When planning a trip to a new place for the first time, it’s natural to have lots of questions. One of the most asked questions is about transportation, which we’ve already written about here.  

Today, we’d like to address questions we frequently see about the issue of money in Puerto Morelos – specifically which currency is preferred and how to get it.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

      • What is the preferred currency?
      • Are US dollars accepted?
      • Options for getting cash for your trip include going to the currency exchange back home, bringing cash and changing it in Mexico, getting money out of the ATM or using an app.
      • Tips for traveling safely with money
      • Are US, Canadian, International credit cards accepted?
      • Which currency do locals prefer for tips?

I’d like to start by saying that it is so important that we remember that we’re guests in this country and should be respectful of the local culture, language, and currency. This means attempting to use whatever Spanish vocabulary you already know, as well as trying to learn more while you’re here.

This also means learning about the local Mexican currency (which comes in 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 peso bills, as well as 50 cent, 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 peso coins). It’s also helpful to practice converting prices in pesos back to the currency you’re used to so that you’re easily able to figure out how much you’re actually paying for an item.  As of the writing of this post, the current exchange rate is approximately 17.5 pesos to 1 USD, when it had been hovering around 16-16.5 for months until the recent Mexican presidential elections on June 2, 2024.

Are US Dollars accepted in Puerto Morelos?

The short answer is “yes”. Most restaurants and even some businesses will have a small sign near the entrance stating what the USD/MX exchange rate will be. This exchange rate is typically significantly lower than what you would get if you change money at home, via the ATM, or even the money exchanges around town, meaning that food or whatever you are purchasing will cost you MORE than if you stopped and got pesos.

So how do I get Mexican pesos?

As I mentioned before, there are several ways to obtain pesos and it all depends on your personal preference and comfort level. Some folks choose to request pesos from their banks back home and will travel with enough cash to last them throughout their trip. Others prefer to come to Puerto Morelos with USD or Canadian dollars and use money exchanges to convert to pesos. A third group of folks are not comfortable traveling with so much cash at once, so they will withdraw money little by little via ATMs as they need it. A fourth method is to use apps like Xoom to electronically transfer money to yourself which you can then pick up at a number of local stores. There are pros and cons to all four of these methods.

Currency Exchange in Puerto Morelos

If you bring US or Canadian dollars with you, there are multiple options around town for you to exchange it for pesos. Wherever you go, be sure to bring your passport with you, as you’ll have to fill out a form with your name, home address, passport number, etc. in order to exchange money.


The Banco Azteca next to the Super Aki right off the highway often has the best exchange rate, but is limited to $300USD per person per day. In the same strip mall, you’ll also find G Capital Casa de Cambio Puerto Morelos which is open later than many of the other options (11pm per Google), but I’ve gone there multiple times and been turned away because they didn’t have any pesos on hand. CI Banco in the strip mall with Chedraui off the highway is also highly recommended. (Pro Tip: If you have a bank account with them they will give you a 0.1 or 0.2 higher exchange rate than the general public, but you may have to ask for it.)

If you’re staying on the portside of town, San Jorge Money Exchange on Rafael E. Melgar (the road along the beach side of the Chedraui) is the only option I’m aware of. They’re open 9am-9pm.

Using an ATM to get Mexican pesos

If you choose to use ATMs, make sure to check before your trip to see what fees your bank will charge you to use different ATMs internationally. When you’re in Mexico, be sure to choose an ATM in a secure location where there aren’t others crowding into you while you complete your transaction. Next, be sure to check the machines for anything that seems out of place before you slide your card into the slot on the front. Cover the keypad while you enter your PIN so that someone nearby wouldn’t be able to learn your number. Also, be sure to decline the conversion rate, as the ATMs will typically give you a worse exchange rate than the bank will. You’d also be wise to have more than one card available in case one card gets lost, compromised, or the ATM machine eats it. That way you’ll still have alternatives to get cash without too much stress.

When you arrive to the Cancun airport you’ll see ATMs as you walk towards the exit. While these ATMs may help you out in a pinch, know that the exchange rate they offer is typically much lower than what you’ll find in town. If you need cash right away to get from the airport to Puerto Morelos or maybe to get dinner that night, I’d recommend only taking out what you think you’ll spend right away and then wait to get more pesos once you’re in Puerto Morelos.

There are multiple ATM locations around town, but folks often recommend the ATM at CI Banco because it is more privately located in a booth, rather than a more open setting where others can look over your shoulder.

Other options include inside either of the Chedraui locations, the BBVA bank off the highway, or there are several ATM Multivia locations portside (of special note, if you need USD from the ATM you are reportedly able to get that from the one on the north side of the park).

Satefy Tips Before and After using an ATM

Know that many folks here get paid on the 1st and 15th of the month, so ATMs may run out of cash those days (and the lines at the grocery stores will be extra long!). Also be aware of Mexican bank holidays as that can impact how quickly ATMs can be replenished and even the options to exchange cash.

Generally speaking when traveling, you’ll want to keep only the cash you need for the next activity or the day in your wallet at any given time. This helps ensure that you are less likely to fall victim to pickpockets and mitigate the risk of losing a sizable sum of money. For both men and women, it is important to be alert to your surroundings at all times and to ensure that your wallet and/or purse always remain in your control. I recommend wearing a fanny pack or a small crossbody purse on the front of your body. Avoid the temptation to take it off and hook it over your chair while you dine, or to spin it around to your back while you’re busy loading bags into the car as those could make you an easy target for petty thieves.

Once you get the cash from the ATM, reduce your risk of being pick pocketed by watching your surroundings carefully and leave the location as soon as possible just in case someone unscrupulous was watching and knows that you’re carrying cash. Pro-Tip: Don’t fall for the trick where someone squirts mustard or another liquid on your back and offers to help you clean it off – unfortunately, this scam has been happening for years now and there is little that can/will be done by the store or the police if you fall victim.

Smaller Bills are your Friend

It is helpful to know that most places (even big grocery stores like Chedraui!) will not have change for larger 500 or the more rare 1000 peso bills, so try to get small bills whenever possible. If you choose to withdraw pesos from the ATM and it gives you large bills, you can bring them into the bank and they will exchange them for smaller bills if you ask them “¿Puedes cambiarlos por billetes más sencillos, por favor?”

Using Apps like Xoom to get Pesos

I’ve personally used Xoom before to transfer myself money which I then picked up at a local Oxxo. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that different stores have different limits on how much cash they will give you when you go to pick it up. And sometimes you may find that the store doesn’t have enough cash or the right change on hand when you go to pick it up. I found that I could often send myself around a max of 1800-1900 Mexican pesos, but any more than that the Oxxos would say that they didn’t have the cash to give me.

I don’t have experience attempting to pick up cash this way at other stores, but I’m adding some screenshots from the app so you can see the variety of stores you can pick up at. Some of them include hours and daily maximums as well.

In a recent post on True Friends and Expats of Puerto Morelos Facebook group (use the 🔎 search tool and type in “Xoom” to find the most recent updates), multiple people recommended sending money via Xoom to Elektra which is located inside the Banco Azteca next to Super Aki. If you’ve used Xoom here, I’d love it if you could send us an email with your experience.

Screenshot from the Xoom app where it shows you clearly the exchange rate you’ll be receiving.

Screenshot from the Xoom app showing how you can send money to Mexico without fees.

Screenshot from the Xoom app for sending Money to Mexico shows that it is free unless you’re sending it from a credit card.

Put in the city where you’re wanting to pick up the money and it will show you the available options in the area.

Put in the city where you’re wanting to pick up the money and it will show you the available options in the area.

Select your preferred location and it will show you hours of operation, limits of funds you can pick up, etc.

Tipping in Mexico

Now that we’ve gone over a variety of ways to get cash, I’ll answer the question about which currency is preferred for tips. Some feel strongly that Mexicans are excited to receive USD for their tips, but that is changing. For over a year now, the Mexican peso’s value has risen compared to the US dollar, and the exchange rate has been lower and variable – often in the realm of 16-16.5 pesos per dollar. The other issue is that local money exchange businesses give lower exchange rates when they change $1 or $2 US bills, so if their exchange rate on that day is 16, they’re likely to only give 15 pesos/$1 bill, whereas they will give you 16 pesos/dollar on larger bills. Plus, then you’ve made the hardworking server, driver, cleaning person, or whoever you’re tipping do the extra work of going to the bank, waiting in line, and hoping for a decent exchange rate. For all of those reasons, I say let’s all be kind and tip in pesos.

Using US/Canadian/International Credit Cards in Mexico

Can you use US/Canadian credit cards here? Yes, in most brick and mortar businesses you can use them for meals and shopping. If you’re out of cash and need to pay with a card, its a good idea to ask before shopping or ordering to make sure that they accept cards and the system is working properly. Be aware that oftentimes the business will charge you 3-5% extra to pass on the credit card fees to you. You may want to double check to find out ahead of time if there are any hidden international use fees associated, but I’ve thankfully never had issues with that.

Friends have mentioned that they’ve had challenges with using US cards at certain times at Sam’s Club, Costco, and Walmart (I only had issues with Walmart when I tried to do an online pick-up order paying with my US card, not in the store) and I did have an issue with a tile shop not accepting US cards, so it can happen and you’d be wise to inquire before making the treck to a store only to find out that you can’t complete the purchase you need in a timely manner. 

Another challenge folks run into is that you can’t use US/Canadian cards to pay for your Mexican utility bills in person – typically you need to pay by cash or Mexican debit card at the utility companies or at Oxxo. Some things can be paid from the US online using apps like Xoom – I’ve personally had success in renewing my Telcel cell phone plan that way.  If you do a search (look for the magnifying glass at the top of the page) of the “True Friends and Expats of Puerto Morelos” Facebook group, you’ll find other information and tips too. If you’re renting or own and won’t be here full time, I recommend hiring a property manager to pay those bills for you and to watch over your home while you’re gone.

More Helpful Resources

I hope that helps answer some of your questions about money in Puerto Morelos. Please stay tuned for more blog posts as I’ll continue covering helpful topics like this regularly. In the meantime, feel free to check out other posts on groceries, delivery services, and the Mayan train.