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Travel money guide: Ecuador

Pack your US dollars for travel in the Land of the Equator.

The early 2000s brought a big change in Ecuador’s official currency, switching over from the sucre to the US dollar — the most accessible currency in the world. Known for the Galapagos Islands, the highest capital city in the world and some of the best surf in South America, Ecuador is a popular destination for backpackers, nature lovers and thrill-seekers.

Cash is your best bet for purchases in Ecuador, supplemented by a credit card. A travel credit card is your best bet for a travel credit card, as it charges no foreign transaction fees. ATMs are available in most major cities, but you can also pull out some cash and bring it with you for your outdoor adventures.

Our picks for traveling to Ecuador

50+ currencies supported


  • 4.33% APY on USD balances
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  • Withdraw $100 per month for free from ATMs worldwide
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For multi-currency accounts


  • $0 to $16.99 per month
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  • 0.50% APY on checking balance
  • Up to 4.60% APY on savings
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  • Get a $300 bonus with direct deposits of $5,000 or more

Should you take a travel card, debit card or credit card?

As a general rule, always plan to have cash as your first method of payment. Although Visa and Mastercard debit cards and credit cards are accepted in larger cities, such as Guayaquil, Quito, Esmeraldas and Manta, a lot of other places don’t have card payment options – so have some green in your pocket.

A combination of cards and cash is the best way to approach any overseas trip. You’ll need cash for most transactions in Ecuador, especially if you’re traveling down the coast. Whichever combination of products you take with you to Ecuador, be sure to spread your budget across a few different cards and always have some cash for emergencies.

But if Ecuador is only one stop on a South American vacation, think about how you’re going to spend money in other currencies during the rest of your trip.

These are your options for spending money in Ecuador

Using a credit card

If you plan on using a credit card when you’re in Ecuador, look for a card that doesn’t charge for foreign transactions like the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card (Terms apply, see rates & fees). You can use a your credit card to pay for flights and online bookings before or during your trip. Major retailers and restaurants in Ecuador also take cards.

Travel cards often allow you to earn miles on purchases and come with perks like statement credits or travel insurance as well. Review your travel needs and compare travel cards to find one that best rewards your jet setting habits.

  • Tip: Credit cards should not be used for ATM withdrawals — In Ecuador or anywhere else. Cash advance fees and charges can eat up your available credit limit quickly.
Pros
  • Accepted worldwide
  • Contactless payments
  • Interest-free periods and complimentary travel insurance
Cons
  • Withdrawing cash can be considered a “cash advance” and can attract fees and high interests

Compare travel credit cards

Explore top debit cards with no foreign transaction fees and travel credit cards by using the tabs to narrow down your options. Select Compare for up to four products to see their benefits side by side.

1 - 5 of 9
Name Product Fee Minimum deposit to open Annual Percentage Yield (APY) Offer
Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus
Finder Rating: 4.3 / 5: ★★★★★
Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus
$0 per month
$0
N/A
Earn up to 2% cashback rewards on everyday purchases. Pay $0 fees for overdraft, domestic wire transfer and monthly maintenance. Member FDIC.
SoFi Checking and Savings
Finder Rating: 4.5 / 5: ★★★★★
Bonus
SoFi Checking and Savings
$0 per month
$0
4.60% on balances of $0+
0.50% on balances of $0+
1.20% on balances of $0+
Get up to $300 cash bonus with qualifying direct deposit. Terms apply. This offer is available until June 30, 2024.
Earn up to 4.60% APY on savings by meeting deposit requirements, and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Members without deposit requirements will earn 0.50% APY on both savings and checking balances. Turn on automatic savings or use the Roundups feature to help you reach your savings goals faster. Get up to $2M of additional FDIC insurance through a network of participating banks.
Revolut
Finder Rating: 4.8 / 5: ★★★★★
Revolut
From $0 per month
$0
4.25% on balances of $0+
3.25% on balances of $0+
Get a $10 cash reward when you first use you card on a qualifying $1+ transaction.
Revolut is a global fintech that offers up to 40% off international transfers.
Acorns Checking
Finder Rating: 3.6 / 5: ★★★★★
Acorns Checking
From $3 per month
$0
N/A
Invest your spare change in real-time and earn up to 10% in bonus investments. Member FDIC.
Quontic Bank High Interest Checking
Finder Rating: 4.3 / 5: ★★★★★
Quontic Bank High Interest Checking
$0 per month
$100
1.10% on balances of $0+
0.01% on balances of $0+
Earn 1.1% APY with qualifying transactions, and pay $0 in monthly or overdraft fees. Access your account with a nationwide network of 90,000+ no-fee ATMs. FDIC insured.
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1 - 5 of 35
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Up to 5x miles
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. See rates & fees
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
Up to 5x miles
$95
Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months ​from account opening. See rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
Up to 5x points
$95
If you're not ready to drop a premium on Chase's flagship travel card, consider the issuer's excellent $95 a year travel product. It currently offers a generous welcome offer at $750 in value, all while maintaining the low annual fee. You'll also earn accelerated rewards on travel and dining, and points are worth more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Better yet, you can transfer points to select travel partners, letting you find much higher redemption rates.
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
$200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Up to 1.5% cash back
$0
More than an unlimited 1.5% cash back card: you'll also earn 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply). See rates & fees
Capital One VentureOne Rewards for Good Credit
Capital One VentureOne Rewards for Good Credit
N/A
Up to 5x miles
$0
The same rewards and $0 annual fee as the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, but for those with good credit. See rates & fees
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Using a debit card

Debit cards are accepted by few of the smaller merchants in Ecuador but can generally always be used for cash withdrawals from ATMs. Like credit cards and travel cards, debit card transactions are protected against fraud and unauthorized transactions.

The price of ATM withdrawals should be a significant factor in your comparison if you’re looking to apply for a travel transaction account. Some providers like Betterment Checking don’t charge international ATM fees as well, making them a good pick if you travel often.

Pros
  • Fraud protection
  • International ATM withdrawal fee waived on some cards
  • Unlimited free withdrawal at selected banks
Cons
  • Limited acceptance in Ecuador
  • International transaction fees still apply

Using a prepaid travel card

Travel cards come with an additional, emergency card in case the first one is lost or stolen. A travel card can be used to make over-the-counter purchases and ATM withdrawals in Ecuador. Note that the Ecuadorian bank or ATM operator may still charge a fee when you withdraw cash even if you have a card that doesn’t charge a fee for international ATM withdrawals.

Also remember that the currencies of other popular South American destinations such as Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Argentina can’t be loaded on any travel card. If Ecuador is only one stop on a bigger trip, you may want to consider one of the other types of travel money products as well.

Pros
  • Make over the counter purchases and ATM withdrawals
  • Emergency card replacement
Cons
  • Some banks may charge ATM withdrawal fees

Paying with cash in Ecuador

Cash is king in Ecuador, which means you’ll need to have US currency on hand to pay for things at most places. If you want to limit the amount of cash you have on hand for security purposes, make sure you have one or more cards that you can use to withdraw cash from ATMs while on your trip.

Pros
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

Using traveler’s checks

Security is the main advantage of using traveler’s checks. Each check has a unique serial number and can only be cashed with photo identification. Fees are the main disadvantage.

Banks charge you to get check and to cash them. You’re better off using a debit or travel card which lets you make cheap or free ATM withdrawals.

Pros
  • Security
Cons
  • May be difficulty to exchange
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Exchange rate history

Ecuador began to us the US dollar as its primary currency in 2000 when it replaced the Ecuadorian sucre.

Exchanging cash

If you’re travelling from Peru, Colombia or Brazil and you have sols, pesos or reals, you can exchange the money to US dollars at some restaurants and hotels. You may not pay a commission on the transaction, but the rate will be much worse than what you can get a bank.

Buying currency in the US

No need. Ecuador uses the US dollar, so you don’t have to do much before you leave the country — but bundle up your greenbacks. There are no restrictions to the amount of cash you can bring with you to Ecuador.

There are many ATMs in Ecuadorian cities and key tourist destinations if you run out of money. ATM withdrawals may be subject to the Visa and Mastercard international exchange rate, which is often better than what you can get exchanging money in other ways.

Find ATMs in Ecuador

ATMs in Ecuador are plentiful in the major cities, though you’ll want to stock up on cash before traveling to more remote areas. A debit card that doesn’t charge international ATM fees, like one from Betterment Checking, is a good choice.

How much cash do I need for a trip to Ecuador?

Less expensive than neighboring Brazil or Colombia, Ecuador is a budget South American vacation destination. This means you can travel through Ecuador on a small budget. However, Ecuador can deliver a five-star experience as well — especially in Quito. All prices are in US dollars.

QuitoBudgetMid-rangeExpensive
AccommodationHostel
$5–$10 per night
2-star hotel
$10–$50 per night
5-star hotel
$50–$150 per night
MealsEmpanadas
$1–$2
Ceviche
$5–$10
5-star restaurant
$20–$40 per dish
ActivitiesWalk around the old town
free
Visit the balcony of the Basilica del Voto Nacional
$1
Guided tour of Otavalo Marketplace with lunch
$50

Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

Case study: Peter's experience

Peter profile photo
Peter

Case study: Peter surfing the Ecuadorian coast

Peter recently backpacked across South America. He visited Colombia and traveled to the south of the continent. He started his trip in Esmeraldas, continued south to Guayaquil, Montanita and finally Quito before traveling to Peru. Peter spent one month in Ecuador in total.

Do you have any travel money tips?

  • Plan ahead. He recommends making sure you transfer money to your savings account in advance so you can withdraw money when you need to. The internet in Ecuador is shoddy and Peter says it’s hard to find a reliable connection (particularly on the coast).
  • Everything is negotiable. Peter says not to be afraid to ask for a better price if you feel you’re being overcharged. Locals have been known to take advantage of travelers with a lack of knowledge from time to time.
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