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Can't withdraw (enough) cash from ATMs in Uruguay?

Bryan Mason “I’m a millionaire”

Withdrawing money from ATMs in Uruguay. uruguay cash withdrawalATMs dispense Uruguayan pesos – and US dollars. There are ATMs in the airports, bus stations and at the port in Montevideo. Some travellers to Uruguay find they cannot withdraw more than 200 USD at a time from ATMs or worse, nothing at all. The Guru has some advice following telephone calls with one of Uruguay’s two ATM networks.

ATM withdrawal limits and charges

Some visitors complain that they can only withdraw a small amount of cash (eg less than 200 USD) from ATMs in Uruguay. This is a limit placed by your bank back home.

To be able to withdraw more money, make sure you have made an arrangement with your bank before you travel.

The withdrawal fees in Uruguay vary but you can expect to pay between 3-6 USD per withdrawal to the Uruguayan bank, as well as your own bank fees.

Another reason why it could be worth negotiating the withdraw limit with your bank before you travel.

Having problems withdrawing from ATMs in Uruguay?

Uruguay has two ATM networks – Red BROU and Banred. If one does not work for you, try the other.

Use the terminals that have Cirrus/Maestro/Link/VISA and other stickers on them. The other terminals are for Uruguayan card users only.

Try withdrawing from 11am to 7pm. For some weird reason, as an international card holder you may only be able to withdraw during these times according to Banred.

ATMs in Montevideo that work with international cards

I called the Banred network to find out a number of ATMs that should work with international cards. Here is a short list of some centrally-located ATMs (but there are many others):

Ciudad Vieja
Sarandi 402 on the corner of Zavala (Bandes Bank)
Zavala 1463 on the corner of 25 de mayo (Itau)

Centro
18 de Julio and Julio Herrera (Santander)
18 de Julio and Paraguay (Bandes)
18 de Julio and Ejido (Itau)

Tres Cruces and Punta Carretas shopping malls (not the Montevideo Shopping mall) Tres Cruces is where the bus station is.

I hope all this helps!

Photo: Bryan Mason “I’m a millionaire”

Also see Exchanging money in Uruguay

24 Comments

  1. arend

    February 8, 2017

    I should have read this blog at home and not in Montevideo!
    I had big problems to draw money out of a Redbou or Banred ATM with my Dutch Meastro debit card. I received very good help from Bank staff or locals but that did not worked out.
    I had given it up but when passing the big Banco Republica at DTA 19 junio I thought to give it 1 more try.
    In the ATM section of the Bank there was an old Honeywell ATM and after a lot of waiting time (very slow processing) an amount of UGX 4.000 appeared with the use of the English menu!!!!
    All previous attemps were with UGX 5.000 and those failed. There is no information given by the system ‘why it refuses the withdrawel’. So you donot know of any maximum.
    Rebrou charged UGX 100 provision.

    Reply
    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      February 9, 2017

      Thanks for the feedback, Arend. This week I accompanied a guest who had been several days without being able to withdraw money on his US debit card. We got some very helpful advice from Soledad at Banco Itau in the Old City. She suggested that he try withdrawing from “checking” and choosing 200 USD, not the maximum 300 USD. It worked first time!

      Reply
  2. Jelle

    January 3, 2017

    Thanks a lot for this post! We had the same problem of not being able to use the ATM’s (both Red Brou and Banred) in Uruguay with our Dutch bankcards (Maestro/Mastercard) when we visited in december. Using the English instructional menu at the ATM it gave an error code and said the selected amount wasn’t available, no matter the amount we selected. An Uruguayan that used the machine after us had no problems.
    After reading the tip of Marc Mercer about lying to the ATM we selected the Spanish instructional menu and had absolutely no problems. Afterwards we tried to English instructional menu to make sure we weren’t crazy, but it gave the same error message again.

    Reply
  3. James Mejia

    November 22, 2016

    I opened a BBVA account in Uruguay and have a BBVA account in the states. I am charged $30 for every wire transfer but this is well worth it compared to $8.50 withdrawal fees charged for ATM withdrawals with low limits.
    With $ in my BBVA UY account, I am able to withdraw up to $1,000/day.

    Reply
    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      November 22, 2016

      Hi James, that is very useful information for people coming to live for any length of time in Uruguay. Thanks for sharing. — Karen

      Reply
      • Mark Mercer

        November 22, 2016

        That’s great but not really specific for BBVA-to-BBVA. Would be about the same with any banks, unless BBVA Uruguay waives incoming wire fees for wires from BBVA Compass Bank USA.

        Most US banks charge between 25-35 USD to send international wires. Some credit unions, and online brokerage checking account alternatives (cash management accounts like Fidelity CMA and SchwabOne) charge less.

        Most Uruguay banks charge between 15-25 USD to receive wires, so wires are not the inexpensive way to get money from US to Uruguay unless you’re getting more than 2000 to 2500 dollars minimum. While many good smaller US banks, the two brokerage firms I mentioned, and some credit unions, refund all or most ATM fees.

        Wires, all-in-one, are the most expensive method, not the least, for getting “everyday living” money here. Even if BBVA Uruguay waives incoming wire fees for BBVA US wires, that 30 dollars is a huge cost.

        As a comparison reference point only, the average US married couple’s Social Security retirement benefit is a little less than 2500 USD monthly. That’s also pretty close to an average Uruguayan family total monthly income. For somebody with normal monthly budget needs, except when making special major purchases like a car or property needed much more at one time, they probably don’t need that 2000-3000 USD all at once in Uruguay. Rather, it’s needed at various points during the month. With the right choice of US banking institutions, enough 300-dollar-per-withdrawal ATM transfers are free, with next-day or end-month refund of the Banred 6USD fee.

        On max-5000-peso (the foreign cards peso limit imposed by Uruguay banks) the exchange rate from the international ATM/Visa/MC network is always way better than the Brou rate, better than the private sector bank rates (those normally worse than Brou), better than the preferential E-Brou rate, and always better than a cambio rate. Equally preferential rate for purchases on those US-issued Visa Debit ATM cards, plus you get the 1% IVA instant reduction.

        Which is why we essentially never do wires to our Brou or Scotiabank Uruguay accounts. I do have our Fidelity, Schwab, and two credit union accounts preconfigured to be able to send to them, but in 5 years the pricing has never made sense to do it more than once or twice. Not when we can take out probably 6 to 8 free withdrawals before triggering any “too greedy” soft limits, while doing most in-Uruguay everyday spending directly on those US cards at local stores.

        When I go to buy a car, I’ll wire the money down. But for regular living at a middle-class budget, ATM withdrawals and Visa Debit direct spending is absolutely the cheapest for US-origin expats, and highly reliable. It’s only costly if you have the wrong US bank. Do note that any of the big US money center banks are always the wrong bank in that regard.

        Reply
  4. Bob

    November 19, 2016

    This whole topic is confusing. I wish I could get a US$200 limit. I can’t get more than US$145. Redbrou will only give me $4,000 pesos as a time. My wife is back in the U.S. and I asked her to call my bank to see if they set they limit. The bank told my wife that I had a US$1,000 limit.

    Last Thursday a friend of mine and I went to Redbrou as we both needed cash. We went there because Banred will not give me anything with my Mastercard debit card. But Redbrou would not give my friend anything with her VISA debit card. So we went back to Banred and she sucessfully withdrew $4,000 pesos.

    Redbrou charged me $100 pesos for my $4,000 peso withdrawal and Banred charged my friend $175 pesos for her $4,000 peso withdrawal.

    A week ago a man from Switzerland showed me his Redbrou receipt for a $5,000 peso withdrawal with no charge.

    Reply
    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      November 19, 2016

      Hi Bob, that sounds like a total pain. You have my commiserations 🙁 What about going into a bank and withdrawing cash on your card. Lots of people do that. Banco Itau in the Old City has English speaking staff. Good luck!

      Reply
      • Bob

        November 19, 2016

        Thank you. I may give that a try since I’m staying in Ciudad Vieja.

        Take care.

        Reply
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  6. Juan

    January 12, 2016

    Hi Welshwitch.

    I am sorry to hear that you are not allowed to withdraw more than USD 200. Here is a tip that I followed many times in the past when I tried to withdraw money in Uruguay using my International card.

    Go to any BROU branch and ask for “Adelanto en Efectivo ” or Cash advance. You may ask for this in the information desk but they likely will derive you to the counter where you’d need to follow the line (maybe this process has been changed, but that is how it worked in 2011 or 2012).

    When you ask for Cash Advance you’d be able to withdraw more than USD 200. I never tried to withdraw more than USD 1800 or so. But likely you’d be able to withdraw more if needed. I don’t think they will charge you any fee, unless the issuer bank charges you for the withdrawal but that’s not the norm.

    This process has lot of benefits compared with the withdrawal from an ATM.
    1) First, you don’t incur in the risk of getting your card locked after several times (this is a risk that you’d need to take every time you enter your debit or credit card in the ATM)
    2) it has zero or lower fees.
    3) you can withdraw more than USD 200 than in an ATM.

    Hope it helps.

    Juan @ FreePhotos.online

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      January 12, 2016

      Juan, this sounds like a *really* interesting solution. Thanks so much for sharing. I’d *love* to hear back if any of our readers try it!

      Reply
  7. Sheila

    January 11, 2016

    All the ATM’s I have used in Uruguay limit withdrawals to 5000. If I need more, I just keep taking 5000 several times from the same ATM. Of course they charge a fee with each withdrawal, but those charges can be avoided if you use Charles Schwaab or a similar account that reimburses your fees. I don’t think the 5000 limit is on my bank account’s end. Last weekend, I ran into a machine in MVD that was limited to 4000 which it spit out in 100s. Efforts to get more were declined, I think it was short on cash.

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      January 11, 2016

      Hi Sheila, how I would LOVE to have a bank that reimburses the fees!!

      Reply
      • Mark Mercer

        January 11, 2016

        Schwab Bank as part of a Charles Schwab discount brokerage account relationship – you don’t have to use the brokerage account.

        Fidelity Investments Cash Management Account, which is different from their regular brokerage account, designed as competition to bank checking accounts, and has no minimum deposit no fees. Used it here for over four years.

        United Nations Federal Credit Union, which is easy to join even if you’re not with the UN, as Lisa and I just did. If you sign up for their Premium Checking AND meet the monthly usage requirements (one direct deposit, get estatements, 12 Visa Debit purchases), up to ten dollars monthly in combined ATM fee and foreign transaction fees refunded.

        All USA based. Schwab and Fidelity require a valid USA address. UNFCU will open it with a Uruguay address.

        Probably many more.

        Reply
  8. Mark Mercer

    January 11, 2016

    The US 200 or 300 dollar limit absolutely is not a limit from your bank back in the US (or elsewhere.) It is a limit, on non-Uruguay cards, by the Banred and RedBROU ATM networks themselves.

    Banred is clear about this and the ATM withdrawal process has a screen where they directly display that the limit is 300 dollars, if you want dollars, or 5000 pesos, if you want pesos.

    RedBROU does not openly disclose their limit, but from years of use it’s obvious what theirs is for foreign cards too. It was the same 300 dollar USD limit until mid-2015, when it was reduced to 200 USD. Peso limit is still 5000 pesos for non-Uruguayan cards.

    Of course, your home bank has its own daily limit too, so realistically it’s the lower of both limits. Almost all US banks automatically have a 500 dollar daily ATM card withdrawal limit (often really 505, 508, or 510 in reality to allow 500 dollars plus ATM surcharges.)

    If you have a good banking relationship and are ok with the minor risk of a higher limit (street crime risk) most banks will permanently or temporarily raise your daily limit. For example, my US credit union raised mine to 700 so that I can do two full Banred ATM withdrawals with the 6 dollar per withdrawal fee in one day. I still can’t do more than 300 in one Uruguay withdrawal, because of the Uruguay banks. I one had them raise it to 2000 dollars for the day because I was buying a bunch of furniture and appliances for cash. Still had to do 7 withdrawals to get that out.

    Which, bye the way, is about the breakpoints for where doing a bank wire to Uruguay finally makes financial sense. Up to about 7 ATM withdrawals, even if your US bank does not refund ATM surcharges, even if they do add up to a 1% foreign usage fee, it’s still less than the typical 35-40 dollar fee that most US banks charge to send international wires added to the 15 dollars most Uruguay banks charge to receive them. Plus, the Visa/Mastercard international networks exchange rate is always much better than any Uruguay Bank’s exchange rate.

    As long as your bank knows you’re in Uruguay, there’s no problem normally. People from “chip and PIN” countries need to make sure that their “online PIN” for the card is synced up at their bank with the “offline PIN”. Uruguay is just like the USA in that regard – most places and most card readers do not talk to the chip on your card. To verify the PIN, the ATM or merchant has to be able to talk allegedly way back to your bank in realtime. This may be a reason why so many Europeans complain they can’t get cash in Uruguay while USA folks, who only just now are just starting to get chip cards, almost never have problems getting cash.

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      January 11, 2016

      Hi Mark, thanks for your very detailed and helpful reply. I also thought it was odd about the limit being from the home bank, but the BANRED rep I spoke to insisted that was the case. From what you’re saying about the limits, it sounds like Banred has a higher 300 USD limit than BROU (200 USD) which is helpful to know. And important detail re “chip and PIN”. I will amend the article. Many thanks! Karen

      Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      January 12, 2016

      Mark, you say ” Plus, the Visa/Mastercard international networks exchange rate is always much better than any Uruguay Bank’s exchange rate.” – where is it possible to find the rates? Cheers!

      Reply
      • Mark Mercer

        January 12, 2016

        I’ll do this as a consolidated reply, for simplicity. And not to be pushing Lisa’s and my own Uruguay Expat Life website (which we’ve kinda ignored last year despite keeping active on its social media pages), but I’ve been meaning to do both a “Money” topic in our “Uruguay Basics” series, and a more-detailed “getting and using money in Uruguay” post – and this thread at G’uruguay is giving me a kick-in-the-butt to do that soon, finally! So more details will be over there, and I’ll let you know when it is. (Hint- prob not this week, jaja!)

        OK, question 1 (from this reply): “where is it possible to find the rates?”
        Answer: It’s not possible. But they are (almost) always better.

        It’s something I’ve realized and come to understand from several years of being here, and from years of being an analyst/developer in software engineering, especially for financial services companies, back before I bagged it and moved to Uruguay.

        When I do a withdrawal, in pesos, or a Visa or MasterCard debit card purchase, in pesos, on one of my US-issued debit/ATM cards, I immediately can see the amount authorized, in dollars, online at my USA-based bank’s website/app. Divide the dollars into the pesos, and I see the actual rate I got, and it is (almost) always substantially better than the posted BROU cotazación. Always better than the Uruguay commercial banks’ rates, such as Scotiabank’s posted “Dólar billete” rate. And of course those bank rates themselves are always better than what any cambio gives.

        For example, yesterday Lisa went to the Supermercado DIsco and bought groceries using her Fidelity Cash Management Account Visa Debit. The amount that Disco charged to the Visa (which is already instantly reduced by Ley 19.210 Law of Financial Inclusion 2%+1% bonus IVA rebate), was $1631 pesos. The amount debited on our Fidelity account was USD 53.52.

        That is 30.47 pesos for one dollar. Yesterday’s BROU rate was 30.10. Yesterday’s Scotiabank Uruguay rate was, if I recall, 30.07.

        No, Fidelity did not add any fee to that. Their terms mention a 1% foreign transaction fee, but as I’ve many times explained (on other venues in the various Uruguay Expat Life network sites, on other forums, etc.), in reality that is what they include baked-into the Visa International exchange rate, and only happens when the transaction (purchase or withdrawal) happens in pesos. If the transaction is in dollars, they simply do not add in any foreign transaction fee. And they don’t increase or add to it after-the-fact. So that 53.22 USD for a 1631 UYU purchase is all it’s gong to cost, and we got 30.47 pesos to the dollar on that. (Original purchase was 1672 pesos before the debit card IVA reduction, but that happens instantly at the store.)

        Now, the E-BROU rate, yesterday, was probably similar, during the overlap of Uruguay and US banking hours. (Which is the ONLY “11-7” timeframe I have ever experienced as mattering – withdrawals work any time in my experience.)

        In other words, the Visa International rate (and the similar MasterCard International rate), and the market-hours E-BROU rate, are pretty much the bulk international Inter-bank rates, which of course are always far better than any “retail” rate.

        Question 2: “Does the “chip and PIN” situation explain my perplexity re: “For some weird reason as an international card holder you may only be able to withdraw from 11am to 7pm.”??”

        Answer: With all respect, I pretty much dis-believe that this happens.

        No, I’m not saying “I disbelieve the person who said it happened to her”. Yes, it happened. What I dis-believe, is that, “that’s how it works”. People are very good at constructing mythologies and “rules” based on anecdotal evidence – that’s how we humans survived! But much it is made up, non-replicable, non-logical.

        As I mentioned above, the ONLY thing I have seen that has any time-based relevance is the better E-BROU rate during that overlap of Uruguay and USA banking hours. Right now, if you go to BROU’s site, the E-BROU rate is 30.52. Before the markets were open in both countries, the E-BROU rate was only 30.20, just 5 points “better” than the regular 30.15 BROU rate. On the sell side, buying dollars with pesos, the E-BROU is only 30.80 needed to buy 1 dollar, while it takes 31.15 to buy a buck at the BROU rate. Once the banks close for the day in both countries, the difference between BROU and E-BROU rates will shrink, with the E-BROU narrow spread getting wider.

        THAT is market-hours dependent. Access to the global electronic interbanking VIsa International and MasterCard International networks is not time-dependent. Not by BROU, not by Banred, not by Visa, not by MasterCard, and not by any bank I’ve ever dealt with. Other than during emergency outages, or some sort of very short maintenance window in the wee hours, at really crummy low-technology banks.

        There’s something else going on with the European and Aussie folks who keep complaining they can’t ever (or usually) get cash. Because the reasons people post / make up / are told by bank/network people (who themselves happily make stuff up), make no sense whatsoever from a logical and “how the network really works” perspective.

        Whereas, these reasons DO make sense:
        a) Didn’t properly let your bank know you are in Uruguay.
        b) Somehow your “online PIN” got out-of-sync with the “in-chip PIN” – which if you’re in/from a “chip-and-PIN” country you’d never even have cause to think about.
        c) A multi-hop currency conversion is needed because you’re from a non-Dollar economy and you might be using the “wrong” choice at the ATM. Somewhere either the network or your issuing bank is getting confused about what currency and amount is being requested.
        d) Choose the wrong network at the ATM, even if there isn’t a multi-hop currency conversion.

        I will have a LOT more to say about the “wrong network choice” in my blog article when I get to it, and have over the past year or two already had a lot to say about it on posts and comments on our social media sites, especially in threads at the Uruguay Expat Life Community on Google. So folks can search there in the meantime.

        But short version (for NON-Uruguay cards), three simple rules:

        1) If you want Pesos, and you are at a BROU machine, always LIE and tell the machine your account is in Pesos. Even though it’s not.

        2) If you want Dollars, and you are at a BROU machine, always tell the machine your account is in Dollars. Even if it’s not in US Dollars (yes, LIE. Euros, CAD, AUD, NZD, CHF, whatever. Tell it your account is in dollars. Not pesos, which is your only choice). Or if it is in USD, of course tell it it’s USD.

        3) If you are at a Banred machine, always tell it to use Visa INTERNATIONAL or MasterCard INTERNATIONAL as your chosen network, depending on the brand on the front of the card (don’t try to get “smart” about Plus vs Cirrus.) NEVER tell it to use Visa URUGUAY or MasterCard URUGUAY.

        By doing it this way, the Uruguay ATM network is never trying to do the conversion. It’s tossing the requested amount in the requested currency, out to Visa International or MasterCard International and saying, “You guys figure this out.” They know how to do it. That’s how you get the “better rates” if you are really changing currency, and is probably how you keep it from screwing up entirely if you are doing a multi-hop non-direct exchange (like if your account is in EUR or CHF).

        It’s possible, I don’t know, that if a non-USD account holder (Again, EUR, CHF, NZD, whatever) has been having trouble when they LIE to BROU and say the account is in pesos when they want pesos, try the opposite lie and tell them it’s in dollars. Or vice-versa – try the other thing. At a Banred machine, where the choice is not as to the currency (of your account) but rather the network to use, I’d suggest always using the INTERNATIONAL network for your card’s brand. I really doubt that Visa Uruguay knows what do do with a Kiwi dollar or a Swiss Franc account.

        By the way, Plus network IS Visa, and Cirrus Network IS MasterCard. In terms of ownership. It’s possible, and sometimes likely, for a Visa issued by a bank to have Cirrus as one of its available networks, or a MasterCard to have Plus.

        Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      January 12, 2016

      And another query from me! Does the “chip and PIN” situation explain my perplexity re: “For some weird reason as an international card holder you may only be able to withdraw from 11am to 7pm.”?? Thanks in advance for the clarification, Mark.

      Reply
  9. Katharine

    January 11, 2016

    Great lblog as ever Karen! I went for months only able to use the RedBROU network and then for some reason now only Banred!! A good (if a bit odd!) tip on the 11am-7pm timetable too. Hope to see you soon 🙂

    Reply

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