There are several ways you can get your money from abroad to Chile without a huge amount of trouble. They each have their own advantages and costs and we present them here to help you decide the method best suited for you.
Wire transfers from abroad to Chile are reliable and work okay but for a price. Accepting a wire transfer in Chile requires a Chilean bank account. A standard CLP based cuenta corriente should work to receive a wire transfer. Chilean banks only accept USD, GBP or EUR for international transfers so if you have another currency, you’ll need to change it to one of these before sending.
After sending the money from abroad, it should take between 1-3 business days depending on the banks. For some banks like Banco de Edward, you’ll receive an email when your transfer is ready. Other like Scotiabank, you’ll need to go into a branch and check to see if the money has arrived.
Most banks in Chile will generally take a 1-2% fee for receiving an incoming wire transfer and could be more if there are intermediary banks in the transfer (Canada -> U.S.A -> Chile for example). So if you are sending $10,000, you might end up paying $200 just for receiving the money!! There are some ways to avoid the wire receipt fee however. Citibank (known as Banco de Edward/Bank of Chile) will wave the fee for both incoming and outgoing wire transfer from Citibank if both bank accounts are under the same person’s name. It doesn’t necessarily work out automatically and may require a trip to a branch to fix things to confirm account names.
To receive the funds, you must fill out and sign a form stating the total amount and the source of the funds (loan, personal money, etc.). Then go to the caja (cashier) to receive the funds or have it deposited to your dollar or CLP account at the bank (note: that depositing it to a CLP account after changing the money at the bank exchange rate, see below). If you opt for cashing out, remember that smaller branches do not carry much foreign money, so if you are receiving a large amount of cash, it is best to go to the main branch.
On top of the incoming wire transfer receipt fee, if you exchange the money to CLP (Chilean Pesos) in your Chilean bank, your bank will try to charge you another 2-3% through its exchange rate! To avoid the exchange fees, it’s sometimes better to accept the transfer in USD, GBP, or EUR and then exchange the money in a casa de cambio (money exchange house).
There are several casas de cambios in Santiago Centro on Agustinas between Bandera and Ahumada. You can also find them in Providencia (near Pedro de Valdivia) or in large shopping malls like Costanera Center. Walk down the street and compare the highest rate for buying dollars (compra USD) and then exchange your dollars there. Some exchange places are very particular about having no tears or bend in the bills. Inversion Suiza usually has one of the best rates.
Using a Credit / ATM Card
One convenient way to get money out immediately in Chile is by using Chilean ATMs. Your foreign debt or credit card should work in most Chilean ATMs by selecting the Extranjero (Foreigner) option on the bottom left of the main screen. Be aware that there will be ATM fees and exchange rate fees applied.
For credit card, purchase/withdrawals currently recommend the United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card which has no foreign transaction fees on international purchases and has extra features like first checked bag flies free as well as a number of travel protection benefits like free primary coverage for your car rentals booked with the card. If you use this link, provided by our friends at United, you’ll receive a 30,000 mileage bonus and if you add someone to your account, you’ll receive and additional 5,000 miles! I use this card all the time for grocery shopping and restaurants in Chile as there are no foreign transaction fees and the Explorer card offer way better loyalty points programs than Chilean credit cards do.
If you are from the US and happen to have a Charles Schwab Investor Checking bank account (free with no monthly minimums), they refund back ATM fees worldwide. So if you just withdraw money from a Chilean ATM and are presented with a $5-$10 fee, that fee is going to be refunded by Charles Schwab the next day! Banco Internacional ATM locations also don’t charge a fee for using a foreigner card! Moreover, banks like PNC, Citi, Schwab use the market exchange rates (actually they use VISA exchange rate which is very close to market exchange rate) for ATM withdrawals so you don’t lose another 2-3% with the exchange rate!
If you have a Bank of America account, you can use the Scotiabank ATMs and avoid ATM fees as well. However, be warned that Scotiabank uses an exchange rate 2-3 % below market so you end up paying some fee! Check your bank to see what exchange rate you can expect. If you use this link, you will receive a $100 bonus for make a $10,000 qualifying net deposit to your account.
In addition to no ATM fees, Charles Schwab debit card has no international transaction fees either for making purchases. A few other debit and credit cards such as Chase’s Millage+ Explorer similarly don’t charge transaction fees but most do. So it’s best to check with your bank before using your card in Chile. Similarly, I use HSBC offers an ATM card that only charges $2.50 USD per transaction when using another bank’s ATM. Not as good as Zero, but still a lot better than what you get with other banks.
If you have a Cirrus card, your per withdrawal limit is higher, as much as $300.000-400.000 CLP in some cases (depending on your bank limits). Currently, the only bank that is free is Banco Internacional with different locations throughout the city.
If you need to withdraw a lot of money, you can also ask your bank to raise your daily limit allowed from the ATM if you need to get more money out. Most ATMs in Chile have a 200.000 CLP limit per withdrawal (non Cirrus), but you can make multiple withdrawals to get around this and get as much as your bank limit allows.
Money Transfer Shops
You can send money abroad using AFEX, they have a lot of branches. They will have Moneygram or Western Union. If you’re transferring less than 1,000 USD, this might be the best options as both services charge about $10USD for transfers up to $1,000 USD
Similarly, after opening up an account with Intervalors, they can wire money to your US or international bank account for $20 USD. Plus, their service is great.
Online Transfer Services
There are an abundance of online transfers services that will help you transfer funds from you home country to Chile. Some popular services include Transferwise, Xoom, and Worldremit. All of these services charge fees and exchange rate fees so they can end up being a bit expense but they are good options as they offer same day transfers services.
You might have heard all the rage about bitcoin and how the prices have seen sharp increases and declines. But did you know one of its purported uses to send money internationally while avoiding the exchange fees? The way it works is you buy bitcoins in the US with your US bank account and then sell them in Chile for CLP. You’ll get nearly market exchange rate and low fees for the buy/sell transaction.
The best way to do it currently is to buy the bitcoin in the US using coinbase and selling them in Chile using the marketplace comprabitcoins.com. Coinbase charges a 1% fee (plus a $0.15 bank fee) for each transfer from dollars to bitcoin. Comprabitcoins charges 2.5% commission for selling your bitcoins in Chile.