Currencies and Monetary Terms for Spanish-Speaking Countries

Most common monetary unit is the peso

Mexican currency and coins
Pesos mexicanos. (Mexican pesos.).

Tetra Images  /Getty Images

Here are the currencies used in countries where Spanish is the official language. In Latin American countries where the dollar symbol ($) is used, it is common to use the abbreviation M.N. (moneda nacional) to distinguish the national currency from the U.S. dollar in situations where the context doesn't make clear which currency is meant, as in tourist areas.

Although all currencies are divided into smaller units of a hundredth, those smaller units are sometimes of historical interest only. In Paraguay and Venezuela, for example, it takes thousands of units of local currency to equal a U.S. dollar, making the hundredth of a unit of little practical use.

The most common name in Latin America for a monetary unit is peso, used in eight countries. Peso can also mean "weight," with its use for money dating to the time when monetary value was based on weights of metals.

Spanish-Speaking Countries' Currencies

Argentina: The main unit of currency is the Argentine peso, divided into 100 centavos. Symbol: $.

Bolivia: The main unit of currency in Bolivia is the boliviano, divided into 100 centavos. Symbol: Bs.

Chile: The main unit of currency is the Chilean peso, divided into 100 centavos. Symbol: $.

Colombia: The main unit of currency is the Colombian peso, divided into 100 centavos. Symbol: $.

Costa Rica: The main unit of currency is the colón, divided into 100 céntimos. Symbol: ₡. (This symbol may not display properly on all devices. It looks similar to the U.S. cent symbol, ¢, except with two diagonal slashes instead of one.)

Cuba: Cuba uses two currencies, the peso cubano and the peso cubano convertible. The first is primarily for everyday use by Cubans; the other, worth considerably more (fixed for many years at $1 U.S.), is used primarily for luxury and imported items and by tourists. Both types of pesos are divided into 100 centavos. Both also are symbolized by the $ symbol; when necessary to distinguish between the currencies, the symbol CUC$ is often used for the convertible peso, while the peso used by ordinary Cubans is CUP$. The convertible peso goes by various local names including cuc, chavito, and verde.

Dominican Republic (la República Dominicana): The main unit of currency is the Dominican peso, divided into 100 centavos. Symbol: $.

Ecuador: Ecuador uses U.S. dollars as its official currency, referring to them as dólares, divided into 100 centavos. Ecuador has its own coins for values under $1, which are used in addition to U.S. coins. The coins are similar in appearance but not weight with U.S. coins. Symbol: $.

Ecuatorial Guinea (Guinea Ecuatorial): The main unit of currency is the Central African franco (franc), divided into 100 céntimos. Symbol: CFAfr.

El Salvador: El Salvador uses U.S. dollars as its official currency, referring to them as dólares, divided into 100 centavos. El Salvador dollarized its economy in 2001; previously its unit of currency was the colón. Symbol: $.

Guatemala: The main unit of currency in Guatemala is the quetzal, divided into 100 centavos. Foreign currencies, particularly the U.S. dollar, are also recognized as legal tender. Symbol: Q.

Honduras: The main unit of currency in Honduras is the lempira, divided into 100 centavos. Symbol: L.

Mexico (México): The main unit of currency is the Mexican peso, divided into 100 centavos. Symbol: $.

Nicaragua: The main unit of currency is the córdoba, divided into 100 centavos. Symbol: C$.

Panama (Panamá): Panama uses the balboa as its official currency, divided into 100 centésimos. The value of the balboa has long been pegged at $1 U.S.; U.S. currency is used, as Panama does not publish its own banknotes. Panama has its own coinage, however, with values ranging to 1 balboa. Symbol: B/.

Paraguay: The main unit of currency in Paraguay is the guaraní (plural guaraníes), divided into 100 céntimos. Symbol: G.

Peru (Perú): The main unit of currency is the nuevo sol (meaning "new sun"), usually referred to simply as the sol. It is divided into 100 céntimos. Symbol: S/.

Spain (España): Spain, as a member of the European Union, uses the euro, divided into 100 cents or céntimos. It can be freely be used in most of Europe other than the United Kingdom and Switzerland. Symbol: €.

Uruguay: The main unit of currency is Uruguayan peso, divided into 100 centésimos. Symbol: $.

Venezuela: The main unit of currency in Venezuela is the bolívar, divided into 100 céntimos. Technically, the currency is the bolívar soberano (sovereign bolívar), it having replaced the earlier bolívar fuerte (strong bolívar) at a ratio of 100,000/1 in 2018 as the result of hyperinflation. Only the word bolívar is used on the currency. Symbols: Bs, BsS (for bolívar soberano).

Common Spanish Words Related to Money

Paper money is known in general as papel moneda, while paper bills are called billetes. Coins are known as monedas.

Credit and debit cards are known as tarjetas de crédito and tarjetas de débito, respectively.

A sign that says "sólo en efectivo" indicates that the establishment accepts only physical money, not debit or credit cards.

There are several uses for cambio, which refers to change (not just the monetary kind). Cambio by itself is used to refer to the change from a transaction. The exchange rate is either the tasa de cambio or tipo de cambio. A place where money is exchanged can be called a casa de cambio.

Counterfeit money is known as dinero falso or dinero falsificado

There are numerous slang or colloquial terms for money, many of the specific to a country or region. Among the more widespread slang terms (and their literal meanings) are plata (silver), lana (wool), guita (twine), pasta (pasta), and pisto (vegetable hash).

A check (as from a checking account) is a cheque, while a money order is a giro postal. An account (as in a bank) is a cuenta, a word that also can be used for the bill given to a restaurant customer after a meal is served.