Frommer's lists exact prices in the local currency. However, rates fluctuate, so before departing consult a currency exchange website, such as www.oanda.com/convert/classic, to check up-to-the-minute rates.
Currency -- The U.S. dollar is the coin of the realm. Keep in mind that once you leave Ponce or San Juan, you might have difficulty finding a place to exchange foreign money (unless you're staying at a large resort), so it's wise to handle your exchange needs before you head off into rural parts of Puerto Rico.
ATMs are linked to a network that most likely includes your bank at home. Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7787; www.mastercard.com) and PLUS (tel. 800/843-7587; www.visa.com) are the two most popular networks in the U.S.; call or check online for ATM locations at your destination. Be sure you know your four-digit PIN before you leave home, and be sure to find out your daily withdrawal limit before you depart. You can also get cash advances on your credit card at an ATM. Keep in mind that credit card companies try to protect themselves from theft by limiting the funds someone can withdraw away from home; it's therefore best to call your credit card company before you leave and let them know where you're going and how much you plan to spend. You'll get the best exchange rate if you withdraw money from an ATM, but keep in mind that many banks impose a fee every time a card is used at an ATM in a different city or bank. On top of this, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee.
There is a currency exchange at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and at large bank branches such as Banco Popular.
Traveler's checks are something of an anachronism from the days before the ATM made cash accessible at any time. Even given the fees you'll pay for ATM use at banks other than your own, it is still probably a better bet than traveler's checks.
You can get traveler's checks at almost any bank. American Express offers denominations of $20, $50, $100, $500, and (for cardholders only) $1,000. You'll pay a service charge ranging from 1% to 4%. You can also get American Express traveler's checks over the phone by calling tel. 800/221-7282; Amex gold and platinum cardholders who use this number are exempt from the 1% fee.
Visa offers traveler's checks at Citibank locations nationwide, as well as at several other banks. The service charge ranges between 1% and 2%; checks come in denominations of $20, $50, $100, $500, and $1,000. Call tel. 800/732-1322 for information. AAA members can obtain Visa checks for a $9.95 fee (for checks, minimum of $300 up to $1,500) at most AAA offices or by calling tel. 866/339-3378. MasterCard also offers traveler's checks. Call tel. 800/223-9920 for a location near you.
Credit cards are invaluable when you're traveling. They are a safe way to carry money and provide a convenient record of all your expenses. You can also withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at any bank (though you'll start paying hefty interest on the advance the moment you receive the cash). At most banks, you don't even need to go to a teller; you can get a cash advance at the ATM if you know your PIN. If you've forgotten yours, or didn't even know you had one, call the number on the back of your credit card and ask the card issuer to send it to you. It usually takes 5 to 7 business days, though some banks will provide the number over the phone if you tell them your mother's maiden name or pass some other security clearance test.
In San Juan and at all the big resorts on the island, even some of the smaller inns, credit cards are commonly accepted. Moreover, an incredible array of establishments accept payment with ATM cards. However, as you tour through rural areas and if you intend to patronize small, out-of-the-way establishments, it's still wise to carry sufficient greenbacks for emergencies. Visa and MasterCard are accepted most widely throughout Puerto Rico.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.