For people coming to Chile, credit cards may be the easiest way to deal with your larger expenditures (check on conversion fees before you go), but for day-to-day spending, the metro, taxis and the occasional fresh-squeezed juice on the street, you’re going to need cash. People take a variety of approaches to this, including bringing US cash in and changing it either at the airport or at a “casa de cambio” downtown or in their hotel. The best rates tend to be downtown on Agustinas, not far from the Moneda Palace, but the difference is not that substantial in most places, and if you’re not in the neighborhood, this may not be the best option.
The rest of us, who don’t bring in cash, or do so in limited amounts, will be taking money out of a Chilean ATM. There are may banks in Santiago, including the following:
Banco de Chile
I recently did a sweep of all of these to determine a) what the maximum withdrawal is and b) what the fee is on each of the banks. For all of these machines, I tested in downtown Santiago, the maximum withdrawal is 200,000 CLP, or around $400 US dollars (it used to be twice that, but recent banking regulations led banks to lower the amount). The kicker is that in addition to whatever fees your home bank may charge you for using an out-of-network bank and/or exchange rates (and I include Citibank US users who use the Edwards/Citibank machines in Chile), these ATM machines will also charge you 2500 CLP (around US $5) to take out your money.
While in the long run and over the course of your trip, $5 might not be that much money, it represents more than a 1% charge on your withdrawal, and also, it’s your money. You should decide how you get to spend it.
I did a little research and discovered that the bank Banco Security, which has a few (but not very many) locations around town, does not charge the 2500 CLP fee on withdrawals. I tried it out at the lone ATM Machine in the interior of an office building at Apoquindo 3100 in the El Golf neighborhood (Las Condes). if you’re not up there anyway, it might not be worth your while to go up just to take out money (there are locations downtown, but I did not see any ATMs), but if you are (dirng business hours), you can take out your money, and easily find a way to spend 5 free dollars at any of the excellent restaurants nearby.
Note: Outside of Santiago, limits may vary. I was able to take out a larger sum of money at an ATM on Easter Island recently.