As I’ve mentioned previously, the financial situation in Argentina is a bit nuts. Thanks to the collapse of the economy in the early aughts, it is not that easy to get cash quickly. ATMs are routinely out of money and there aren’t that many to begin with in certain barrios. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that certain enterprising entities have been established to fill in the gaps.
Today the official Forex for Argentine Pesos per 1 US Dollar was 4.92. However, on what is called the “blue market” (named after the rate that major real estate deals are based on) it was 7:1. Quite the difference! While there are places you can go with USD cash to get that rate, there’s also a high chance some if not all of the bills you receive are counterfeit. That’s where Xoom comes into play.
Xoom is a service that allows someone from the US to send someone in various countries money. The catch is that the sender has to have a US bank account or credit card, to avoid those pesky money laundering issues. There’s also a limit of $2999 per transaction as well as monthly caps to make sure it’s for personal use. The interesting wrinkle with Xoom in Argentina is that they use a rate in between the Forex and the blue rate. In my case, it was 6.4, which meant I was getting 20% more pesos than from an ATM!
I had read mixed reviews of using the service, and the nearest location to me was about 20 minutes away by cab. Still, the rate was too enticing not to at least try it. I signed up for the service, which only took a few minutes and linked my Bank of America checking to my Xoom account. Once that was done, I decided to try sending myself $600 in pesos. To do that, Xoom would charge me $17 (very reasonable) and then send the cash to the pick up place.
That meant instead of getting $3000 pesos, I got $3845 or a net gain of $845, which translated back to the Forex gave me $168 USD extra in pesos. Floored by that savings, I completed the transaction and within an hour got an email that the money was ready to pick up. That was yesterday but I didn’t get a chance to go get it until today.
I was more than a little nervous to potentially carrying that much cash as well as my passport – hola los roberos! Still, I knew that the location was pretty safe and decided that going there at 2:30 PM would probably be the best bet. The place was called More Money and consisted of 2 windows with a friendly clerk waiting for me. I had also read about the long lines there, and having seen what the typical bank line looks like (not good FYI), I braced for a long wait. Fortunately, no one else was there. All I had to do was present my passport, sign a couple of forms and I was out of there in 5 minutes. Couldn’t have been easier.
As a reward to myself for being so financially savvy, I plan to go back to that wonderful restaurant Unik on Thurs and sit at the chef’s table. Post of course to follow…