Monday, December 7, 2009

Paying Bills in BA

BILLS. Everyone’s got ‘em. Everyone hates ‘em. But they have to be paid, otherwise we don’t get hot water or lights or Internets. Now, no hot water I could deal with, but no Internet?! Sweet mercy, not that!

Back in the States bills are mostly paid online, or by sending off checks in little envelopes the companies so generously provide along with their demands for payment. But here, bills are paid differently. In general, transactions in Argentina are done using cash (efectivo) as opposed to with credit/debit cards, and paying monthly bills (facturas) is no exception.

The easiest way to pay a bill in Buenos Aires is to take it to a location that has a Pago Fácil (Easy Pay) or, to a lesser extent Rapipago (Quick Pay). You can find Pago Fácils (plural?) in most Farmacitys and also in various grocery stores, locutorios, and some kiosks--there will always be a sign/sticker indicating a Pago Fácil location (see lovely Google images graphic). Rapipagos are fewer and farther between, but they will also have signs indicating their locations. It’s best if you can find a smaller location that is off the main roads to pay your bills at, because the larger stores like Farmacity tend to have ridiculously long lines of people waiting to pay their various facturas. For example, today I waited about 40 minutes to pay three bills. Typical.

Anyway, once you find a Pago Fácil, it really is very easy. You hand the cashier your bill, he rings it up as if it were a bag of cookies, he tells you the amount, and you give him the cash. Then he will take the factura and run it through a machine that that will print your receipt right on the actual bill. Say “Gracias,” and you’re done! Apart from the waiting in long lines sometimes, it really is a pretty effective system, and given the reliability of the Argentine post, I would say it’s a lot more trustworthy than sending off checks. Plus, a lot of “tourists” live here “illegally” and don’t have checks, so it’s great for people like us. With cash, no one asks questions. How mafia.

If you miss the window of payment (vencimiento), or both windows of payment considering they usually give you two, you will probably have to go to the office of the company to pay the bill. The address will most likely be listed on the factura, and when you get to the office the procedure will be the same. Present bill, pay, get it stamped, done. I recently had to do this for a Metrogas bill, and it couldn’t have been simpler. Now if only there were a South America Fácil…Argentina could use an Easy Button, fo sho.


  1. Correo Argentino is not really bad, all people who actually use it said that, the hearsay is just one of the usual Argentina's worst of the world something which are not true.
    I'm a coin collector and never had a problem receiving my mail from a lot of countries around the globe, even when you can feel some heavy coin in the envelope.

  2. its not that Correo Argentino is's more annoying. por ejemplo, today i went to pick up a package because i got a piece of paper saying i had one waiting for me. when i got to Correo, they told me i had to go all the way to Retiro to pick it up, between the hours of 10 and 5 M-F. I WORK! when am i supposed to get this package?? it's just not a logical system. gahhh!

  3. I know that digusting issue, I think it has to do whith the tariff payed for the sender.
    For the record I tell you my experience.
    While living in Castelar some friend sent me two books in a box from NYC, due the the size of the box I had to retrieve it in the local oficina de correo.
    Some stuff I bought from China for which I pay shipping cost, half of a box of milk his size, about 6 in differents times came direct to my front door by the mailman.

    I went trough the retiro pain for the first time when I order some cheaps items fron China advertised as free shipping.

    You forgot to mention the waste of time to send a single letter, media mañana !

    I was refering to the reliable comment only.

    Sorry in advance if I mistreat your language, I'm practicing here.

    Ps;I appreciate you kind insight about our culture.Hope you the best.

  4. If you own a credit or debit card, there is automatic payment -"Débito automático"-. No more queues.