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Cash & Currency Issues

March 31, 2009


Probably the best way to travel is with a small proportion of your budget in cash (US$ ideally, or Euros as the next best option), and with credit or debit cards for payment of bills and withdrawals of cash from ATM´s.

The most widely accepted cards are VISA or MASTERCARD, but not every restaurant or retailer will accept both. American Express and other cards are less accepted.

In addition to being better in terms of security, cards usually offer a certain amount of insurance, or payment protection, they usually offer better exchange rates than for travellers cheques or cash, and are a much more convenient way of getting cash.

To make life more complicated, cash machines have different withdrawal limits, usually R$600 or R$1,000 per day, but in some destinations the limit is reduced in the evening for security reasons. Also, some banks charge a convenience fee of up to R$8. I was advised recently that, “if you withdraw cash at an ATM “Banco 24 horas”, there is a fee of R$8 per withdrawal. But if you withdraw at an ATM inside Bradesco or HSBC, there is no extra fee” In the ATM´s that are without charges, “you can only withdraw R$600 at a time, but you can do it several times in a row if you need more cash!”

Very few places here accept Travellers Cheques, and those that do offer a poor exchange rate. If you do find your self stuck having to try and cash travellers cheques, the best place to cash them is at the kiosk next to North Wing arrivals at the airport.

There is a limit to the amount of cash you should bring into the country undeclared.

If you do have a large amount of cash the best place to exchange, in terms of exchange rate, is at Banco do Brazil head office in Recife Antigo. But this process takes a long time. Banks are extremely slow and bureaucratic, and their opening hours are limited (10am-4pm). Expect to wait for up to 2hrs. In my opinion, it just isn´t worth it.

Click the link to get an idea on current exchange rates

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