I just returned from 10 days in the U.S., so thisay not be news to any of you. But tonight, for the first time since I came to Argentina in 1995, a local bank charged me a $3 fee to withdraw cash from an overseas bank. The fee is in addition to whatever fees my bank charges in the U.S.
The fee would seem to be an easy way for local banks to make more money at the expense of foreigners. But it’s not year clear what the motivation behind the new fee is. According to Argentine Central Bank officials, ATM regulations here are largely determined not by the government but by just two private companies, Link and Banelco.
These companies are responsible for imposing what many people feel are unreasonably low limits on cash withdrawals from foreign banks. The limits, which vary from person to person and bank to bank, usually hover around 300 pesos per transaction. (The limits often confuse tourists accustomed to withdrawing much more cash, leaving them unable to pay for certain cash-only transactions.)
“We don’t have anything to do with imposing those limits,” a Central Bank official recently told me. “You need to talk with those companies to get more information.”
My transaction limit, for example, is a mere 370 pesos. Most visitors or foreign residents here can surpass the limits by taking out multiple transactions. But each one has its cost, and now that cost appears to have risen substantially. Link’s fee was almost exactly $3 (11.46 pesos as seen in the photo above), regardless of the amount withdrawn. When I tried to take out just 20 pesos, the fee was still $3.
Needless to say, the new fees will increase the cost of getting cash in Argentina. And needless to say, The Argentine Post will be contacting Link, Banelco and, again, the Central Bank, to figure out why this is happening.
If you’ve had any experiences with this, please post a comment and share your feedback.
UPDATE: In a statement, Banelco said both it and Link last month started charging a US $3 commission on every cash withdrawal using foreign cards. The companies, which work as networks representing Argentine banks, said the practice is the same as has been applied in other countries “for more than a decade.”
However, for the reasons mentioned above (the withdrawal limits and the discriminatory application of a fee only on foreign cards) , the commission doesn’t seem comparable to those charged in most countries. Banelco declined to answer questions about this or discuss the motives behind the new fee.
However, Banelco said both it and Link have raised the withdrawal limits to 1,000 pesos (without a daily limit) for the Cirrus network and 1,000 pesos (with a daily limit of 3,000 pesos) for the Visa Plus network.
I’ve tried using both networks and in neither case have I been able to reach the 1,000-peso limit. Instead, my limit seems to be around 930 pesos.