Most Mexican establishments now use an electronic card payment system, though some still continue to use old carbon copy imprinters. Your purchases will be charged in Pesos and converted to your local currency if you use a foreign card.
Note that some banks charge a foreign exchange fee on purchases abroad, so ask your bank about any potential fees. If you are staying in Mexico for some time, you might want to consider getting a credit card from a Mexican bank so that you are charged directly in Pesos and do not have to worry about the currency exchange.
Mexican credit cards
The credit card market in Mexico is following US-patterns, with many Mexicans not only using their credit cards for payment, but also for real credit purposes. Many people are willingly piling up debt on their credit card, despite the fact that interest on credit cards is extremely expensive compared to the US and Western Europe. Penalties for late payments are even higher, so be cautious with how you use your credit card.
To get a Mexican credit card you need to have a bank account with a Mexican bank. If you do not have proof of a good credit history some banks will require a deposit to secure your credit card payments.
Withdrawing cash at Mexican ATMs
Cash machines (ATMs) are widespread in Mexico, although in smaller villages you might have to travel to the next town to find one. You can withdraw Mexican Pesos with any card that is connected to one of the global networks like Maestro, MasterCard, American Express or Visa.
ATMs are the most convenient way of withdrawing Pesos in Mexico. If you have a card from a foreign bank you will usually get a favourable exchange rate on your cash withdrawal.
Most banks charge about 1% of the transaction value for cash withdrawals with debit cards, while fees for cash withdrawals with credit cards can be significantly higher. For foreign cards some banks charge an additional ‘foreign exchange fee’. If you are staying in Mexico for a while, you will probably save yourself from fees by withdrawing cash with a Mexican card.
Precautions when withdrawing cash from ATMs in Mexico
Be aware of your surroundings when withdrawing cash from ATMs in Mexico. In Mexico City assaults on people who have just used an ATM machine are very common, so you should never withdraw any money at night in a lonely area. Most ATMs in Mexico are in a small lobby that you can only access with your card (so you are more or less secure inside), but there might be people waiting for you once you get out of the lobby. There are also reports of people being kidnapped and forced to withdraw money at a cash machine, but these incidents are not that common. When ATMs are re-filled with cash you will see armed police or private security with heavy arms at hand.
However, you can normally withdraw cash from a Mexican ATM without running into any danger. Just use your common sense and be alert for any potential problems.