Money is a funny thing in Argentina. I'm sure you've heard. So what currency you can use and how much of it you'll need to get anything done in this country is a constant guessing game. And you won't get past your own front door without cash. So in short, there's an official currency conversion rate (today, you get $4.82 Argentine pesos for every US dollar you pull out of an ATM), and then there's the Blue Rate (today, 'illegal' money changers will give you $6.20 ARS for every physical US dollar you hand over). So using your regular bank card to get pesos out of the ATM isn't the worst thing in the world, it works. But you are potentially 'losing' money by not taking advantage of the Blue Market. But how do you do that if you don't have physical US dollars in hand?
For now, the recommended way to transfer money from a foreign bank account into your hands in Argentina is through XOOM Money Transfer. This magical service gives you physical pesos at the Blue Market rate from the money that is sitting in your bank account.
With some advice from other expats who have tried it, I decided to give it a go.
Here's how it went down:
I went to XOOM's site and followed directions. I sent money from myself (US bank account, US address), to myself (Argentina cash pick up location, Argentina address). There is a fee per transaction which is either $15 USD if you pay with your bank information (account and routing numbers), or $25 USD if you pay with a credit or debit card. I chose the cheaper option. I immediately got a confirmation email followed by a cancellation email. For whatever reason, the transaction seemed shady to Ms. Xoom and I wasn't charged.
A few days later, I tried something different. I sent money from myself (US bank account, US address) to Sandro (Argentina cash pick up location, Argentina address). Makes perfect sense, right, this is what this services does, sends money around the world? Nope. Cancelled. Not charged.
This time I called their appeals hotline. A really helpful dude on the phone verified my information (location, bank, amount, etc.). He had me go through the process of sending the money to myself (from the US to Argentina) online while he was still on the phone with me and then confirmed and approved the transaction immediately. Later that day I received an email stating that my cash was ready for pick up.
There are a few pick up locations in the greater Buenos Aires area. The one closest to me is the More Money Transfer center at Libertad 1057. We got off the Subte from the D Line at Callao, walked 6 blocks east on Cordoba and 2.5 blocks north on Libertad. It's on the right hand side. Just a small storefront with post office type windows and a little seating/waiting area.
When you go, be sure to bring the confirmation number from the email and your passport. I also copied down the amount of pesos I was due to receive just to be sure.
We arrived at 1:15pm and took a number. There were 6 people ahead of us, but the lines went quickly so we only waited about 20 minutes. I handed the guy at the window my passport and confirmation number and said, "Pick up, por favor." He made copies and pulled up my transaction. I signed a page saying I knew what I was doing and that I am indeed a grown up and that I was going to be receiving these many pesos. The whole thing was quick, easy, and legit. Consider taking a cab home if you are a non-Spanish speaker walking out of a money transfer center with lots of pesos in the middle of the city where pickpockets and other criminals are prominent. Just a tip!
So the overall result: Even with the $15 USD fee, I 'made' about 24% more pesos on the transaction than I would have received at an ATM. Super good deal if you don't mind a putting in a little time and effort to make it happen.