paying attention to currency conversion rates, and converting money at the right time can make a huge difference.

If you’re just coming down to Mexico for a week of vacation – I wouldn’t worry about this. Just get your pesos from a trustworthy ATM (hopefully using a debit card that is free to use and reimburses ATM fees), and you’ll be fine.

But, if you live in Mexico for any period of time (either full-time, or as a part-time snowbird), all of this can make a big difference.

And do take a look into TransferWise – I think it’s great service, and can really help you maximize money in a multi-currency world.

¡Más dinero, más tacos, más tequila!

Affiliate Link Disclosure

Note: the TransferWise links in this post are my affiliate link, so should you sign up using my link, I do get a small kickback. I think it’s enough to buy a beer. Or maybe two beers down here in Mexico! So if you do sign up, please use my link, which will help keep me well inebriated!