5 Fascinating Facts about the Colombian Peso

Last updated on May 7th, 2024 at 04:27 pm

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Colombia is a beautiful, diverse country with mountain landscapes, Caribbean beaches, and a rich cultural heritage. From coffee production to influential music, Colombia continues to have an outsized impact on today’s world. Just watch Disney’s Colombia-based Encanto or listen to any Shakira album, and you’ll understand. But what about Colombia’s money? An important aspect of any country’s history is its currency. In Colombia, that’s the Colombian peso.

Colombian Peso bills

Whether you’re looking to visit Colombia or send money home, you’ll want to know more about Colombia’s currency. Read on for the basics, the history, and a few fascinating facts about the Colombian Peso.

Colombia’s currency code is COP and the major issuing bank is the Central Bank of Colombia, or the Banco de la República. This currency comes in the form of bills and coins and is symbolized with a dollar sign, like this: $.

Colombian banknotes come in the following amounts
Colombian coins come in the following amounts

A Brief History of the Colombian Peso

The currency of Colombia has undergone numerous changes since its inception in the 1800s. Like many other Spanish colonies, Colombia instituted its own monetary system after overthrowing colonial rule.

Colombian pesos in the 19th Century

  • In 1810, Colombia switched from the Spanish real to the peso.
  • Colombians also used gold and silver coins as currency.

Colombian pesos in the 20th Century

  • In 1984, Colombia stopped minting peso coins (centavos) under the amount of 1 peso.
  • The smallest minted coin amount is 50 pesos.
  • Pesos could be converted into gold until 1931.

5 Facts about the Colombian Peso

Colombian pesos are as colorful as their culture.

1. Many bills feature leaders in the Colombian arts (and more).

Colombian Peso - Colombian woman on her phone

2. Two different peso designs are in use today.

If you find yourself in Colombia, you might see slight differences among the bills.

When the national bank started creating pesos with larger denominations, they changed the visuals on the bills. The original printed design read “50,000” in numerals. Newer peso banknotes display “50 thousand” instead.

3. You may get VAT refunds if you spend Colombian pesos.

If you’re visiting Colombia, you might be eligible for a VAT refund when you spend money there. Wondering what this means? A VAT refund returns some tax money paid by non-residents for certain goods.

In Colombia, these goods include:

  • Local crafts
  • Toys
  • Linens
  • Household appliances
  • Footwear
  • Leather goods
  • Jewelry

You can pursue this process at the DIAN (National Tax and Customs Department). You’ll need to fill out an application along with other paperwork. Just make sure that you have your passport and receipt for the goods that you’ve bought with Colombian pesos.

4. One edition of the $50,000 peso is vertical.

A unique feature of the older $50,000 peso is that its imagery is vertical. Jorge Isaacs is featured on this bill. Isaacs is a famous Colombian writer best known for his work María.

This is not only different from the rest of the Colombian peso banknotes, but it is different from most global currencies. Most bills across the world have the picture printed horizontally.

The 50,000 peso banknote has since been updated as of 2016 with a horizontal image of the writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

5. Special features prevent the spread of counterfeit money.

The citizens of Colombia voiced concerns about the rise of counterfeit money, so the Banco de la República issued a statement emphasizing the unique security features Colombian pesos have to prevent this from happening. These features include:

  • Security thread
  • Watermark
  • Matching images
  • Color-shifting images with motion effects

Understanding Colombian Currency Exchange Rates

Exchange rates vary due to political and economic factors. A quick online search will lead you to easy currency converter tools to check today’s rate. Common COP rate searches include those for converting the peso to the American dollar (USD), the Canadian dollar (CAD), the euro (EUR), the Australian dollar (AUD), the British pound (GBP), the Swiss franc, and the Chinese yuan.

Check the current rates with Remitly in our app or on our website.

While exchange rates vary, as mentioned, you can get a feel for what to expect by checking historical rates. Foreign exchange sites like Oanda or FXTOP offer charts that make these calculations easy.

For instance, FXTOP shows that the average exchange rate for USD to COP from December 10, 2018 to December 10, 2021 has been 3,561.1 pesos to one U.S. dollar.

If you want to know more, browse our guide to the getting the best Colombian peso rates.

Colombian Peso - streetview in Colombia

Sending Money to Colombia

Sending money to Colombia is a fairly simple process when you use the right service. With money transfer apps like Remitly, you can easily send funds to family and friends in Colombia. You can also send money to yourself.

Have a look at our website or download the app, and we’ll walk you through how to send money to Colombia.

More about Money in Colombia

You’ll find that in major cities and tourist hotspots in Colombia, you can get away with using cash or credit and debit cards. ATMs are also widely available and often have better rates than those you’ll get at an airport exchange counter. These cities include:

  • Bogotá
  • Santa Marta
  • Barranquilla
  • Cali
  • Medellín
  • Cartagena
  • San Andrés
  • Pereira
  • Bucaramanga

Colombian pesos in the form of cash might be the only form of payment in more rural areas in Colombia. The U.S. dollar may also be accepted, even though it’s not an official currency there.

Further reading: Safely Send Money to Colombia in 5 Easy Steps

Learn more about Colombian Peso