Want a good run for your money when exchanging currencies in Argentina? Their Blue Rate is for you.
Argentina’s Blue Rate, also known as the unofficial exchange rate, has become a popular topic among tourists and expatriates in recent years. This is because it offers significant savings when exchanging foreign currency for Argentine pesos. In this blog post, we will provide you with everything you need to know about Argentina’s Blue Rate.
Background on Argentina’s Blue Rate
Argentina’s Blue Rate is a commonplace. Due to the inflationary nature of the Argentine peso, locals prefer to buy and save in foreign currency because the pesos lose significant value sitting in the bank. For travelers to Argentina this means that USD (and to a lesser extent, Euros, Chilean Peso or Reals) are worth more cash-in-hand in Argentina than the official government rate given out at banks and ATM bank machines. It is an exchange rate that operates outside of the official banking system. It is primarily used to exchange foreign currency for Argentine pesos (you can also exchange US dollars to Euros and vice versa). The Blue Rate is called “blue” because it originated in the informal markets of Buenos Aires, where people would exchange money on the streets. Today, it is still used in some exchange houses and among individuals. “Dollar blue” on the other hand is the name given to the US Dollar (USD) that is exchanged for pesos in this market.
The Blue Rate vs. The official exchange rate
The official exchange rate is set by the Central Bank of Argentina and is used for all legal transactions in the country. The Blue Rate, on the other hand, is determined by supply and demand in the informal market. It is typically higher (usually double) than the official exchange rate, meaning that you can get more Argentine pesos for your foreign currency. The Blue Rate fluctuates now and then, but you can generally expect to get 40-50% more pesos within this rate, as opposed to its official counterpart. The official Argentinian peso rate is said to give half of what the Blue Rate does.
Why Use Blue Rate?
The bottom line: Blue Rate is used because it helps people save more money. That is the appeal. It truly offers significant savings when exchanging foreign currency for Argentine pesos. The official exchange rate is often lower than the market rate, which means that you get fewer pesos for your money. The Blue Rate offers a way to ‘skirt around the rules’ and thus, get a better bargain for your money.
Is Blue Rate legal?
Okay, time for the kicker. If this were a matter of street smarts and nothing else, the Blue Rate is a go-to for tourists and most people in general. However, we cannot depend on street smarts alone. While Blue Rate is not illegal (per se) in Argentina, it does operate in a legal gray area. The Central Bank of Argentina does not recognize it as an official exchange rate, and using it for illegal activities such as money laundering can result in heavy consequences. However, exchanging foreign currency at the Blue Rate is a common practice among locals (who has dollars or vice versa), tourists and expats.
How can you access the Blue Rate?
Accessing the Blue Rate can be tricky, as it is not available in all exchange houses or banks. The best way to access it is to ask around and find a reputable exchange house that offers it. It’s usually in a gold shop or a movable kiosk selling magazines. However, it is important to be cautious and only exchange money with trusted sources.
What are the risks of using the Blue Rate?
There are some risks associated with using the Blue Rate, such as the possibility of receiving counterfeit money or getting scammed. One must be wary and only exchange money with reputable houses. As aforementioned, if someone uses the Blue Rate for illegal/criminal activities, there will be very real and serious consequences. Second, there’s a lack of Consumer Protection, when using the Blue Rate, you are not protected by consumer laws or financial regulations that are in place for official currency exchange transactions. This lack of legal protection can leave you vulnerable to fraud or other financial risks.
So, where are the hot spots?
By that, we mean where can find an exchange house or people using the Blue Rate to convert currencies? Downtown, it is very common on the streets to hear people saying “cambio, cambio, dolar, real, euro, cambio”. While it may initially sound like a joke, it’s not. These folks are serious and the exchange rate is real and not illegal. These people who say “cambio, cambio” are known as “Arbolitos” (“little trees” in Spanish). It’s easy to understand why. First, we can link a tree’s green leaves with the green US Dollar bills. Then, remember these people are always standing in the same spot. Like a tree, of course. “Cuevas” (or caves) are the name for unofficial currency exchange houses.
Just this year, the government has announced some new measures for foreign credit cards to automatically receive the “MEP Dollar” rate, an exchange rate close to the blue dollar rate. Visa and Mastercard have both been confirmed, Amex is still pending. Do note however that many locations do not accept credit cards, only debit and cash so the blue dollar rate will still play a role in your travels here.
Tips for Exchanging “Dolar Blue”
- We do not recommend that you exchange large amounts of money all at once. It is better if you exchange small amounts of USD. Besides, don’t forget that it could be a lot of AR$ bills and that they may take up a lot of space in your bag/purse/backpack.
- Being a foreign tourist, traders may want to pay you less than what the website promises. However, just by showing your phone/evidence of the quota that you expect to receive, they’ll see that you are well informed about this. It’s generally enough to close the deal and might even garner you some respect and admiration.
- You can and should always ask your friends, for spots to exchange dollars that they know give a better rate.
In conclusion, Argentina’s Blue Rate is an unofficial exchange rate that can offer significant savings when exchanging foreign currency for Argentine pesos. While not technically illegal, it operates in a legal gray area and comes with few risks. If you plan to use the Blue Rate, it is important to do your research and only exchange money with trusted sources.
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