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Currency in Colombia

One of the challenges and immersions for many people when traveling or starting to live in a new country is understanding how everything works, from the culture and customs to crucial things like laws and how the national currency and financial transactions operate.
If you’re seeking information about currency in Medellin, here at Medellin.co, we’ve got you covered. So, discover some things you should know:
In Colombia, the official currency is the Colombian peso, with its ISO code being COP. Paper bills come in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, and 100,000 Pesos, but this last one is not commonly circulated. Coins are available in 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 Pesos.

It’s advisable to carry smaller denominations whenever possible. Some small businesses and Taxi drivers may decline to accept large bills like the 50,000 and 100,000 COP notes due to a shortage of change. It’s better to break these notes at larger establishments. Additionally, it’s wise to avoid accepting torn or heavily worn bills, as they may be difficult to use elsewhere.

Tips for Authenticating and Managing Cash

Counterfeit notes can be a concern when dealing with currency in Colombia, much like in many other South American countries. While it shouldn’t ruin your trip, it’s wise to stay vigilant about the cash you receive. It’s common for shop and restaurant staff to verify the authenticity of 50,000 COP notes, so don’t take it personally if they check. It’s a standard precaution worth adopting yourself.
There are several security features to look for when spotting counterfeit notes. Check for a watermark, inspect the metallic strip, and feel the texture of the historical figure’s hair on the note – it should be slightly rougher than regular paper. Additionally, fold the note in half and rub it together; authentic notes should feel waxy with raised print scratching together, unlike regular printing paper.
Be cautious when dealing with taxi drivers, as some may attempt to pass off counterfeit bills. Most drivers prefer smaller denominations like 20,000 COP. If a driver eagerly accepts a larger note, be wary of a possible scam. One common tactic is the “bait and switch,” where they exchange your genuine note for a fake one and then claim they can’t provide change. To prevent this, visibly inspect the note yourself before handing it over and make a mental note of its serial number.

Banks, Credit Cards, and ATMs in Medellin

Before heading to Medellin, make sure to check with your bank about any fees for international transactions. Remember, both the Colombian bank and your own might charge you when you use an ATM. Some U.S. banks, like Charles Schwab don’t charge for these transactions and might even refund your ATM fees.

During your stay in Medellin, it’s essential also to consider knowing how the banking services, ATMs, and credit card works. In Colombia, Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, along with American Express and Diners Club. Bancolombia is the most widely used bank, with branches and ATMs across the country. Other banks you might come across in Medellin include Citibank, Davivienda, Banco de Bogotá, Servibanca, and Banco Caja Social.

ATMs are plentiful in Medellin, especially in areas like El Poblado. Different banks may allow withdrawals ranging from 800,000 to 2,700,000 COP, depending on their policies and your personal limits. Keep in mind that some international cards may face issues at Bancolombia ATMs, which reject around 25% of transactions without clear reasons. If you encounter difficulties, try another bank or withdraw money directly from the counter (don’t forget your passport). Always stay cautious at ATMs, especially by avoiding solitary visits and checking for any signs of tampering.
When using credit cards for purchases, be prepared to present a government-issued photo ID, like a passport or driver’s license. You might also encounter the question “A cuántas cuotas?” or “How many installments?” This refers to the option of spreading payments over several months, although it might not apply to foreign cards. In such cases, a simple “Una por favor” or “One, please” suffices.
In Colombia, PayPal is not commonly used because of difficulties in linking it to local bank accounts and high transaction fees. Therefore, it is helpful to have an alternative payment method available to ensure smoother transactions while in the country. Carry cash, as some establishments only accept cash payments.

If you’re going to take money out of an ATM. Try avoiding street ATM; It’ll be safer to use an ATM in a popular store or Mall. 

Money Exchange in Medellin

ATMs are Medellin’s best bet for quick cash. But if you need to swap cash, there are exchange spots all over the city. You’ll find them near Parque Lleras and in big malls like Santa Fe, Oviedo, El Tesoro, and Viva Envigado.

One trusted choice is Unicambios, found in Oviedo and Santa Fe malls. Check their website for current rates before going.
If you’re running short on time and require immediate cash, Western Union is a reliable place to receive it. You can make an online payment using your Visa card and collect your money from any Western Union office in Medellin by providing your transaction number and passport.
Remitly is another option for sending money abroad. It offers competitive rates and various delivery methods, like bank deposits and cash pickup.