The money-credit  situation in this city is one that has started to drive me a bit crazy, but in many ways made me appreciate the efficiency of the system in the U.S.  It is one of the most cash-centric places I have ever visited and the only one I know of where there are two separate prices for things.  One if you pay in cash, and a higher one if you use credit.

There are all sorts of words for cash – when I arrived I thought ¨dinero¨ was the only one I needed to know.  What a gringo I am.  During my first week here, I went to buy a pair of boots in a store that had a sign that said ¨solo effectivo.¨  Not knowing what this meant, I went to pay for the boots and learned they didn´t accept cards.  ¨Effectivo¨ and ¨plata¨ are used interchangeably. So finally I thought I had started to get the hang of things.  Must always have cash.  Pay more if you don´t.  Fine, got it.  BUT, you must also have small bills – we might as well say exact change.

Oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires - their currency situation seems from this era

The other day I took a taxi that was 13 pesos and I handed the driver two ten-peso bills and he began to freak out, telling me he didn´t have change and that I would have to get out and find some.  Try and pay for something, basically anything that is less than 50 pesos with a 100 peso bill, and in many places it will be difficult.  Note, also be wary of counterfit bills…every time you hand over a 50 or 100 bill people hold it up to the light to make sure, and cab drivers and notorious for handing back fake ones and today I heard, even xerox copies of them.  Right okay…so small bills..ok got it.  Except when you go to the bank, they of course only dispense money in 100 peso bills and since you need to pay most things in cash, you need to have a lot of it…..ohhh EXCEPT that ATM machines limit you to 700 peso withdrawals (less than USD$200)!!!

This is one of the small things I am coming to grips with here.  I can attest that the past financial crisis has certainly left it´s mark.   The other problem is that there are one peso coins and 2 peso bills that are very useful and popular, but are in such short supply that many that end up in your wallet are just short of disintegrating they are so overused and old.  Every time you go to pay for something really small, people want exact change so that they don´t have to shell out their 1 peso coins.  I recently went out with some Argentine guys who told me that in 2001 they made good money in their jobs, but immediately went out and bought apartments because the banking system is so defunct here.  Makes you think how for granted we take the ease and convenience of our banking system back home.  Trying to rent a temporary apartment was a whole other mess of money issues for me that I won´t even go into…but let´s just say that in one day I think I racked up about $30 in ATM fees trying to withdraw all that I needed!