When traveling you of course need money. Even though debit and credit cards are at least in major cities widely accepted, cash is still king in Peru. But taking larger amounts of physical money with you isn’t recommended; so best bring virtual money in the form of cards - here simply called tarjetas - with you and withdraw cash as you need it in Peru.
ATMs in Peru - Withdrawing money
Before traveling to Peru best inform your bank that you are traveling to Peru and, if necessary, have your card activated for use abroad. Additionally, check and, if necessary, adjust the limit of the amount you can withdraw per transaction, day or month. And last but not least inform yourself about fees your bank might charge when withdrawing abroad and exchange rates.
In major cities ATMs are omnipresent, however the farther you get away from “civilization” the scarcer they get. So, don’t expect to find an ATM when visiting Gran Pajaten, a small Andean village or the Uros islands, when trekking the Inca Trail, or in Manu National Park. Please plan accordingly.
While a few ATMs only dispense money to account holders, most ATMs in Peru accept next to local debit and credit cards as well foreign debit cards and international credit cards connected either to Mastercard / Cirrus / Maestro or Visa / VPlus.
Be aware that ATMs in Peru charge a withdrawal fee when using a foreign card, often around S/ 5 - S/10; however, check with your bank back home if they wave it.
When withdrawing money best use guarded ATMs preferable inside a building / bank only! Try to avoid using an ATM at night and consider the universally known precautions!
At most ATMs you can withdraw Soles and Dollars and you can change the language from Spanish to English, German or even French. So, there is no need for help from other people.
To avoid unpleasant surprises, be aware that for security reasons ATMs often have a withdrawal limit of S/ 1500 to S/ 2000 (usually more or less US$500). This actually has nothing to do with the limit on your card, but with the precautions of some banks here in Peru. Additionally, some ATMs only cough up US$200 or the equivalent in Soles per withdrawal when using a foreign card. Other limits may apply when withdrawing after banking hours.
Even though things improved over the past years, for unknown reasons the one or other ATM might refuse your card - just try another one - or even retain it. In such cases it’s best to have a backup card with you.
And last but not least, ATM fraud unfortunately isn’t uncommon. So before using one check if everything seems alright, nothing seems to be attached to the machine where it doesn’t belong, and the card slot and area where the money is dispensed seems in order and unblocked.
Credit Cards in Peru
Credit cards are widely accepted in major Peruvian cities. As back home you can pay your hotel or restaurant bill, in shops, at supermarkets, tours booked at larger tour operators, etc. Have an ID or passport on you as it might be checked.
However, even in Peru’s larger cities taxi fares, entrance fees for example to museums, purchases in small shops, on markets, etc. have to be paid in cash. Have enough coins and bills in small denominations! And in remoter areas of Peru cash is still the absolute king and paying with a credit card might get difficult or even impossible. So plan accordingly.
As credit card fraud unfortunately isn’t uncommon, we highly recommend having a close eye on who handles your card and what is done with it when paying be it in a shop, a hotel or restaurant. Follow one simple, but sometimes inconvenient rule: where your credit card goes, you do! In hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes and shops it’s common that a POS device is on the counter or is brought to your table, so you can follow the transaction. Nevertheless, regularly check your credit card statements or, if available, activate the function which informs you about movements.
Lost, stolen or cloned Credit Card
Despite all precautions, if your credit card gets stolen or lost or might have been cloned, block it immediately! Check the correct phone number, website, or app with your provider at home!
The most common credit card providers have offices in Peru, but only in Lima where you might be able to get a replacement card. Nevertheless, to avoid inconveniences best have a second card with that you keep separate from your main card and can use as a backup.
Credit Card Companies in Lima
The local representative is a company called Expressnet
Phone 0800 51773
Phone 0800 77476
Phone (+511) 615-1111
Travelers Cheques in Peru
Long considered the safest way of taking larger amounts of money with you while traveling, the times of traveler’s cheques seems to be over. The one or other bank in Lima might still cash them, but for high fees and with an extremely bad exchange rate.