In the last week of 2001 the Argentinean government defaulted on sovereign public debt. A country that was considered to have a strong economy during the 1990s ended up in a severe economic crisis in 2001. The consequences are still felt in daily Argentinean life. In 2002 and 2003 many foreign banks fled the country, selling their operations to smaller local banks. Only a few large foreign banks decided to stay in Argentina. In May 2003, Nestor Kirchner became president of Argentina and under his government the Argentinean economy has recovered some strength. The public however remains careful towards taking long-term loans. The costs of banking and rates in Argentina are relatively high considering the low level of inflation.
Banks generally open from 10:00 till 15:00. Differences exist among different cities and season however. Banks are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Most banks have ATMs available that are mostly open 24 hours/day.
Several banks have also introduced home-banking. This means that most banking operations can be done through the internet. In Argentina internet banking is generally referred to as Banca para el hogar.
Money transfers in Argentina usually take place without any difficulties or delays. The availability of internet banking, a service provided by several banks, is definitely a plus. International transfers however can take a long period before completion.
The use of a money transfer agencies is an alternative that can be considered. Money transfer agencies make use of agents all over the world. The main advantages of this method is that no bank account is needed and money transfer takes place very fast, - it takes around 10 minutes - and is very reliable. Unfortunately, commissions tend be high (7-10%). Useful for emergencies, but a quick way to lose money otherwise.
Since the financial crisis hit Argentina mortgages fell into disuse. However, little by little doors have been opening and mortgages are coming back into use. For the average Argentinean getting a mortgage is difficult today. The minimum net income required is around AR$ 1500/month. A further requirement is that you may not be older than 75 years on the estimated date of complete payback. Foreign nationals have must spend at least one year working legally in Argentina in order to get a mortgage.
Mortgages are offered on buying new estate, used estate, renovating or expanding estate or building own housing. For new estate financing is offered up till 80% of the value as long as it does not exceed AR$ 250,000. For used estate the financing maximum is 75% of total value not exceeding AR$ 250,000. Renovation and expansion of estate can be financed up to 100% without exceeding AR$ 50,000. Mortgages to finish construction are given when at least 65% of the total construction is already finished.
Banks offer mortgages for different periods, different interest percentages and demand different requirements. However, mortgages are offered generally for periods of 5, 8, 10, 12, 15 and 20 years. Interest is around 7.5 - 11% for loans up to ten years, loans with a duration of more than ten years are subject to approximately 9 - 12% interest.
As for mortgages, short term loans have come back in use, but restrictions apply. Short term loans require less income than mortgages, but the amount remains high. In order to qualify for any loan up till 36 months an average income of AR$ 1000/month per person and AR$ 1,200/month for married couples is required. Foreign nationals must have spent at least one year working legally in Argentina in order to get a loan. Of further importance is the kind of profession you hold. For certain jobs 2 or even 3 years of continuous work at the same employer is asked for.
The currency in Argentina is the peso, denoted as AR$. The peso is divided into 100 centavos. Peso notes in circulation are AR$ 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Coins in circulation are of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos and 1 peso. Be very careful with accepting change in Argentina. Especially in Buenos Aires there is a large amount of counterfeit money in circulation. Some of which is very hard to distinguish from real money. Ask around to find out about all the things to pay attention to. The most important being the watermark and the metal-coloured strip on the bills. Discotheques, bars and toll-booths are places of higher risk.
There are several ways to exchange your currency into Argentinean money. Banks generally offer good rates and can be regarded as the most trustworthy option. A second option is the use of exchange-booths, which are mainly found in the tourist areas. Better exchange rates can be found here, but care has also to be taken regarding falsified bank notes. Third, several of the higher end hotels offer money exchange, although rates tend to be worse than the previously mentioned options.