Travel Money Guide: Ecuador

Rates and Fees verified correct on April 27th, 2017

The currency of Ecuador is the United States dollar and cash is king in the land of the equator.

Known for the Galapagos Islands, the highest capital city in the world and some of the best surf in South America, Ecuador is a popular destination for backpackers, nature lovers and thrill seekers. At the turn of the millennium, Ecuador’s official currency switched over from the Sucre to the United States dollar – the most accessible currency in the world. Here, we look at some of the best credit, travel and debit card to use on a holiday to Ecuador and South America.

Which option is right for your next trip?

ANZ Travel Card

ANZ Travel Card

The ANZ Travel Card is a prepaid card that can be loaded with up to 10 currencies to make purchases overseas at over 38 million merchants and over 2.3 million ATMs worldwide.

  • Lock in your exchange rates and know how much money you have to spend
  • No transaction fees for electronic purchases in Australia and overseas
  • Multiple reload options - online, over the phone or in person
  • Manage your money online or over phone 24/7
  • Spare card if in case one is lost or stolen

    Compare travel cards for Ecuador

    Rates last updated April 27th, 2017
    Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
    ANZ Travel Card
    ANZ Travel Card
    AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD AUD 3.50, USD 2.50, GBP 2.00, EUR 2.20, NZD 4.50, CAD 3.00, HKD 20.00, SGD 4.00, THB 95, JPY 260 1.1% of the value purchased $0 Go to site More
    NAB Traveller Card
    NAB Traveller Card
    AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD $0 per withdrawal on international ATMs and $3.75 per withdrawal at any Australian ATMs $0 $0 Go to site More
    Qantas Card with Qantas Cash
    Qantas Card with Qantas Cash
    AUD, AED, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD AUD 1.95, CAD 2.00, EUR 1.50, GBP 1.25, HKD 15.00, JPY 160, NZD 2.50, SGD 2.50, USD 1.95, THB 70.00, AED 6.50 $0 $0 Go to site More
    Travelex Travel Card
    Travelex Travel Card
    AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD Travelex does not charge an ATM withdrawal fee when you use your Travelex Multi-currency Cash Passport to withdraw currencies that are loaded on the card at overseas ATMs where MasterCard is accepted. The greater of 1.1% of the initial load / reload amount or AU$15.00 $0 Go to site More
    Rates last updated April 27th, 2017
    Foreign Currency Conversion Fee (MC) Foreign Currency Conversion Fee (VISA) Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Annual fee
    Bankwest Qantas Platinum MasterCard
    Enjoy a high credit limit with complimentary travel insurances and earn 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases.
    0% of transaction value $160 p.a. Go to site More info
    28 Degrees Platinum MasterCard
    Benefit from no international transaction fees on purchases, no currency conversion fees and no annual fee.
    0% of transaction value $0 $0 p.a. Go to site More info
    Bankwest Qantas World MasterCard
    Earn uncapped Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases. Also enjoy no foreign transaction fees on online and overseas spend.
    0% of transaction value $270 p.a. Go to site More info
    Rates last updated April 27th, 2017
    Monthly Account Fee Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Fee Free Deposit p.m. Details
    St.George Complete Freedom Account
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Visa $0 $2,000 $0 account keeping fees if you deposit at least $2,000 per month. Otherwise, a $5 fee applies. Unlimited free withdrawals at St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. Go to site More
    Westpac Choice
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Mastercard $0 $2,000 $0 account keeping fees if you deposit at least $2,000 per month. Otherwise, a $5 monthly fee applies. Unlimited free withdrawals at St.George, Westpac, Bank of Melbourne and BankSA ATMs. Go to site More
    Bank of Melbourne Express Freedom
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Visa $0 $1,000 $0 account keeping fees if you deposit at least $1,000 per month. Otherwise, a $3 monthly fee applies. Unlimited free withdrawals at BankSA, St.George, Westpac and Bank of Melbourne ATMs. Go to site More
    Bankwest Qantas Transaction Account
    No overseas ATM withdrawal fees (charged by Bankwest), 3rd party ATM fees and international transaction fees may still apply.
    Mastercard $0 $2,000 $0 account keeping fees when you deposit at least $2,000 into your account each month. Otherwise, a $6 monthly fee applies. Unlimited Free withdrawals at Bankwest and CommBank ATMs in Australia. Go to site More
    Bankwest Platinum Debit MasterCard
    Link to an eligible Bankwest transaction account. Plus no overseas ATM withdrawal fees
    Mastercard $0 $4,000 $0 account keeping fees if you deposit at least $4,000 per month. Unlimited free withdrawals at Bankwest and CommBank ATMs. More
    Citibank Plus Everyday Account
    No international transaction fees and no overseas ATM withdrawals fees if you use a Citibank ATM overseas.
    Mastercard $0 $0 No ATM fees using Citibank, Westpac, BankSA and St.George branded ATMs in Australia. Use overseas Citibank ATMs for free. More

    How many dollars do I need for a trip to Ecuador?

    Less expensive than neighbouring Brazil or Colombia, Ecuador is a budget South American holiday destination. This means you can travel through Ecuador on a shoestring budget. However, Ecuador can deliver a five-star experience as well – especially in Quito.

    $5 - $10 per night
    2 star hotel
    $10 - $50 per night
    5 star hotel
    $50 - $150 per night
    $1 - $2
    $5 - $10
    5 star restaurant
    $20 - $40 per dish
    cameraWalk around the old town
    Visit the balcony of the Basilica del Voto Nacional
    Guided tour of Otavalo Marketplace with lunch

    Exchange rate history

    As Ecuador uses the American dollar, it’s easy to see how much your Aussie dollars will get you when you exchange them. If you’re concerned about currency fluctuations while you’re away, you can lock in a rate using a travel money card. Travellers cheques let you do the same in many countries, but in Ecuador it’s almost impossible to find a place to get them exchanged for cash.

    YearAverage annual exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to US Dollar (USD)

    Should you take a travel card, debit card or credit card?

    Although Visa and MasterCard travel, debit and credit cards are accepted in larger cities, such as Guayaquil, Quito, Esmeraldas and Manta, a lot of other places don’t have card payment options. As a general rule, always plan to have cash as your first method of payment. Also note that while American Express cards are accepted in some places such as major hotels and retailers, using a Visa or a MasterCard card is a far safer bet.

    A quick summary of travel money options for Ecuador

    Travel money optionProsCons
    Prepaid travel money cards
    • US dollar is supported by all Australian travel cards
    • Lock-in exchange rates
    • Save on currency conversion fees
    • Let you make over the counter purchases and ATM withdrawals
    • Emergency card replacement
    • Some banks may charge ATM withdrawal fees
    Debit cards for travel
    •  Fraud protection
    • International ATM withdrawal fee waiver on some cards
    •  Limited acceptance in Ecuador
    Credit cards for travel
    • Accepted worldwide
    • Contactless payments
    • Features such as interest-free period and complimentary travel insurance
    • Withdrawing cash can be considered a "cash advance" and can charge you fees and high interests
    Traveller's cheques
    •  Security
    • Cannot be encashed in Ecuador
    •  Greater payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    •  More difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft

    How travel cards, credit cards, debit cards and cash work in Ecuador

    Have a read of how travel cards, debit cards, credit cards, travellers cheques and cash work in Ecuador.

    Using a travel prepaid card

    Ecuador uses the US dollar, a currency  supported by all travel cards issued in Australia. These cards allow you to avoid currency conversion fees and lock in a competitive exchange rate before your trip. Many also come with an additional, emergency card in case the first one is lost or stolen.A travel card can be used to make over-the-counter purchases and ATM withdrawals in Ecuador.
    If you’re heading to the coastal towns of Ecuador, you will need to make ATM withdrawals so you can get cash in US dollars. Look for a travel card that doesn’t charge a fee for international ATM withdrawals, such as the NAB Traveller Card, Travelex Travel Card or the Cash Passport MasterCard. Note that the Ecuadorian bank or ATM operator may still charge a fee when you withdraw cash.
    Also keep in mind that the currencies of other popular destinations in South America such as Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Argentina can not be loaded on any travel card at present. If Ecuador is just one stop on a bigger trip, you may want to consider one of the other types of travel money products as well.

    Using a debit card

    A debit card can be used to make over-the-counter purchases and cash withdrawals from ATMs. Like credit cards and travel cards, debit card transactions are protected against fraud and unauthorised transactions.

    Debit cards are accepted by few merchants in Ecuador. The price of ATM withdrawals should be a significant factor in your comparison if you’re looking to apply for a travel transaction account.

    From the products we compare, the Citibank Plus Transaction Account provides free international ATM withdrawals and also doesn’t charge a currency conversion fee. But you’ll still pay the local ATM operator fee of about US$1.50.

    Using a credit card

    You can use a credit card to pay for flights and online bookings before or during your trip. Major retailers and restaurants in Ecuador also take cards. Credit cards should not be used for ATM withdrawals – In Ecuador or anywhere else for that matter. Cash advance fees and charges can eat up your available credit limit quickly. You can preload a credit card with your own money – something travellers do to avoid the cash advance interest rate (although cash advance fees may still apply). But some credit card features, such as fraud protection, may be void in this instance.

    If you plan on using a credit card when you’re in Ecuador, look for a card that doesn’t charge for currency conversion or international ATM transactions, such as the 28 Degrees MasterCard. Preloading your own cash on this card allows you to avoid cash advance interest charges if you withdraw money, but you will still pay a cash advance fee for these types of transactions. Other no currency conversion fee credit cards include the Bankwest Platinum range of credit cards and the Coles Rewards MasterCard.

    Using traveller's cheques

    According to the American Express website, there are currently no locations in Ecuador where you can get your traveller’s cheques cashed. You can easily get United States dollars by making ATM withdrawals when you arrive in the country.

     Paying with cash in Ecuador

    Cash is the main payment method used in Ecuador, which means you will need to have US notes and coins on hand to pay for things at most places. If you want to limit the amount of cash you have on hand (i.e. for security), make sure you have one or more cards that you can use to withdraw cash from ATMs throughout your trip.

    Peter surfing the Ecuadorian coast

    Peter recently backpacked across South America. He visited Colombia and travelled to the south of the continent. He started his trip in Esmeraldas, continued south to Guayaquil, Montanita and finally Quito before travelling to Peru. Peter spent one month in Ecuador in total.

    What cards did you take with you?

    Peter took two cards with him to Ecuador. He has a St.George Express Freedom Account and a St.George Vertigo Visa credit card.

    Where could you use your cards?

    Peter says he didn’t expect to be able to use his debit and credit cards much in Ecuador. Excluding flights and one meal at a nice restaurant, every transaction on his trip was made in cash.

    Hotels he stayed at (especially in places such as Esmeraldas, Atacames and Montanita) were also cash only. Meals and drinks and travel between towns and cities all had to be paid for using cash too. Peter says he didn’t spent much time in the urban centres of Quito and Guayaquil, but he expects more businesses are setup to accept card payments in these places.

    What about ATM withdrawals?

    Peter says he regularly made ATM withdrawals in Ecuador as everything was cash only. He says he withdrew US$300 at a time from whichever ATM machine he could find. The most common ATMs he saw were operated by the Bank of Guayaquil. He used his St.George Visa debit card at these ATMs and both St.George and the ATM operator charged fees. He paid an international ATM withdrawal fee of $5 and a local ATM withdrawal fee of US$1.50 every time.

    Do you have any travel money tips?

    • Plan ahead. The Internet in Ecuador is temperamental and Peter says it’s hard to find a reliable connection (particularly on the coast). He recommends making sure you transfer money to your transaction account in advance so you can withdraw money when you need to.
    • Everything is negotiable. Peter says not to be afraid to ask for a better price if you feel you’re being overcharged. Locals have been known to take advantage of travellers with a lack of knowledge from time to time.

    Exchanging cash

    South American countries use a range of different currencies. If you’re travelling throughout the continent, exchanging money in Ecuador can be an issue outside the major cities. A bank is your best option. If you’re travelling from Peru, Colombia or Brazil and you have sols, pesos or reals, you can exchange the money to US dollars at some restaurants and hotels. You may not pay a commission on the transaction, but the rate will be much worse than what you can get a bank. Note that it’s not easy to exchange Aussie money for US dollars in Ecuador.

    Finding cash and ATMs in Ecuador

    Buying currency in Australia

    Ecuador uses the United States dollar. You can easily exchange Australian to United States dollars before you leave the country. There are no restrictions to the amount of US dollars you can bring with you to Ecuador. These financial institutions can sell you United States dollars in Australia.

    There are many ATMs in Ecuadorian cities and key tourist destinations. If you’re concerned about getting a good rate when you exchange currencies, you may want to consider a card that offers free international ATM withdrawalsATM withdrawals are subject to the Visa and MasterCard international exchange rate, which is often better than what you can get exchanging money in other ways.

    Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

    A combination of cards and cash is the best way to approach any overseas trip. You’ll need cash for most transactions in Ecuador, especially if you’re travelling down the coast. Credit cards are great for big ticket purchases and offer interest free days if you pay the balance in full, while a debit card or travel card is ideal for ATM withdrawals. Whichever combination of products you take with you to Ecuador, be sure to spread your budget across a few different cards and always have some cash for emergencies.
    Ecuador’s switch to the US dollar in 2000 has made organising travel money easier for Australians. But if Ecuador is just one stop on a South American holiday, think about how you’re going to spend money in other currencies during the rest of your trip.  If you have a question about travel money for Ecuador, feel free to get in touch with us by using the form at the bottom of the page.

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    This page was last modified on 3 January 2017 at 5:31pm.

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