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Exchanging money in Colombia
We look at the best ways for exchanging money in Colombia as well as best ways to receive, send and transfer money in Colombia.

Exchanging Money, Receiving & Transferring Money in Colombia

As you well know if you come here to Medellín and Colombia you will need to have Colombian Pesos (COP) to use. These Colombian pesos are different than other countries’ pesos, like Mexico’s pesos. There are few places in Colombia that will accept American dollars or other foreign currencies. U.S. dollars appear to be the easiest currency to use when exchanging money while you are here in Colombia.

I recommend using the XE Currency mobile app or their website when exchanging money. They have the most current exchange rate. There are other currency exchange sites and apps as well. I like the XE app because it is easy to look at current exchange rates for any country. It updates frequently also. This will give you an idea what your currency is worth.

Remember when converting or exchanging money there is always a fee for the service. In addition, there is the exchange rate that they offer to give you. This offered exchange rate is going to be less than the current XE rate or Bank rate.

This is where they have hidden fees (i.e. the current XE rate is 3,000 COP but they offer 2,600 COP). That is why knowing the current exchange rate helps you to shop for the best deal.

One of the currency exchanges at Medellín's international airport

One of the currency exchanges at Medellín’s international airport

Exchanging Money

First of all, currency exchanges at the airport can be one of the easiest ways to exchange money. You can do this in your country or in Colombia, when you get off the plane. I suggest exchanging as little as possible in an airport because the fees can be horrible as well as the actual exchange rate they offer won’t be great.

But it is good to have at least 100,000 pesos to cover getting you from airport to where you are going with some left over. This will cover your cab fees and if you want a cart to help tote your luggage around.

Citibank ATM machine at Medellín's international airport

Citibank ATM machine at Medellín’s international airport

But a better option in an airport is normally using ATM machine, if available. At Medellín’s José María Córdova international airport there are several ATM machines located upstairs where the airline check-in desks are located.

One of several Casa de Cambio places at Oviedo mall in Medellín

One of several Casa de Cambio places at Oviedo mall in Medellín

A second way to exchange money, which is slightly better than the currency exchanges at the airport, is to use the currency exchange centers found in Medellín or any big city in Colombia. They have several different names for them, Casa de Cambio, Valores Y Servicios, etc.

You will find these money exchange places in most major malls and there are a few locations you can find on the street. I feel safer at the ones inside the mall. They also have fees and will offer you a lower exchange rate than the current rate but it will normally be a better rate than at the airport.

Zeepod mobile app, photo courtesy of Zeepod

Zeepod mobile app, photo courtesy of Zeepod

Another way that I know of for exchanging money and that I have used with success is Zeepod. This is a mobile app you can download from Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store. It was actually created by a Colombian here in Medellín. What this app does for you is let you know who is close by and what currency they have to trade. For example, COP for USD. It will also provide you with the current bank rate.

With this Zeepod app, you choose the person who has the currency you need, then negotiate the exchange rate. No other fees are involved. I personally loved it since originally I had several thousand U.S. dollars to exchange. Usually you won’t get the current rate unless someone is trying to get rid of their COP before they leave. The other people using this app are trying to make money.

But you can get pretty close to the XE exchange rate and it’s the best deal I have found for exchanging money. I usually received close to the actual XE exchange rate.

And finally, some bank branches in Colombia will also exchange money but you may get a better rate at a casa de cambio. The casa de cambio locations will also normally be open later than the bank branches.

Receiving and Sending Money

It is possible to receive and send money using money transfer services like Western Union, Moneygram or at a large store chain here in Colombia called Exito. The costs involved depend on the institution used to send the money. In addition, the cost can depend on what locations they are contracted with.

Western Union and Moneygram are normally the most expensive services. And they have their own locations here in Colombia. Some of the less expensive services are Small World, TransferWise, WorldRemit, Xoom, and Ria.

Most of these businesses also have mobile apps you can download from the Google Play Store and set up for sending or receiving money. With these sites, there is a low fee and the exchange rate offered can differ between each app or website as well.

You can shop these for the best deal as well. I found that Small World has the best overall pricing to send and receive money with several locations in Medellín where you pick your money up. When you pick your money up there are no other fees.

TransferWise and Ria are good as well but slightly higher priced overall to use in my experience. In addition, you can link these apps or if you use websites to your checking account for larger transfers.

Colpatria ATM machine at Aves Maria mall

Colpatria ATM machine at Aves Maria mall

ATM Withdraws and Credit Cards

Just using your ATM card here in Colombia at the ATM machines of local banks is another way you can receive and exchange your money. When you withdraw the money in pesos, you will be charged fees from your bank for using ATM machines as well as exchange fees.

ATM machines are plentiful in Colombia. There are normally several found in each mall. They are also found in many locations on the streets. But we don’t recommend using ATM machines on the street in Colombia. It’s safer to use ATM machines located in malls.

The exchange rate ATM machines provide is usually very close to the actual exchange rate on XE. So even after fees it still works out to be a better deal than most of the ways you can use to exchange your money for Colombian pesos.

If you look on the back of your ATM card, you will usually see an ATM network logo. PLUS is a large ATM network owned by VISA that is used with VISA credit and debit cards. And it has a network of over 1.8 million ATM machines in over 200 countries.

Cirrus is another large ATM network owned by MasterCard. The Cirrus network is used by MasterCard credit and debit cards with a similar number of ATM machines worldwide.

ATM machines in Colombia will normallly have a limit of how much you can withdraw per transaction. For example, Bancolombia’s limit is normally 600,000 pesos and ServiBanca’s limit is normally 780,000 pesos. In addition, if you use an ATM debit card you will typically be limited to whatever the card’s daily withdraw limit is. Often that is about $500.

Also, we recommend providing a travel notification to your bank before traveling to Colombia. If not, your ATM card or credit card most likely not work in Colombia.

In addition, look for banks that don’t charge foreign transaction fees and some don’t charge ATM fees. For example, Charles Schwab offers reimbursements of all ATM fees and TD Bank has no foreign transaction fees and a $2.50 flat fee for ATM withdrawals.

Credit card fees really depend on the company you have. Some really rape you with fees every time you use it while in a foreign country. Others are a little less painful.

They do accept VISA and MasterCard at many stores here in Colombia. American Express is also accepted many places. Most of the credit card companies all charge exchange fees and per-use fees. But not all stores and restaurants will accept credit cards, particularly the small ones that will be cash-only.

Bancolombia branch at Santafé mall in Medellín

Bancolombia branch at Santafé mall in Medellín

Money Transfers

If you have decided to live here in Colombia and receive a visa, you will be able to get a cedula (local Colombian ID). And once you have a cedula you will be able to set up a local bank account in Colombia. With a bank acount you can use several of the above apps to transfer money directly into your Colombian account as well. I have not yet found a bank in Colombia that will allow you to open an account without a cedula.

Once you are established in Colombia with a local bank account you will also have the option for doing wire transfers from your bank account in another country directly to your bank account in Colombia. The exchange rate for wire transfers is normally pretty close to the XE rate.

The largest banks in Colombia include Bancolombia, Banco de Bogotá, Davivienda, BBVA, Banco de Occidente, Banco Popular and Colpatria.

Finally, if you need to do a money transfer of a large amount to Colombia for a property purchase or major investment, another option popular with foreigners is a brokerage account at Alianza that permits wire transfers.

However, keep in mind that money transferred for a a property purchase or major investment must be properly registered with the Banco de la República.

The Bottom Line: Exchanging Money, Receiving and Transferring Money

The bottom line is that the best way for exchanging money with a rate as close as possible to the XE rate is to use ATM machines or the Zeepod mobile app. And if you have a local Colombian bank account you can use a wire transfer.

The other exchanging money options like using a casa de cambio, currency exchange at the airport or bank branch will typically offer a worse exchange rate than the other methods.

For sending and receiving money, Small World normally offers the best overall pricing in my experience.

Also, “What is the best way to exchange money in Colombia?” is a common question asked by expats visiting Medellín and other cities in Colombia. So, we included this question in our list of Medellín frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Sign up for the Free Medellin Guru Newsletter – You can see all of the previous Medellin Guru weekly email newsletters and sign up here.

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29 thoughts on “Exchanging Money, Receiving & Transferring Money in Colombia”

    1. Robert Torbert March 20, 2021

      I am a retired American married to a Colombian and we and our three children have moved to Bogota to complete the processes with the Embassy.
      Our problem is with our VISA Debit card not being accepted when using the ATMs associated with some of the banks.
      We have had the card us frozen by our US bank when we had tried unsuccessfully two or three times…
      The only bank’s ATM that we have found to work is BanColombia; however, their fees seem high.
      Can anyone tell us which bank ATMs allow and accept a VISA Debit card?
      Also, from that list, could you tell us what their per transaction limits and fees are?
      Many thanks,
      Robert, Jessica, and Family

      • I always had problems with Bancolombia ATMs. Try Colpatria or Servibanca ATMs. On the back of your debit card it should have a network like Pulse, PLUS or Star – look for those networks on the ATMs. Have not researched fees. I believe both Colpatria and Servibanca have higher limits than Bancolombia ATMS.

        • I have used my Citibank debit card a few times at Colpatria ATMs and never had an addditional transaction fee. The exchange rate was excellent, very similar rate to those rates on the same day with my Citibank and AMEX credit cards. BTW, I only use my debit card at ATMs worldwide. Credit cards with no foreign transaction fee are far better and safer. Treat them like a debit card by paying the full balance every month.

    2. Sander Bennink September 21, 2020

      Anybody has experience the other way around, sending COP to EUR? I am returning to the Netherlands again after living for 3 years in Colombia, and want to send my pesos to my dutch bank account. Who can do this the cheapest and with the best rating?

      thanks

    3. Hi Jeff, I have a question. Do you know the local regulation/rule regarding upper limit that tourists can cash out from ATM machines here every month? For example, I have 3 debit cards from 3 different banks. If I withdraw 8 million pesos every 2 days, I can easily do that, because I have different debit cards. But, would it be considered some sort of money laundery by local police if I do it regularly? and if yes, how would they enforce it? Would they block my debit cards from nationwide ATM machines or what?

    4. Mark A Knight January 25, 2020

      I just wanted to add that I use Charles Schwab at Davivienda ATM machines which 1, will give you an English option in case you don’t read Spanish very well, and 2, there is no ATM usage fee, at least not with my Charles Schwab dept card. I also have calculated the exchange rate that is used and it is usually very close if not exact what is on XE at that time. I have also used Bancolombia a few times as a last resort but I did not check the exchange rate was but the fee was rather high at around $5 which of course was reimbursed by Charles Schwab. So I highly recommend Charles Schwab for anyone that is living or traveling to Colombia.

    5. Everyone should be aware of Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) related to credit and ATM transactions. See:

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_currency_conversion

      Basically the merchant or Colombian card processor converts your transaction from Colombian Pesos to your home currency when making the charge. There are 2 benefits, if you pay foreign transaction fees to your home bank, these are usually not charged since the transaction is your home currency. Second, the receipt clearly shows the amount charged in your home currency.

      This rarely (if ever) is favorable. Visa exchanges funds at very close to the rates published on XE.com which are about the best available. The worst USA credit cards charge a 3% foreign transaction fee. Most regular international travelers have cards with no foreign transaction fees. The DCC rates I have seen are 6-8%. So if you have a 3% foreign transaction fee card, DCC costs 3-5% more. For those with no fees, it’s a straight up surcharge of 6-8%.

      When we first started to visit Colombia in 2011, DCC was virtually non existent. In about 2017, we started to see many restaurants using DCC by default. In theory Visa requires merchants to offer DCC as an option allowing you to select COP or USD for the transaction. But we had limited success here obtaining the local currency option. So we started paying cash when eating out.

      Now in 2019, for the first time, we got charged DCC on an ATM transaction by Banco de Bogota. The exchange rate on this withdrawal should have been about at about 3215 COP per USD. Instead it was 2996 COP per USD, a big hit in exchange rate. Funny the receipt clearly states “I have been offered a choice of currencies”, but if that was possible during the ATM transaction, I missed it. It was clear that DCC was going to be charged, so there was an option to cancel the transaction. Decided not to “shop ATM’s” that day, but will surely do so moving forward. 2 days later, the Visa rate at about 3195 and using a ServiBanca ATM we got 3197 COP per USD.

      Still haven’t seen DCC at retail stores or supermarkets, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see it in the future. If you are a short term visitor, DCC probably isn’t worth worrying about. It’s a rounding error unless you’re here buying emeralds. But for those of us that are regulars living off foreign currency, this is a 6-8% surcharge to avoid.

    6. Fernando May 25, 2019

      Hi.
      Wanted to add aside from the $600,000 from bancolombia , Scotiabank (Colpatia), allows you to withdraw $900,000 @ once.

      Cheers,
      Fernando

    7. I was robbed by someone I allowed into my house multiple times over 6 months- After gaining my trust she wiped me out while I was sleeping- She took my MacBook, 2 iPhones, and iPad and all my debit cards plus some cash.

      I have paper check. I have a cedula. Where can I write a check and get pesos??

      • I assume you have foreign checks. Highly unlikely that any banks in Colombia will accept a foreign check as there is no overseas cross-border check clearing system.

      • Gerhard Barkhorn April 14, 2019

        You need to contact your bank to send a new debit card with DHL or Fed_Ex.

        It is highly unlikely you’ll get your stuff back, unless you shared her picture with family or friends, because she walked off with those you most likely took. A hard lesson learned.

    8. Hello, what is the best way for an executor of an estate in the USA to transfer dollars to multiple beneficiares named in a court validated will who are all citizens of and reside in Colombia? When the time arrives, I am anticipating opening an estate account at Citibank in the USA and then instructing the Colombian beneficiaries to open individual accounts at a Citibank branch in Medellin in order to do a Citibank USA to Citibank Colombia wire transfer. However, it appears from your blog that Citibank is no longer in Medellin or perhaps they only sold their ATMs and at least one Citibank branch remains open for now in Medellin? Also, is there a Colombian inheritance tax that the beneficiary must pay for large inheritance? I assume that the source of any large dollar transfers into Colombia needs to be known by any Colombian bank receiving the funds, so the will likely would need to be translated into Spanish and provided, along with the probate court document, to the bank prior to wiring inherited dollars.

      • Doug, FYI, Citibank sold all its branches and ATM machines in Colombia a while ago to Colpatria. Citibank is no longer in Colombia and they operated as a completely separate bank from Citibank in the U.S.

        You can do wire transfers from banks in the U.S. to many of the banks in Colombia. You will need to talk to the banks to find out the process, which is somewhat different at each bank. And you should talk to a Colombian tax accountant about inheritance taxes. There is a contact in our income taxes article – https://medellinguru.com/income-taxes/

    9. My question is how are ATM Fees computed? I pulled out the max allowed at Servibanc of 780,000 and the screen shows the fee as 13,200. At the current exchange rate of 3,025 the fee would be $4.36. When I looked at my account, the fee was $7.90. The debit to my bank account for the 780,000 pesos was $263.97 for an exchange rate of 2,954. So the actual charged was 2,954 x 7.90 = 23,343 pesos.

      Can anyone explain why the actual fees charged by the Colombian Bank do not match the advertised fees? It is more than just the exchange rate difference. I have seen the same thing at Bancolombia and others. It seems the more you pull out, the higher the fee. My US bank charged $2.50 but immediately reversed the transaction fee.

      Is there such a thing as cashing a check? Can I walk into a bank and hand them a check and they will cash it and give me pesos?

      • Some banks in the U.S. and other countries charge a foreign exchange fee that gets added to the ATM fee. And there is no such thing as cashing a foreign check at banks in Colombia.

    10. Mounque Barazone May 18, 2018

      Hi and thank you. The difference between getting $1,200,000 pesos at Citibank ATM in one day by having my card debited in Pesos today instead of dollars yesterday was $18 on the same transaction. Yesterday was $411 when charged in dollars and today was $393. Since I do this once or twice a week and have for many years I have lost maybe $1000 US doing it wrong. Yes I’m an idiot! Citibank lets you take out as much as your card allows. They charged me 15,000 and my debit card was $1.50 US at Bancolombia I would need 2 transactions at $13,000 or $11,000 more and 2 $1.50 debit charges. Much better to go to Citibank and now I know say charge in Pesos. I own the only sports store solely for baseball and softball in Colombia and I am a resident. I am glad, really glad I found your site.

    11. geoffrey April 6, 2018

      Howdy Jeff, Some of the Colombian expats have been commenting that ATM usage has been impacted by changing bank policies; lower withdrawal limits and now it seems every bank charges a fee unless one has an account. Previously neither Bancolombia nor Caja Social charged me any fee and I didn’t have an account. Do you have any information on banks that may still have higher withdrawal limits and no fees? I have gotten by very well just using my US based Schwab debit card so up until now have never contemplated opening an account at a Colombian bank.

      • Hi Geoffrey, ServiBanca’s individual withdrawal limit is normally 780,000 pesos (but some are set lower to 400,000 pesos) and I have heard Citibank is higher but may be changing with Colpatria buying them in Colombia. As far as free withdrawals that is best with a card that reimburses fees like the Schwab card. It seems that all the ATMs have a fee. But I have a local Colpatria account with a Colpatria debit card that permits free ATM withdrawals.

    12. Hi Jason,

      Thanks for the very informative article. I am at the moment trying to get money over from home and looked into small world. I could not figure out how much their limit is for picking up cash at the bank. I need around 15.000.000. Do you know if this goes without sending it to an account but pick up the cash? Cheers and thanks

      • That is a large amount, so you may need some documentation. Small World’s website says “There is no applicable limit when sending money, as long as you can prove the source of funds. Please ask us what documents you must provide to prove the origin of the funds”. You would have to call them at 1-866-210-8002 to find out what documents are needed.

        • Thank you jeff. I was assuming the problem might be on the colombian side as small world shows a small banner mentioning the amounts accepted by the various banks. But in the meantime they accept the amount on their website with no problems. I am talking about pesos, which is around 5000 usd, so not ridiculously high. I will give them a call to check and hopefully buy my car in the next few days ?. I should not have forgotten to bring cash. Cheers

    13. Fantastic article. I really liked how you added the brokerage firm as I was perplexed on property purchases without a bank account (large transfers of currency). Thanks!

    14. Great information. Thank you!

    15. Thanks this is another helpful article on this site. I agree that ATMs are one of the best ways to get Colombian pesos at nearly the XE exchange rate.

      • Jorge Quintero March 29, 2020

        I have tried several services including XE, ShareMoney and WorldRemit. So far I find WorldRemit https://www.worldremit.com/ the cheapest and fastest, especially if you use promo codes. You can send from a credit card, debit card and bank to bank as well as for cash pickup and also through “mobile transfer” through an app called DaviPlata. For you to receive money through DaviPlata, you need to download the app on your phone and also fill out a form at a Davivienda branch. The exchange rate was significantly better than XE or Sharenoney The cost of transfer is usually $3.99 per transfer but if you use the promo code 3FREE, 3GRATUIT or 3GRATIS at the checkout, you get the first three transactions fees waved. You must apply the code to your first, second and third transactions each time at checkout in order to benefit from the discount. Also, if a person signs up with a referral code, they get $20 off for the first $100 that is transferred and so does the person who gave them the referral code. I searched on the web for a referral code when I first signed up. I have no idea who the person was but sure enough, I got a voucher for $20 credit for my next transfer. If you do sign up, once you’ve registered you can get your own referral code to give to people that need to transfer money to you.

        • Mounque Barazone March 29, 2020

          Thanks I use Xoom, a little XE and TransferWise. This looks good. It would help if you gave the referral code you got as I am looking and can not find it.

        • Agree WorldRemit (WR) total costs on any given day are usually less than XE and Remitly. Especially so if you pay WR using a credit card that does not charge your card account a separate additional fee for the transaction because it’s an international cash transfer. TransferWise just sent an email stating that they now do US to Colombia transfers, but only into BanColombia accounts. Hope their cost is competitive with WR.

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