For all of our trip thus far, we have been using our debit card to get out money from ATMs in local currency – this has worked all through Asia, Peru and Uruguay. We didn’t carry any cashier’s checks and had a limited supply of US dollars just in case – though we ended up using this in Cambodia since they use dollars. However, here in BsAs, the President has had some policies that have made people here concerned about the stability of the Argentine peso and it seems to fluctuate a lot. Also, the official rate to buy pesos with USD and the blue market rate to sell pesos for USD is hugely different. For example, when we got here, the official rate for the former was ~4.7 pesos to $1 and the latter rate was $1 to 6 pesos. So in effect, if I withdrew $10 worth of pesos, I’d get 47 pesos. But if I tried to convert those same 47 pesos to USD (which I don’t even know where I would do since no one is taking the Argentine peso right now apparently), I’d only get $7.83 back instead of my original $10. The blue market is not the official market but more based on a secondary market as Argentinians try convert their peso assets into USD.
While apartment hunting, we heard about this service called Xoom. For Americans (I’m not sure about other countries – I tried doing a quick search on the website but didn’t see anything specific about where you can send money from), all you do is setup an account with Xoom and link it to your bank account or credit card, the latter having a higher fee. But, the rate they give is close to the blue market rate and even after the fees, much better than the official rate. One can also always go to a place that buys pesos on the black market but I didn’t feel confident in doing this due to all the counterfeit money running around. Anyways, we linked Xoom to our credit card (it’s a higher fee but I don’t like linking things straight to my bank account!) and scheduled a transfer from Rachel to Samir. We had to call them to verify a couple things but the next day our transfer was ready to be picked up (the website lists a lot of locations in BA but I read online that the More Money location on Libertad was the only one that actually worked but I never tried any of the other locations). We were also told that I could have just sent myself the transfer. The next day, we went to the office, Samir showed his passport and I showed mine (I don’t know why I had to do this – I guess because I was there) and we picked up our money without a hitch. The second transfer was a bit more complicated – it went to a Confirming recipient status but then we just called them again and were able to answer a couple of questions to confirm it so our transfer went through a couple days later. So by using Xoom, our exchange rate went from 4.5 to 5.7 (after all fees) – a huge difference! We did a third transfer and the same thing happened – it went to a Confirming Recipient status but they sorted it out themselves and the transfer was ready within a day again. And the pickup location is on a busy street but always be careful with that kind of money!
Other options are to find local portenos you trust to buy your dollars (if you brought some) and sell you pesos – people like to hoard dollars here and can no longer get them from banks / the government due to recent restrictions. Also note, ATMs in Peru and Uruguay do dispense dollars so if you go to either of these places before Argentina, recommend getting some dollars out (I don’t think you have to have an American bank account either).