Updated: Apr 18, 2021
One of the facts of life that you will have to get used to when moving to Mexico is that cash is king. Unlike in the United States, where we rarely carry cash or pay for things with cash, the economy in Mexico is built around cash transactions. Many folks and some small businesses will only accept cash payments. Other larger business organizations will accept money transfers to a bank account using a number called a CLABE. The CLABE is the equivalent of a bank identifier, account number, and routing number all rolled into one long number.
With Transferwise, Rappi, or your personal bank account, you can transfer money directly to the CLABE number of the service provider for payment. I personally use Transferwise and Rappi for these types of payments because I’ve only found one good reason to set up a Mexican bank account, and therefore I don’t yet have one. Transferwise and Rappi Pay have been more than sufficient to set up housing, purchase a car, pay for tuition, and other services that accept CLABE Transfers. If you click on the link above, it will take you to the article that I wrote about how and why I use Transfewrwise and Rappi Pay. I’ve found that most people do not like transfers because the transaction can be traced and the earnings taxed. Therefore, the preference is to receive cash. I’ve offered to pay in advance with transfers and have been told that they would rather wait to receive the cash.
Most of the monthly services that I pay for at my home only accept cash payments.
These payments are made via pesos directly with the service provider or by placing pesos onto a bank card given to you by the service provider. The bank card is really bizarre for most people from the United States because they will literally send you a picture of their bank card, with the account information for you to use to put money on the account. How many of you would send someone a picture of your debit card via WhatsApp or text? Well, that’s exactly how it’s done in Mexico when pesos are not exchanged in person.
Putting money on the bank card depends on the bank that the card is connected to. Most cards that I’ve been given can have money placed on the account at the OXXO convenience stores all over the city. The process is simple. Tell the cashier that you need to put money on an account “ Yo necesito poner dinero en una cuenta, por favor. They will then ask you to show them the account number or bank card, which I usually show them my phone. They will then put the information into the system and then ask you to verify the number and amount you want to place on the account. Once that’s done, they will charge you 10 pesos, which is about .50 cents in dollars for the transaction. You will get a receipt, and that’s it. The money is on the account.
I’ve come across one bank, Banorte, that you need to go to a 7 Eleven convenience store or a Farmacia Guadalajara to place money on the account. You can not place money on the account at an OXXO. The process is the same, but you need to use a 7 Eleven store or the Farmacia for this bank.
One pro tip for Mexico is always to have pesos available to spend. Typically around the first of the month, bank lines are super long for the ATMs. It’s not uncommon for banks to run out of certain bills. So it’s best to always have pesos on hand to pay for services. The maximum amount you can take out of an ATM in one transaction is $20,000 pesos at Banorte. Other banks only allow $7000.00 pesos, so keep this in mind if you are trying to make a substantial purchase, such as paying rent or buying a car.
Until Next Time,