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  • JDB 4,124 posts

    Hi @JDB, is there a law in Argentina that says businesses must convert at the official rate? I’ve queried with Hertz and they have told me “If you decide to pay in pesos (either in cash or with a credit card), the tourist dollar must be taken to multiply it by the value of the reservation.”

    Thanks

    I don’t believe that is the case. If they mention the ‘tourist dollar’ they are definitely talking nonsense as that is one of the official rates for outbound Argentinian tourists, not foreigners.

    Hertz in Argentina is a franchise and there are also lots of different sub-franchisees so there’s not much consistency. I’m not sure why one would book car hire there in US$ anyway.

    Matt 283 posts

    I booked through the Hertz website, which quotes in US$. I contacted Hertz centrally which resulted in this reply.

    You’re right about the lack of consistency

    RoyK345 3 posts

    Hi – I’ve just bought tickets for internal flights in Argentina via the Aerolineas Argentinas website in ARS and in Spanish – I’m in the UK. I paid by Barclaycard Visa and they have charged at the official rate. I’ve called them to ask about the MEP rate refund but they didn’t know anything about it, just the official rate. Does anyone know whether Barclaycard Visa does the MEP conversion? Could do with knowing before travelling and using it? Also have a Santander Zero card – does anyone know whether they convert to the MEP rate?

    JDB 4,124 posts

    I booked through the Hertz website, which quotes in US$. I contacted Hertz centrally which resulted in this reply.

    You’re right about the lack of consistency

    It sounds like there is may be some miscommunication here. A Hertz telephone agent will have no clue about how you will be billed on the day. I think what they may be saying is that when they quote you a rate online in US$ it is based on the official exchange rate. There can be no certainty as to what will happen on the day re Hertz billing, but it would be highly irregular for a big international franchise (as opposed to some individual hotel) to use anything other than the official rate.

    You can book on the local .com.ar website for a price in pesos and if any CDP you normally use doesn’t work (probable) you can google for lots of local ones. Most locals simply can’t afford the rates foreigners pay so it’s usually quite a bit cheaper and for once inflation works in your favour.

    JDB 4,124 posts

    Hi – I’ve just bought tickets for internal flights in Argentina via the Aerolineas Argentinas website in ARS and in Spanish – I’m in the UK. I paid by Barclaycard Visa and they have charged at the official rate. I’ve called them to ask about the MEP rate refund but they didn’t know anything about it, just the official rate. Does anyone know whether Barclaycard Visa does the MEP conversion? Could do with knowing before travelling and using it? Also have a Santander Zero card – does anyone know whether they convert to the MEP rate?

    I wouldn’t expect any AR agent to have a clue about the MEP as that is a matter for the credit card provider not the airline which receives the same ARS sum whatever you end up being billed in GBP. Currently VI/MC/AX all provide the MEP rate although the time for it to appear seems to be more variable than in the past. Last month transactions varied from two to eleven days. In respect of Barclays I’m not sure if you used a credit/debit card but people have reported that Barclaycard charges an FX fee on both the initial charge and the credit whereas eg HSBC WE refunds the FX fee pro-rata so no fee on the credit and with Curve it doesn’t matter although of course you lose s75 which I would want for AR tickets.

    RoyK345 3 posts

    I wouldn’t expect any AR agent to have a clue about the MEP as that is a matter for the credit card provider not the airline which receives the same ARS sum whatever you end up being billed in GBP. Currently VI/MC/AX all provide the MEP rate although the time for it to appear seems to be more variable than in the past. Last month transactions varied from two to eleven days. In respect of Barclays I’m not sure if you used a credit/debit card but people have reported that Barclaycard charges an FX fee on both the initial charge and the credit whereas eg HSBC WE refunds the FX fee pro-rata so no fee on the credit and with Curve it doesn’t matter although of course you lose s75 which I would want for AR tickets.[/quote]

    Sorry I didn’t word that very well – I called Barclaycard (not AR) and they didn’t know anything about the MEP rate. They were certain that I would only receive the official rate for my flights – even though I paid in ARS on the Arg website. It was credit card and I paid for them last week so thought I would see a refund by now – maybe I need to wait longer and hope the person from Barclaycard that I spoke to has got it wrong?

    JDB 4,124 posts

    @RoyK345 – don’t worry! The Barclaycard agent is wrong but again I wouldn’t expect them to know about the MEP rate in Argentina as it’s not only rather esoteric but it’s a Mastercard issue not a BC issue. BC has nothing to do with the exchange rates applied. I would allow two weeks before chasing, but it should turn up quite a bit sooner. There are some quite complex actual market transactions that need to take place effect your refund and the market can be quite thin so it does take a little time.

    RoyK345 3 posts

    Ok thank you JDB – your Argentina posts have been massive help to me while booking this holiday – our first to Argentina (so looking forward to it).
    Fingers crossed it’ll sort itself in the next week or so.

    Scott 228 posts

    @RoyK345 when MEP for tourists was first introduced I used a Barclaycard Avios Mastercard and received the refund a few days later. As JDB mentioned, I was charged an FX fee on both the initial transaction and on the refund. This isn’t how the system was intended to work (I’m not aware of any other card that charges FX twice) but it was a small sum so I didn’t pursue it.

    Best to stick with a FX-free card anyway. I recently used my Halifax Clarity Mastercard and was pleased to find that they now exchange at the MEP rate up-front rather than messing about with refunds. This is how Visa initially implemented their system, but then changed to the refund system after they found it was being abused.

    Biki 123 posts

    I’ve been in Argentina for the last couple of weeks, paying with credit card where possible. There have been a few cash only occasions, so it’s still necessary to carry bundles of £2 notes around, but all big spending has been possible on card. I made the pleasant discovery that my Nationwide Debit card appears to process cash withdrawals at the MEP rate – my Santander one does not. Cash machines are very variable – charges range from 0 to >5000 pesos, and functionality from broken/empty (frequently) to limited withdrawal amounts (10k or 15k pesos) to working fine.

    The MEP rate is (I think) leading to an increase in prices in touristy areas (Bariloche, El Calafate) – meals would have been rather expensive at the official rate in some places. In places with more local business prices are generally very reasonable.

    All the hotels converted US$ prices to pesos at the standard rate, though our most recent B+B charged my card in US$ (can’t complain as the booking was denominated in $) and added a surprise 15% price increase as a card fee, which I will be taking up with Hotels.com on my return.

    3 out of 4 car hire places used the official rate (Alamo and 2xHertz), 1 (Hertz Bariloche) used a “different” exchange rate that would have been apparently plucked from thin air if I didn’t understand the MEP rate. On a side note, all 3 Hertz locations were appallingly slow to hand over the keys – would avoid at all costs in future.

    Overall the MEP rate makes things a lot more convenient, but I suspect the advantage will be eroded away in a lot of places over time as foreigner prices inflate. Definitely better than obtaining and hauling around bricks of notes.

    Thanks to JDB for the advice on booking via Despegar – all worked fine, even the Jetsmart flight.

    Hi @matt this is really useful, thanks for the update! I fly to BsAs next Friday so I’m just trying to sort a few last min things out.

    Do you happen to remember any of the bank ATM’s that had zero charges, by any chance?

    I am taking some USD cash with me just in case, but would be great to know I can get some cash from an ATM at reasonable exchange with my nationwide card too.

    One point for others info, we booked something online using our chase card last week and rather than getting the normal exchange rate and then a refund, we seem to have just got an exchange rate of 1,000 ARS to the £, which seemed very good rate?

    JDB 4,124 posts

    @Biki I wouldn’t count on finding a free ATM or that it will give you the MEP rate. ATM’s can also only dispense very limited amounts of cash, even with the new notes. Clean US$100 bills get you the best exchange rate. Someone else recently also reported getting the MEP rate directly although I think it was with a Visa card. Today the US$ MEP rate is 919 so you get well over 1000 to the £ even after the big haircut the cards take in addition to usual FX fees.

    Biki 123 posts

    @Biki I wouldn’t count on finding a free ATM or that it will give you the MEP rate. ATM’s can also only dispense very limited amounts of cash, even with the new notes. Clean US$100 bills get you the best exchange rate. Someone else recently also reported getting the MEP rate directly although I think it was with a Visa card. Today the US$ MEP rate is 919 so you get well over 1000 to the £ even after the big haircut the cards take in addition to usual FX fees.

    Hi @JDB thanks as always. I think I’ll take some more USD with me just in case then! Any tips on where is best to exchange?

    Matt 283 posts

    @Biki My MBNA Visa card has been giving me the MEP rate straightaway, as did my Nationwide Visa debit card for cash withdrawals.

    I’m afraid we didn’t ever work out the cash machines very well – the top priority was to find one that worked and hopefully wouldn’t crash and swallow my card (had that twice!). We just tried machines and checked what the charges were.

    JonathanC 97 posts

    This is unfortunately part and parcel of withdrawing cash abroad, with places like Argentina, it’s easier to take a few hundred U.S. Dollars in cash, then you do t need to worry about cash machines charging high fees and low limits on how much you can withdraw

    It’s important that you do your homework before you go, and try not to rely solely on your cards like Halifax Clarity, Starling debit card, Currensea etc for your use at cash machines !

    JDB 4,124 posts

    For those planning trips based on the MEP rate, the new president will be inaugurated today (including apparently a visit by Zelensky!) and while it sounds as though his dollarisation plan has been shelved, it is highly likely there will be a significant official devaluation quite quickly. The central bank has already devalued from 365 to 385 vs $ in the last month although that is more catching up as they didn’t devalue during the election campaign. Bond and equity markets have rallied strongly.

    There is talk of moving the rate to maybe 650 vs MEP currently at 986, which is unusually a bit higher than the blue. Whether they are bold enough to do that in one go or in steps, who knows.

    This doesn’t make any difference for anything spent locally in ARS but takes away a lot of the benefit of the system for US$ hotel rates where one got an effective US$/£ rate of 1.65 or more. As I have posted previously, it’s the gap between the rates that matters, not the absolute.

    Predicting currencies is a mug’s game and I don’t profess to know any more than anyone else, but I’m of a cautious and bargain seeking nature, so I have been locking in at the current levels. I might be totally wrong, as a big devaluation will undoubtedly cause chaos and even higher inflation for a good while and maybe unrest so the blue could fly away again. ¿Quién sabe?

    Biki 123 posts

    Hi @JDB we landed yesterday and got 920 ARS to the USD when we exchanged cash and got 1,167 ARS to the £ in a couple of card transactions.

    I only swapped 100 USD yesterday so that I don’t have lots of notes with me, but do you think things will move quickly as in a couple of days, or weeks, making it worth exchanging some more today? I appreciate that you don’t like giving advice, just wondered what your thoughts are.

    JDB 4,124 posts

    Hi @JDB we landed yesterday and got 920 ARS to the USD when we exchanged cash and got 1,167 ARS to the £ in a couple of card transactions.

    I only swapped 100 USD yesterday so that I don’t have lots of notes with me, but do you think things will move quickly as in a couple of days, or weeks, making it worth exchanging some more today? I appreciate that you don’t like giving advice, just wondered what your thoughts are.

    I really don’t know! This is the first time in the year or so that the MEP has been applied to credit cards that it has been higher than the blue. The MEP is an official market used by professional counterparties and is perhaps affected by daily supply/demand imbalances. The blue is is much more fluid market for personal transactions.

    My gut feel is that the new government will move quickly on the devaluation which would be negative for credit card transactions but should have little effect on the blue cash rate.

    My personal response for a large three week hotel bill in Feb, priced in US$ has been to pay 2/3 up front although no deposit is required but for the car hire for that period, expensive because we need a 4×4 pickup, to leave it as it’s priced in ARS.

    Biki 123 posts

    Thanks @JDB I guess we will have to see how things play out over the next few days and keep our fingers crossed…

    At least there is plenty of wine to drown my sorrows if the exchange rate plunges!

    hugog 40 posts

    You can find out the rate that you will get through the chase app – currently 11660 to the pound

    JDB 4,124 posts

    You can find out the rate that you will get through the chase app – currently 11660 to the pound

    I hear lots of good things about Chase, but the question is what will the rate be next Sunday or next month and even Chase doesn’t stretch to that. There will be some fairly seismic changes quite soon. At present, as tourists staying at hotels or paying anything set in US$, that rate is converted at the official rate and then simultaneously or a few days later converted at the much higher MEP rate such that you get an exchange rate of over 1.65/£ vs the actual rate of c.1.25. It is very likely that the multiplier (ie the official rate) will move up significantly while the divisor will not move much. For anything paid in pesos the rate you cite matters but for anything initially quoted in US$ that Chase rate doesn’t matter. It’s the difference between the two that is making it so attractive and it’s likely to shrink significantly quite soon.

    Scott 228 posts

    @jdb how are you calculating the actual U$S/GBP rate, as I make it much higher than 1.65, e.g. a U$S 300 hotel is roughly 100k ARS at official rate. With a UK credit card converting roughly 1000 ARS to £1 then isn’t the ratio more like 3 than 1.65? (agree with your 1.25 official rate)

    JDB 4,124 posts

    @jdb how are you calculating the actual U$S/GBP rate, as I make it much higher than 1.65, e.g. a U$S 300 hotel is roughly 100k ARS at official rate. With a UK credit card converting roughly 1000 ARS to £1 then isn’t the ratio more like 3 than 1.65? (agree with your 1.25 official rate)

    You are right; it’s been quite a bit more than 1.65 for a while, my mistake, but US$300 is over ARS115k now (the official US$ rate on Friday was 382.50 – 400.50. It looks as though we may get the devaluation as early as tomorrow such that US$300 may convert to c. £195 if the MEP doesn’t change, so still better than you get in the US and likely to be rather volatile as people assess the new regime.

    hugog 40 posts

    Chase is giving the MEP rate instantly.

    Scott 228 posts

    @JDB, I’m sure you were on tenterhooks last night awaiting the announcement of the package of fiscal measures? From a tourist point of view the stand-out is the currency devaluation, settling on U$S1 = 800 ARS (down from 365), which from my reading is an even bigger shift than was expected.

    For my upcoming trip most of my fixed costs are already paid although I do still have a few hotel nights priced in U$S to be settled on arrival, so these have just doubled in cost. I’m not going to take any action yet as much could happen in the intervening period.

    I do wonder what impact this will have on prices of everyday items in the short term. Locals will still want to hold U$S but any ARS they now receive in exchange for goods or services will be worth under half the U$D amount. However they can’t simply double their ARS price to compensate as this would price out other locals.

    qc 177 posts

    I have bookings to make in Argentina – should I hold off for a couple of days to see how the new rate gets applied?

    I presumably should be booking in ARS.

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