How to Exchange Money, Cozumel
One question frequently asked by first time visitors is: “Do I need to change money or can I spend U.S. dollars in Cozumel?” The answer to both questions is: “Yes.” Virtually every store and restaurant, no matter how small, will accept dollars in payment for any good or service. If the purchase is a small one, the exchange rate you get won’t matter all that much. However, since the peso devaluation in 1995, the rate in restaurants and shops varies widely making it advantageous to use pesos or a credit card for any sizable purchases. And if you’re going to be paying cash for meals and souvenirs all week long, even small purchases will add up.
There are numerous banks on the square and in other parts of the town that will change foreign currency and traveler’s checks. In addition, there are “Casa de Cambios” (house of changers) in several locations on the square that are open all day long and into the night. You need to keep an eye out for a service charge and be sure to count your change but quite often, the money changers will give a slightly better than bank rate during banking hours but a less attractive rate when the banks are closed.
Depending on the transaction fee your bank may impose, the best way to get pesos in Cozumel is to make a withdrawal at an ATM machine. Virtually every bank and the larger supermarkets like Chedraui and San Francisco have them. Directions are in English and the exchange rate official. Some machines will even have an option for withdrawing U.S. currency. The fee from the Mexican bank providing the service is usually no more than $1.50 – $3.00 per transaction. One way of reducing the impact of the transaction fee is to withdraw as much as much money as possible whenever you access a machine. If you select the “other amount” option, most ATMs in Mexico will allow you to withdraw at least $3000 pesos and some will go as high as $5000.
For those that carry a Bank of America ATM card, you can withdraw money from your accounts via ATMs of the Mexican bank Santander as if you were using a B of A machine. In Cozumel, there is a location near the corner of Av. 10 and Calle 3.
While many restaurants, hotels and shops will accept credit cards, be aware that in Mexico, it is typical for the vendor to add a service fee of up to 5% for the use of a credit card. Likewise, if you use your credit card to withdraw pesos from an ATM machine, there will be additional charges over what you would pay if using a card that is tied to your checking account.
Another option if you run low on cash during your stay and you have an American Express card: the local AMEX office on 11th will take a personal check as payment for traveler’s checks.