The Blog

Use your credit card in Uruguay & get 22% VAT off

Fine wine in restaurants is exempt from tax

When you use a foreign credit or debit card in Uruguay you get the 22% VAT deducted from restaurant bills and car hire. Obviously saving you a huge amount.

Just present your card and when you get the bill back to sign, the VAT should be knocked off automatically until April 21 2017.* Though if you are planning to visit later on don’t worry. This benefit has been rolled over year after year for the last few years.

And another great benefit for travellers, hotel rooms are tax free.

VAT deductions on car hire and hotel services

The list of VAT deductions when you pay using a non-Uruguayan credit or debit card in Uruguay includes:

  1. Hospitality services at restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, hotels and hostels, except for the cost of accommodation

  2. Catering and other services for parties and events

  3. Self-drive car or vehicle hire.

This offer applies to credit and debit cards. VAT in Spanish is called “IVA” (pronounced EE-vah).

The Ministry of Tourism provides this information on Benefits for Tourists.

Which credit cards are most accepted in Uruguay?

The most popular credit card in Uruguay is VISA which dominates with 70% of the market.

Also useful to have are Mastercard and the local OCA card.

Beware that American Express and Diners, popular cards in the USA, are virtually unknown here and you may find that very few places accept them.

*This article was updated on August 3 2016.

34 Comments

  1. Rogier

    March 14, 2017

    Thanks for this article. I have noticed that paying with my Dutch debit card or Visa credit card in both cases show the discount being applied on the bill. However, looking back on my statements, only with the credit card the discount was actually applied and on the debit card the original amount was charged.

    Reply
    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      March 15, 2017

      Rogier, I am afraid I am not really sure what might have happened… I would check with your bank, especially if you have receipts you can show where the discount has been applied. Good luck! All the best, Karen

      Reply
  2. Carolina Rodriguez

    January 22, 2017

    Hello,
    Can anyone tell me where to get a tax free form?
    I came to Uruguay thru the buenos Aires boat but using my Canadian cc here. I flew in and out of BA. Can I do the tax back anywhere else besides the airport?

    Reply
    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      January 22, 2017

      Hi Carolina, my understanding is that certain shops tuned in to working with tourists will fill in a tax form for you. You can also get them at the airport. For the tax back on restaurant and car hire purchase, as mentioned the refund automatically occurs at your time of purchase. Best, Karen

      Reply
  3. Tobin Steens

    December 4, 2016

    Hi guys – does anybody know if the VAT applies to buses traveling from Uruguay to Argentina?
    Just wondering if its worth heading down to Tres Cruces to book my ticket in person.
    Thank you!
    Tobin.

    Reply
    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      December 8, 2016

      Hi Tobin, VAT off is just for the categories mentioned in the article. Have a great time in Uruguay! Karen

      Reply
  4. Gill

    November 17, 2016

    Hi do you know if we can claim the tax back on other shopping – maybe when we get to the airport on our way back?
    We bought some stuff in Lanas de Uruguay in La Barra and they had a ‘tax free’ sign. The lovely lady was trying to explain how we go about it – but my Spanish is so bad I couldn’t understand!!

    Reply
    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      November 18, 2016

      Hi Gill, yes you will be able to claim your tax back on purchase in the airport. The good news is that as the Montevideo Carrasco international airport is very small, it’s usually a fairly painless process with short lines 🙂

      Reply
    • Dr Nagamati

      November 18, 2016

      Hi Gill. You will have to go to the customs with your receipt and tax free form, ask for a stamp on it and inform the credit card you want the credit. Best wishes.

      Reply
  5. Vitas

    September 29, 2016

    Hi, I’m wondering if IVA deduction is applied for foreign debit cards as well? Any experiences appreciated.

    Reply
  6. Lucio Takeshi Nagamati

    June 13, 2016

    Hi, I am planning to visit Montevideo In August 2016. Was VAT refund renewed ? Thank you. Best regards. Lucio.

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      June 18, 2016

      Hi Lucio, it’s still active, and I do not expect the government to remove the benefit in the near future, so enjoy! Best wishes, Karen

      Reply
      • Violet A.

        July 12, 2016

        We are in uruguay currently (July 2016) and have seen a great discrepancy in IVA deductions when using our credit cards from the US. Sometimes it is 22%; sometimes it is 1%. Why is that? These purchases are all in restaurants/bars and paid with a foreign visa. Thanks for any help that you can provide.

        Reply
        • Welshwitch in Uruguay

          July 13, 2016

          Hi Violet, hmmm. 1%? That’s weird. Can you recall where it was and what you had bought?

          Reply
          • VIOLET A

            July 13, 2016

            Thanks for the quick response! We were at Patagonia Brewing Co. and had two beers and an appetizer. Our iva refund rates have varied every time we go out to eat from 22% to 18% to the sad 1%. Are certain items not included in the discount or does it just depend on what the establishment decides? I should note that these are all restaurant purchases of food and drinks, paid for by a US-issued Visa.

          • Welshwitch in Uruguay

            July 14, 2016

            Hi Violet, the establishment does not decide, it’s a law here. I am thinking that the 1% is the discount that any payment made with a credit card, regardless of country of issue, receives nowadays from the Uruguayan government. 3% with a debit card. Ah! I think that maybe IVA has just gone down to 18%. Let me check this and get back to you.

          • Violet A.

            July 17, 2016

            I appreciate your diligence! I have been getting between 18 and 22 everywhere else. Just that one stop. Very odd! And I really liked the establishment and the servers.

          • carolina scotti

            July 21, 2016

            I am also interested in knowing if there are discrepancies…. and also if they give the IVA back for both credit and debit cards (not pre paid VTM, but actual bank cards that debits from your balance account)

  7. Viviana

    May 24, 2016

    I have find this page very useful, muchas muchas gracias! I am just wondering if this is still going on after the 31st of March 2016? I am travelling to Montevideo early June 2016.

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      May 24, 2016

      Hi Viviana, so glad you have found GuruGuay.com useful! Yes, the VAT off is continuing and I would expect it to continue for the foreseeable future. Btw, if you like the site, you will love The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo which has even more information for you. All the best — Karen

      Reply
  8. Dan

    March 27, 2016

    We have a home in Punta Carretas and you will also obtain the discount when purchasing gasoline. Quite a good value!

    Reply
  9. Flores

    March 13, 2016

    This is such a great wealth of information right here and just in time for me as I travel to uruguay in a few days time! Thank you so much! I just wish I had discovered you earlier so I would have time to buy your book!!

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      March 13, 2016

      Hi Florencia, thanks for the appreciation! You still have time to buy my book – and if you liked the site, you will LOVE the book. A digital copy is perfect for people travelling. You can choose what suits the devices you are travelling with – pdf for tablets, or a version for mobile phones. The URL is http://guruguay-shop.com/shop. Buying the book you’ll support my work, so thank you!

      Reply
  10. Giuliana

    September 14, 2015

    Hi thank you for sharing this information. I am traveling in October (by myself), and I am a little nervous. Is Montevideo a dangerous city?

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      October 15, 2015

      Hi Guiliana — sorry I didn’t answer you earlier but I wanted to be able to respond to you once I had written a post about personal safety in Montevideo, because I get asked about this a lot. Once you read the post you will see that you should NOT be nervous at all, as long as you take the regular precautions that we should all take in a large city. We receive a lot of single women guests in our guesthouse in the Old City and they go out alone at night without a problem. Have a great time! — Karen

      Reply
  11. Alex

    August 13, 2015

    The title on the article says ” until March 31″, does this change at that time?

    Reply
  12. Suze

    August 1, 2015

    Wicked. That’s good news for me. since we don’t even arrive until late October. 😀

    Reply
  13. Barrie Carmel

    March 19, 2015

    What about when you pay by Amex ?

    Barrie

    Reply
  14. Ghislain

    December 4, 2014

    The discount works differently depending on which card you use. With Visa cards, the discount shows up right away on the receipt, but with MasterCard you only see it on your monthly bill.

    Reply
  15. Peter

    November 25, 2014

    In case anybody else is curious about this – I paid for several meals using my Canadian credit card when in Uruguay. At the time of payment, I didn’t receive a discount and the full price (converted into Canadian dollars) was charged to my credit card. Several days later, I received refunds of around 18.0% on each of these purchases (18.0% is 0.22/1.22). So, at least in my case, the discount wasn’t applied at the time of purchase, but was done after the fact.

    I actually got frustrated and started paying cash for everything (why face a 2.5% surcharge for foreign currency transactions on my credit card if I’m not getting the discount?) but it looks like this discount does, in fact, work – with some patience.

    Of course, that was just my experience. I’m curious if anybody else has had any (good or bad) luck with this?

    Reply
    • Mike

      August 17, 2016

      Hello Peter,
      I got all my restaurant refunds immediately on the receipt as long as I used my credit card (which was a Visa from the US). Just returned (Aug 2016) and the VAT level is currently 18.03%. I expect the gasoline VAT refunds will come on my statement. Didn’t purchase any goods at participating retailers over UYP 500, so I can’t comment on that, but I know you have to fill out paperwork at the store and stop at the airport for refunds on those qualifying goods.

      Maybe you have figured it out by now, but at least in the US (and I assume now in Canada), many credit card issuers offer good (no annual fee) cards that do not charge an FX or international purchase fee – like the 2.5% you mentioned). Usually their exchange rate is among the best. Always good for an international traveler to have at least one of those to avoid the fee and high exchange rate trap, then you can use the card without worrying.

      I also think the 1% – as mentioned by others below – was just a promo thing for credit cards (they are giving up to 15-20% on locally issued cards currently to encourage merchant “system participation”).

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.