Mastercard at ATMs and banking in Uruguay


Short time ago we spent 18 days in Uruguay.  It was a very positive experience, although there were some eyebrow raisers too.  Looking in our rear view mirror: we liked Uruguay very much, only one big problem the banks!

During all of the time we could not withdraw any money from the many different ATMs (including inter alia banared and redbrou) we tried,  about 20 at different banks and financial service centres.  We also tried at banks directly.  All to no avail.  Having returned to Canada Mastercard International did not care to help and my bank would have liked to help but could not.  Using the card for purchases was no problem.  Did anyone have a similar experience?  It would also be helpful to hear from someone who managed to withdraw cash with a Mastercard not issued by a South-American bank.

While we are looking at Uruguayan banks, did anybody manage to open a bank account from abroad, even if it is through an intermediary such as HSBC in your home country?  It would be much appreciated if you could share any positive experiences.

Thank you and may you have a blessed Advent!


ATMs are very hit and miss. I think it has something to do with the wind direction and moon phase but I couldn't even withdraw over the counter at a branch of my own bank. I brought a year's supply of cash when I arrived here last year and now use World Remit for cash pick up while l wait for my Uruguayan birth certificate which will enable me to open a bank account. I looked at an expat account with HSBC but the clerk informed me that I needed US$100,000 which she clearly thought was beyond my means.

A year on from my last post and here I am still without a bank account. My partida arrived last December (2020) but when I went to DNI for the full cedula needed to open an account, they noticed an anomaly on the partida. I am still waiting for the corrected partida. The last I heard was that the lawyer at DNI didn't know how to resolve the issue.

Now this is getting critical because I had been remitting myself through World Remit but I received an email from them saying 'Good news!' From January, transaction may only be made via the mobile app which isn't available here. I was hoping to build up a reserve but when I went to collect, I was told that the local intermediary, More Money, had denied payout. I asked World Remit what the problem was and they blamed More Money. More Money, of course, blamed World Remit. Eventually WR said I had to submit id and acknowledged receipt saying 'Thanks for submitting your document(s). We'll send you an email as soon as we've verified your identity. It usually takes 5 minutes but sometimes can take us up to 48 hours.' but today they are saying 'We have received your email. Unfortunately, we have not received a copy of your ID yet. Could you please upload it by using the link we have sent you via email. Thanks'.

So now I am going to have to use an ATM which my bank assures me will be ok.

If you should read about an ex pat found to have starved to death whilst having a large sum of money, you will know why.

As a footnote, HSBC seems to have disappeared.

Banking is expensive but not that difficult in Uruguay.  You can open one with a foreign passport even and very quickly.   But you need proof of where the funds come from and references in Uruguay help greatly, as does a Uruguayan Address, even if it is only that of a friend of yours, lawyer, some banks even take a bnb.  Just make sure that your funds documentation is very believable!

The banking machines are another thing.  Never mind using a foreign credit card, I even sometimes have problems with my Uruguayan debit cards.

Good if HSBC has disappeared.  It will safe a lot of people from having a lot of trouble!

@ Alexis Mandrake

If you have not solved your problem yet, I hope you have not starved yet but had a very blessed Christmas and a good start into the new year.  Please send me a private message if you want to benefit from my experience.  Perhaps it will help you

A good 2024 to all!  May the world become a safer place for all of us again.


I found this information very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write it. I do have a US Bank account. When I lived in Belize about eight years ago, I was able to use my debit card at an ATM and take out as much money as I needed. This was just as a visitor. I was hoping the same situation would exist in Uruguay. are these requirements in place for visitors?

@jasm332 When I arrived here, I brought a year's supply of cash in GBP and USD. You have to declare anything over USD10,000 and I showed the till receipt from my bank so all went well. When I was at migraciones, we talked about income and they suggested that a debit card would suffice. I haven't used it at an atm since I have been here and haven't tested someones's assertion that you can always get money from a casino's atm.


I had posted a response but it does not appear.  So here I go again ...

Since my last comment here I have learned by having lived here for almost a year full-time.

I had a bank account within 2 days, no need to stash money in the kitchen cabinet.  It costs twice as much for foreigners (I used my Canadian passport) at this bank and the Uruguayans are paying through their nose already.  That is why many Uruguayans do not have a bank account (I am told).

My MasterCard credit card worked everywhere in the world including Ukraine, Turkey and Mexico, to name just a few.  Not here.

With my Uruguayan accounts I naturally also have debit cards.  They work most of the time, but there are some surprises and the banks do not always react very quickly or intelligently.  Bear in mind that most banks have only very few brick and mortar locations, even fewer that are staffed and those are only open for half a day. If you travel outside of the Montevideo area you likely will have to use a banred ATM that charges you per transaction or travel relatively far to a larger community.  Only BROU (government) has many branches.  I have not tried them yet.  Will do so soon though, because I am not happy.  Better to have two banks if one fails to serve you.

Be careful, be prepared, but do not despair.  The credit card works for buying where it is accepted (many stores sell only for cash).