The official currency of Colombia is the Colombian Peso which may be abbreviated to “COP”. The Colombian bills are denoted as: 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 Pesos. Coins are denoted as follows: 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000 Pesos. Recently a 100,000 bill was introduced although you'll rarely see it in circulation.
It’s important to carry small change with you as much as possible. Many small businesses will refuse to take your 50,000 COP note simply because they don’t have the cash to change it. Try to break your 50,000 COP notes at bigger establishments such as Exito. Try not to accept torn or badly worn notes, you might find it hard to get rid of them as well.
Colombia like many South American cities has a counterfeit note problem. It won’t cripple your trip but as long as you’re mindful of the quality of the cash you receive, you should be fine. When paying for anything with a 50,000 COP note, shop and restaurant employees will always check that the note is legitimate. Don’t take it personally - it’s a standard procedure and something you should look into doing as well.
How to check if a note is counterfeit: There are quite a few security measures taken to deter counterfeiting - check that the note has a watermark, look for the metallic strip, and scratch the hair of the historic person on the note, it should feel a little bit rougher than normal paper. Lastly, fold the note in half and rub it together, it should feel waxy with raised print scratching together and not like regular printing paper.
One of the most common occurrence of counterfeit notes is with unscrupulous taxi drivers. The majority of taxi drivers refuse to accept more than a 20,000 COP note. If you do get a driver who’s all-to-happy to give you change for a large note, be careful of a “bait and switch”. In other words, when you give them a perfectly good 20,000 or 50,000 COP note, watch a switch to a fake note and then giving it back to you under the pretense that they can no longer change the note for you. A common way to avoid this is making it obvious to you’re checking the note yourself before you give it to the driver and make a note of the number.
Banks, Credit Cards & ATM’s
Bancolombia is the most widely available bank in Colombia, with branches and ATMs found throughout the country. It's not uncommon to experience long wait times, up to 30 minutes or more, when waiting to see a bank teller. Other banks you may encounter in Medellin include Citibank, Davivienda, Banco de Bogotá, Servibanca, and Banco Caja Social.
ATMs can be found throughout Medellin, particularly in El Poblado. Most banks will allow you to withdraw between 600,000 to 800,000 COP, with some allowing you to do this up to three times. A very small number of banks will allow you to withdraw up to 2 million in one transaction. If you experience difficulties withdrawing money, it's possible that your own bank has placed limits on your transactions. Bancolombia ATMs, in particular, are known to reject around 25% of international card withdrawals for unknown reasons. If you have trouble with an ATM, try using a different bank or withdrawing money at the counter (just remember to bring your passport). When using an ATM, it's always a good idea to observe normal safety precautions, such as going with someone else during the day and checking for "card skimmers" on the machine. Avoid using taxis waiting outside of ATMs or banks.
When paying for goods with a credit card, you will usually be required to provide government photo identification, such as a passport or driver's license. Additionally, you may be asked "A cuántas cuotas?" or "How many installments?" This is a common question in Colombia, as it's possible to spread credit card payments out over a set number of months. If you're using a foreign credit card, it's likely that this option won't apply to you, but many locals may not be aware of this. In this case, simply say "Una por favor" or "One, please."
Paypal is not commonly used in Colombia as in other countries due to the difficulties in linking it to a local bank account and the high fees associated with certain transactions. It's a good idea to have an alternative payment method when in Colombia so as to avoid issues paying for products and services.
Map: ATM’s in Poblado
It's a good idea to check with your bank before traveling to Colombia to understand any fees they may charge for international transactions. Keep in mind that you may be charged a fee by both the Colombian bank and your own bank when withdrawing money from an ATM. Some US banks, such as Charles Schwab, don't charge for international transactions and may even reimburse you for ATM fees.
To avoid any issues with your card being blocked while you're in Colombia, it's important to notify your bank in advance of your trip. This can help ensure that you have uninterrupted access to your funds while you're abroad.
Money Exchange in Medellin
The most convenient way to access cash in Medellin is through ATMs. However, if you need to exchange foreign currency, there are plenty of money exchange facilities around the city. You can find several small exchange offices within walking distance of Parque Lleras, as well as in major shopping malls like Santa Fe, Oviedo, and El Tesoro.
Unicambios, with locations in Oviedo and Sante Fe malls, is a well-known and reputable option for exchanging currency. You can check their website for the current exchange rate.
It's generally not recommended to exchange money at the airport, as the rates tend to be unfavorable.
A helpful resource for checking the current exchange rate is www.xe.com.
Map: Money Exchange in Poblado
If you don't have money to exchange but need money in a hurry, you can receive money from overseas by using Western Union. You can arrange payment via their website using a visa card, and then collect it from any of the Western Union office here in Medellin. You will only need the reference number of the transaction and your passport.
In El Poblado, there are Western Union branches inside:
- Homecenter, Poblado
- Exito, Poblado
- Carulla - Oviedo location
Remity is another popular service that allows users to send money internationally. It offers competitive exchange rates and a variety of delivery options, including bank deposit, cash pickup, and mobile money. The service is available through its website and mobile app, and aims to make the process of sending money abroad quick and easy. Users can send money to over 50 countries, and recipients can receive funds in local currency. Remitly also offers a 24/7 customer support team to assist with any issues or questions that may arise.
If you use this link http://remit.ly/1xy0isr you'll receive a USD25 / GBP15 discount on your first transaction.