17 Bank ATMs for free cash withdrawals in South America & Central America
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We usually spend the first hour or so of being in a new country hunting around for ATMs that a) work and b) give us the cheapest/free ATM transactions. We’ve made it easier for you by compiling a list of the banks we’ve found that gave us free cash withdrawals in South America and Central America.
By free cash withdrawals, we mean they don’t charge their own fee on top of whatever your home bank charges you for foreign exchange and using your card abroad. Depending on which home bank you use, that fee could even be 0.
Make a note of these banks that give free ATM cash withdrawals in South America and Central America in every new country you go to, and avoid using foreign exchange kiosks altogether as they usually skim all sorts of commissions and/or charges with a poor exchange rate.
After this post on banks that give free ATM cash withdrawals in South America and Central America, you’ll also find these posts useful:
Revolut cards keep our costs abroad down significantly
There’s nothing worse than saving up all your money, then checking a bank statement and realising that a large chunk of it has gone to the foreign bank you withdrew cash from for ‘transaction fees’ on top of FX commission and a transaction fee from your home bank.
Thankfully, with each of our Revolut accounts, we do not pay any transaction fees on the first £5000 card payments and £200 withdrawals on the UK side (and our foreign exchange rates are all commission-free at exactly what the official FX rate is that day), but we can still get charged bank fees on the foreign side if we get unlucky with the ATMs available here in South and Central America.
Revolut began in the UK, but is now rapidly growing in other countries across the world, including the USA, Australia and most of Europe. If you’re a citizen of a supported country, you can get a free Revolut card here, without the usual courier fee:
Cash or Card in South & Central America?
Whenever someone comes to visit us, we always hear the question, “How much money do I need to exchange to bring with me?” Our answer is usually ‘None!’.
There are always multiple ATMs at the airport, so if you already know from this list of banks that give free cash withdrawals in South America & Central America which cash machine you can use with no foreign transaction charges, you can get money out in the local currency for free.
Why waste money on commission fees at the exchange bureau, and be lugging around a huge amount of cash in a developing country where you already stand out as a gringo target? We’re gonna say it one more time, get yourself a Revolut card! 🙂
Anyway, let’s get stuck into the list of banks that give free cash withdrawals in South & Central America:
These are the transaction-free banks for a Revolut card, but when speaking to people using other foreign bank cards, they have usually been able to use them for free cash withdrawals as well. Always search around for your best deal!
Note: in Argentina, ATMs have very strict limits on how much you can get out a day, and with the inflation of the Argentinian pesos after the recession that began in 2018, this has only gotten worse. It’s quite normal to see a queue of 30 people waiting to withdraw from one cash point, and then for word to spread down the line that the ATM is out of cash.
We got into the habit of taking cash out whenever we saw a free ATM, whether we needed it that day or not.
Banco Mercantil de Bolivia
Banco do Brasil
Note: there are several banks in Brazil for which Revolut will not work at all, including Itaú and Caixa. In addition to this, any foreign card – whether credit or debit – needs to be put through as a credit card in Brazil card machines.
Card machines supplied to shops that we’ve found not to work are Rede and Stone.
Caja Social (sometimes)
Banco de Costa Rica
Note: you can normally withdraw both US Dollars and Costa Rican Colones at most banks, but you normally get a slightly better deal if paying in Colones (and you will always get your change back in Colones, no matter what currency you paid in. They’ll round it down if giving change from US Dollars).
Bonus North American addition! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find a bank in Mexico with free cash withdrawals. However, BanCoppel charges a low-ish fee, at 29 pesos ($1.50) per transaction, and Santander charges 34 pesos (but sometimes only worked with a Starling card instead of Revolut, for some reason that Revolut’s admin team couldn’t work out).
Avoid BBVA as they charge a whopping 174 pesos!
You can pay in US Dollars in Mexico’s Quintana Roo area (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, etc.), and also find ATMs that stock them, but expect a poor rate when withdrawing or spending US Dollars in Mexico.
BancaRed – free ATMs that incorporate the banks Ficohsa, BDF and Avanz.
If you have a Mastercard with another online bank such as Starling, BAC is free, but this will charge for withdrawals using a Revolut Visa card.
Unfortunately, despite trying 6-7 banks we never found any offering free cash withdrawals in Panama, either.
Expect charges to be around $5.95 USD for a non-Panamanian card.
BCP (though it has a monthly limit)
Banred cashpoint terminals
So there you have it! We’ll keep building our knowledge of free ATMs in South America and Central America as we continue to travel the region.
And for now, it’s cheers to over 2 years of hard-cash savings from using this list in combination with our Revolut account!
Now that you’ve read all of this post on banks that give free ATM cash withdrawals in South America and Central America, you’ll also find these posts useful: