When traveling to Argentina, there are more than a few ways to exchange money.
The Airport right when you hop off the plane
Many people opt to exchange the majority of their money in the airport the moment they get off the plane. This is not the best idea for a few reasons: they charge outrageous fees, give you a bad exchange rate, and there’s also a greater chance of robbery around the airport due to the large amount of tourists. If you arrive to Argentina without any pesos at all, perhaps exchange a small amount (enough to pay for a taxi ride to your hotel/hostel/apartment (usually around $200 ARS with a Radio Taxi, recommended)).
There are plenty of ATMs scattered around the city and they’re a great resource if you need money fast at a random hour, like on a sunday or any day at 4am. However, ATMs charge hefty fees for withdraws and also give you a lousy exchange (generally around 4.5 ARS – 1 USD)
The Black Market
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. The most economical thing you can do when coming to BA is to withdraw all or a large amount of the money you plan to use on your trip before you come. This, of course, poses a high risk, but if you’re able to safeguard your money it also presents the most benefits. There’s not an actual place deemed the black market, but the term instead refers to small under-the-radar exchange centers around the city that take USD for a 6+ ARS – 1 USD rate (I say 6+ since it’s been known to fluctuate generally from 6.1, to 6.8, depending on the market). The one that I used was in a shopping Galería only a few blocks away from my apartment on Avenida Santa Fe. I’d walk in, go up a small flight of stairs and see a man sitting casually on a stool. He would immediately know why I was there and would walk over to the door of a store that appeared to be under construction. Using an ancient-looking key, he’d open the door and I’d always see the same adorable, rosy-cheeked man with round glasses and a thick gray mustache curled up at the sides with wax. I’d always say “Cuánto me da por dólares?” and he’d respond with the going rate for that day. Black Market exchanges can also be found on Calle Florida in el Microcentro. All you have to do is walk down the street and listen for men and woman saying “cambio, cambio” “dólores? euros? reales?” “cambio”. The best thing to do is ask your host mom or hostel if they personally know of anywhere. It’s likely that your host family might want to directly exchange with you if they’re trying to save for a trip to the US (Disneyworld and NYC are popular ones).
If you run out of USD you can always go to the Federal Banks and withdraw more… but they charge hefty fees as well. Probably best to ask your family (or a friend) to bring you some if they’re coming to visit.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Xoom is a wonderful, simple means of exchange that I and many of my other peers have been using for the past 5 months. You can set up an account online to directly transfer money from your bank account into pesos (usually a 6+ rate). There are fees, but they’re minimal, and I heard a rumor going around recently that you can find promo codes that eliminate fees all together. There are only two downsides to xoom: the registration process, and the waiting process. Problems arise in the registration/confirmation process if you don’t “confirm” your account. Be sure to respond to all emails they ask you to, and (MOST IMPORTANTLY) if you have an argentine cell phone, you must add the country code “+54” and the regional area code “11” or “011” or “015” before your actual number. This one mistake caused me a lot of headache and stress leading up to a big trip to Mendoza that I was prepping for back in October. As for the waiting process, sometimes I’ve gone in to the transfer site and there’s been no line. Other times, I’ve been waiting for around an hour… Give yourself some time whenever you plan on making a transfer. They’re open Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm and the location that I used is on Libertad 1057, just south of Avenida Santa Fe.
*note: another cool thing about xoom is that it has locations all around the world. If you plan on going to another country for an extended period of time, it’s definitely worth looking into!
Just use your credit card?
As long as you notify your bank, your credit card will work just fine. HOWEVER, not only does it use the 4.5 exchange rate, but it also hits you with extra fees just for using your card. Possible? Yes, but not highly recommended.