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Tips for Financial Management in South America

From the Amazon rainforest to Machu Picchu, there are plenty of great reasons to go to South America. And knowing how to get the most for one's money in South American countries can make all the difference. Consider the following tips for financial management in this foreign market before jet setting there.

Know When and Where to Go

Individuals can compare their currency value to the exchange rate in South American countries to see how much their money will be worth. The U.S. dollar will go further in Colombia, Uruguay and Venezuela, than somewhere like Brazil, which is relatively expensive, but all countries are still more affordable than Europe.

Currency exchange fees can vary a great deal in South America, according to Nawaz Ali, U.K. market analyst for Western Union Business Solutions. "So it may be safe to exchange your currency before traveling to South America," he says. "Exchange rates can also fluctuate a little more compared to the more common currencies, so be prepared to compare different providers."

The U.S. dollar will go farther in Colombia, Uruguay and Venezuela, than somewhere like Brazil.

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It's also important to consider timing. National holidays and celebrations may impact prices in a country. During Carnival, the extremely popular Brazilian Mardi Gras-like celebration, prices for hotels and other tourism-related needs skyrocket, especially in Rio de Janeiro.

What to Consider With International Credit Cards

Visa and MasterCard credit cards are widely accepted in South America, but American Express and Discover credit cards are not as commonly accepted.

Many businesses in South America will accept international credit cards, but cab drivers and small street vendors likely will not. For the most part, travelers in South America should not face any purchase minimums in order to use a credit or debit card.

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Why Using Cash Makes a Difference

Because South America has a bifurcated currency system, with Argentina using pesos, Brazil using reals and so forth, U.S. dollars are a source of consistency and commonly accepted across the continent. Travelers should try to pay for purchases in cash like the Brazilian real because it gives greater negotiating power with the merchants, which is common in local foreign markets.

Understand Currency Symbols

Keep in mind that in Brazil the use of commas means exactly the opposite of what it does in the U.S. since a comma delineates thousands and periods are used for fractions. For example, R$7.000 means 7,000 Brazilian reals, while R$7,00 means seven reals. Or say an American has R$2.065,25, that is the equivalent to two thousand, sixty-five reals and twenty-five centavos.

For money transfers to Brazil, it is easy to capture the best foreign exchange rates for the Brazilian real to/from U.S. dollars, euros, British pounds and Canadian dollars witha free online currency converter and by signing up for email market-rate alerts.

Impact of Variance in Currency Exchange Rates

Getting a favorable currency exchange rate can have a significant impact on a traveler's budget. To avoid paying international credit card fees, travelers to South America can benefit from the services of a trusted online foreign exchange provider that saves individuals money by having low markups and complete transparency around the status of international payments.

Live Cross Rates

USD 69.3440 1.3139 0.7857 53.2670 1.0000 0.8780
CAD 52.7470 1.0000 0.5978 40.5230 0.7604 0.6680
AUD 50.4280 0.9555 0.5715 38.7410 0.7268 0.6386
EUR 78.9250 1.4956 0.8945 60.6340 1.1377 1.0000
GBP 88.1960 1.6713 1.0000 67.7560 1.2713 1.1169

Example: 1USD = xx INR

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