Dollars, pesos, cash or credit? Where to get and use what.
Common Troncones money questions we hear from our guests: Should I Bring pesos from home? Is there an ATM in Troncones? Aren’t ATM’s dangerous? Can’t I just pay with dollars? Can’t i just use my credit card?
Answers to these and more, below.
Cash or Credit?
Credit cards are only accepted in a handful of Troncones businesses, so bring ’em along for fun, but don’t count on using them too often. (They are nearly always accepted at the big grocery store in Zihuatanejo and Sam’s Club.) Traveler’s checks are pretty much useless, except at banks. See the below Bank Time Suck Warning and ask yourself: is it worth half a day?
Troncones has no bank and only one less-than-reliable ATM. That’s part of its rustic charm, but a real bummer if you come unprepared—you’ll spend several hours going to town for money, not to mention the cha-ching of cab fares from here to there and back.
We always stock up on cash from the major bank ATMs at the Mega Soriana grocery store or at the airport—less time waiting in line, and easier to get to than banks. You can use dollars in Troncones, but you will get extortionate exchange rates (like around 70% of their actual value).
Remember: Any exchange rate, apart from banks or ATM’s will favor the business, sometimes heavily. So, we recommend paying in the currency quoted.
get you the best possible exchange rate. (We generally avoid off-brand ATM’s — ie: “QuikMoney” — they often charge much higher fees.) Major Mexican bank ATM’s, including Santander, HSBC, Banorte, and Banamex, will let you know how much the fees will be before you complete the transaction.
Check with your bank about foreign ATM fees before coming. Certain banks, like Bank of America and Santander, have no- or low-commission deals. USAA and Schwab, for instance, will refund some foreign ATM fees.
Where to find them (in order of ease): at the airport, in the big Soriana grocery store and in Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo.
Maria’s Troncones ATM—one of the famous off-brand ATM’s—is located, appropriately, in Maria’s store. On main street, a bit below the hardware store, same side of the street. It charges $100 pesos a pop (most charge 30 or 40p), and regularly runs out of cash, but it beats an impromptu trip to Zihua.
2. The Airport Money Changer
It’s right there as you come out of customs, but they generally offer worse exchange rates and/or charge higher fees than major bank ATMs.
ATM’s There are several ATM’s at the Mega Soriana grocery store in Zihuatanejo, as well as at the many banks in Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo—but the banks are harder to get to and often involve longer, sweaty waits. (El super has AC!)
3. El Banco
For intrepid sociological explorers / masochists only, this deserves its own section:
— About The Mexican Bank Experience —
Just like being there…
If you like waiting in endless lines, go to the bank. If you’re really not that fond of the beach, go to the bank. If you feel guilty that you’re not at home, suffering for hours under fluourescent lights, go to the bank. If you’re channelling Señor Kafka, vete al Banco. If you have something really bad on your conscience, for which you need to do penance, go to the bank next to the Mercado in Zihuatanejo, around noon on a Friday.
Bank Time Suck Warning: If you really feel you must experience a Mexican bank, do yourself a favor and do it in Ixtapa, where only half of all humanity will be trying to do the same thing, at the same time, before they all close at 3:00. (Or, you could go to the ATM right outside the bank, or, better yet, in the air-conditioned grocery store.)
Literary note: If you want the true Tropical Mexico Bureaucratic Experience, go to the Comision Federal de Electricidad (the electric company) around noon and get in line. Bring a fan. And a novel—ideally The War of Don Emanuel’s Nether Parts, our recent personal favorite on the Tropical Latin Experience.