Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.

Travel money guide: Europe

Planning a trip to Europe? Discover how you can get the most out of your travel money here.

Get credit card suggestions Compare travel cards
Exchange currency online Compare cash pickup

If you’re heading to the Europe, either for business or for pleasure, it’s worth taking the time to figure out what different travel money options are available to you.

In 1999 the euro was introduced and old currencies like the French franc and the Deutsche mark were phased out. While there are European countries which still use their own currency — for example the Czech Republic and Hungary — the euro is the national currency of the majority of nations in Western and Central Europe.

Our picks for traveling to Europe

American Express® Gold Card logo

Our pick for travel credit card

American Express® Gold Card

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.6/5
Wise Multi-currency logo

Our pick for multi-currency debit card

Wise Multi-currency

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.5/5
SoFi Money logo

Our pick for 0% transaction fee debit card

SoFi Money

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.6/5

Travel card, debit card or credit card?

A prepaid travel card can be a good idea if you’re staying within the European financial zone and the United Kingdom. If you’re traveling to another destination like Croatia, the Czech Republic, Sweden or Hungary, you’re better off using a credit card which waives the fee for foreign transactions (no ATM fees are a bonus too).

While there are travel cards that don’t charge you for currency conversion – the back end fees, exchange rate margin and juggling another account make a travel friendly debit card a better option.

A credit card and debit card combination makes for a good mix to access cash and make purchases. A credit card is a must: interest-free cards give you time to pay back your purchases, some cards offer free travel insurance and credit cards give you peace of mind through access to emergency cash.

Don’t use a credit card for cash withdrawals, it’s almost too expensive to justify. Use a debit card or a prepaid travel card to withdraw cash.

These are your options for spending money in Europe

Using a credit card

Look for a travel friendly credit cards that you can swipe without being charged a foreign transaction free (typically 2 – 3%) or international ATM fee.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card will waive foreign transaction fees and offers travel insurance. While Barclaycard and Bank of America waive international ATM fees (operator fees may still apply); however, using your credit card to withdraw cash will be subject to cash advance fees and interest, as well as ATM operator fees – not worth it.

Pros
  • May have no international ATM fees
Cons
  • Operator fees may apply
  • Cash advance fees

Using a debit card

Visa and Mastercard branded debit cards will work throughout Europe without problem. There are fees that come with international debit card use — mainly currency conversion fees and ATM fees. You’ll find most European banks don’t charge a local ATM operator fee.

  • Tip: Debit card providers like Bank of America and Barclays are members of a Global ATM Alliance that waives international ATM fees.
Pros
  • May have no international ATM fees
  • No ATM operator fees on European bank ATMs for cash withdrawals
Cons
  • International ATM fee and currency conversion fee apply when withdrawing cash

Did you know?

You may be able to avoid the cash advance fee and interest charges if you preload your own money onto your credit card. The rules are different for each provider. The catch: you’re waiving certain anti-fraud guarantees when you preload your own funds onto your credit card.

Using a prepaid travel card

A travel card can hold multiple international currencies and you save on the fee for currency conversion. You can load euros and GBP on most travel cards, but few other European currencies will be supported.

Pros
  • Multiple international currencies load euros and GBP on most travel cards
Cons
  • Currency conversion may apply
  • Conversion fee is almost double the charge than on debit and credit cards

Must read: Countries in Europe that have not adopted the euro

If you’re traveling to one of these European countries, consider using a debit card or credit card rather than a prepaid travel card. A currency conversion fee applies if you’re spending in a currency not loaded on the card. In most cases, the conversion fee is almost double the charge than on debit and credit cards.

  • Latvia
  • Lithuania

“Although the United Kingdom is not a part of the Euro Zone, all travel cards let you load pounds sterling. Preload both euros and pounds and you can use the one card to spend on both sides of the English Channel.”

Paying with cash in Europe

There are places where you’ll need cash; however, card payments are pretty standard throughout Europe. Contactless card payments are common in places like France and Germany, but cash is necessary if you’re heading off the beaten track — places like smaller Greek islands predominantly use cash.

Pros
  • Payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • Difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

Using traveler’s checks

It is not necessary to take travelers checks with you on your trip to Europe. Financial institutions offer money back guarantees if you’re the victim of fraud and there’s a limited number of places where you can cash your checks.

Pros
  • Acceptance
  • Security
Cons
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept travelers checks

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 6 months
4x at restaurants including delivery and Uber Eats; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points), 3x points on directly-booked flights and 1x points on all other purchases
$250

Rose Gold is Back

Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 based on our valuation with this upper-mid tier travel card. Terms apply, see rates & fees
The Platinum Card® from American Express
100,000 points after spending $6,000 in your first 6 months, plus 10x points at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the US on up to $25,000 in combined purchases in the same timeframe
10x points at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the US on up to $25,000 combined in the first 6 months, 5x points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 5x points on directly-booked flights on up to $500,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on other purchases
$695

New Platinum Exclusive Offer

One of the most valuable premium travel cards, featuring two welcome offers worth up to $7,000 based on Finder's valuation, multiple travel credits and unrivaled lounge access. Terms apply, see rates & fees
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants within the first 6 months
6x Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program, 3x at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2x for all other purchases
$450
Earn 75,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 or more within your first 3 months. Terms apply, see rates & fees
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

Back to top

European currency

Although the euro was officially introduced in 1999, European citizens didn’t start to see the new notes and coins till sometime in 2003. The notes are all different colors and feature different architectural designs from different eras.

5 euro banknote10 euro banknote20 euro banknote
50 euro banknote100 euro banknote

The main banks in Europe are:

  • HSBC Holdings plc, GBR
  • BNP Paribas SA, FRA
  • Crédit Agricole Group, FRA
  • Deutsche Bank AG, DEU
  • Banco Santander SA, ESP
  • Barclays plc, GBR
  • Société Générale SA, FRA
  • Groupe BPCE, FRA
  • LLoyds Banking Group plc, GBR
  • ING Groep NV, NLD
  • UniCredit SpA, ITA
  • Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc, GBR
  • Intesa Sanpaolo SpA, ITA
  • Crédit Mutuel Group, FRA
  • UBS Group AG, CHE

Buying currency in the US

If you really want to buy euros before you leave, consider nonbank foreign exchange providers such as Travelex. Travelex lets you order cash online and pick it up at the airport before you leave.

You won’t need euros to pay for your visa when you arrive in Europe, Americans get an automatic 90 day visa on arrival.

Live Rate

= 0.8452

Refreshing in: 60s | Thu, Aug 05, 11:05PM GMT

Exchange rate history

It’s very difficult picking the future movement of currency pairs, especially the top two traded currencies in the world. The euro was adopted in 1999, and in 2002 it was introduced as the legal tender — circulating and being used in 12 countries. The value of the dollar next to the euro dropped significantly in 2008 when an economic crisis made its way around the world. For the last three years, 1 euro has been worth about $1.10 to $1.30.

Find cash and ATMs in Europe

Cash pickup services in Europe

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 0.841 EUR 837 WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups. Go to site Show details
$10 Within an hour USD 1.99 0.828 EUR 826 Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
Go to site Show details
$1 Within an hour USD 8.00 0.826 EUR 819 MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide. Go to site Show details
$1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 0.824 EUR 807 Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

How much should I budget to travel in Europe?

Countries like France and Germany are a touch more expensive than places like Greece, but no matter where you are in the Europe, your trip is going to be as cheap or expensive as you let it be.

Some basic prices across Europe

Accommodation is likely to be your biggest expense when you’re visiting Europe. When it comes to food, if you’re eating in a restaurant, prices will be higher than grabbing a bite on the street (gyros in Greece), trapizzino in Rome, or a jambon et fromage baguette (ham and cheese sandwich — far better than it sounds) in France are all less than five euros.

We’ve included a snapshot of some prices for budget, mid-range and top end hostels and hotels in different European countries below. All prices are in US dollars.

Greece (Athens)Germany (Berlin)France (Paris)Italy (Rome)
AccommodationHostel
$15 per night
Hostel
$15–$25
Hostel
$35 per night
Camping
$15 per night
Hostel
$25 per night
MealsGyros (street)
$3.50
Small beer (supermarket)
$1–$2.50
Currywurst (street)
$3.50
Beer (supermarket)
$2.50
Baguette (supermarket)
$1.75
Cheese (supermarket)
$3.50
Average wine (supermarket bottle)
$2.25–$8
Pizza (restaurant)
$6–$12
Wine (restaurant)
$6–$12 per glass
ActivitiesWalk around the Acropolis and Parthenon (pay $35 to go inside or enjoy the spectacular view from the outside for free)Walking tour of Berlin
Free (although it’s polite to tip the guide a couple of euros at least)
Get the food items mentioned above and camp at the Champ-des-Mars for a view of la Tour Eiffel.Walking tours of Rome
Free (plus a tip for the guide)

*Prices are approximate and based on summer seasonality and are subject to change.

In most European countries you can expect to pay anywhere from 10 to 30 euros for a meal in a mid-tier restaurant. Once you hit 5-star restaurants, prices will be comparable to high-end restaurants in the US.

  • Tip: If you’re at a restaurant, the plat de jour (plate of the day) will be one of the cheapest and best tasting dishes on the menu.

Case study: Kyle's experience

Kyle profile photo
Kyle
Producer

During my Eurotrip, I dropped pins on the map in Amsterdam, Bruges, Paris, Arles and Provence. I brought along my Wells Fargo Propel American Express, Wells Fargo Platinum Visa, Wells Fargo debit card and $500 USD.

When I landed in Amsterdam and was waiting at baggage claim, I spotted a local ATM and withdrew 100 euros using my debit card. The withdrawal cost me $113.49, plus a $5 non-Wells Fargo ATM transaction fee. I didn’t mind the fee because this was enough to buy a SIM card and catch a train downtown — and it left me with about 70 euros.

It didn’t take long to realize that I made a mistake with the credit cards I’d brought. While the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card had no foreign transaction fee, I neglected to research what the American Express acceptance rate was in Europe — not good. And I didn’t want to use my Wells Fargo Platinum Card because that came with a 3% fee for overseas purchases.

If I was traveling alone, I would have come home to a credit card bill riddled with fees. Luckily, my partner brought along her United℠ Explorer Card, which is a Visa (high acceptance rate) and has no foreign transaction fees. Since then, I’ve gotten my own United℠ Explorer Card.

As for withdrawing money from ATMs, I only took out another 100 euros for tipping and small purchases. And the $500 USD I brought along? That, and then some, went right to my partner to repay the money we spent on her credit card.

One piece of advice: Don’t be like me and rely on your partner’s credit card.

Travel insurance for Europe

Eurotrips are almost a compulsory rite of passage for young Americans who want to cross the pond, but don’t let your sense of adventure get you in trouble. Protecting your European vacation with travel insurance is a smart way to ensure that you are financially protected against unexpected travel expenses. Travel insurance may cover:

  • Cancellation
  • Lost or stolen luggage
  • Emergency medical and dental
  • Evacuation
  • Personal liability

Compare travel insurance policies

Back to top

Our latest travel deals to Europe

Deal

Save up to $600 per person on a wide variety of magical Europe and Americas tours

Expires 7 Aug 2021
Terms and Exclusions Apply, See Site for Details
Deal

Up to 15% off ski vacations and snowboarding trips

Enjoy the thrills of the best skiing worldwide plus exploring new locations with group ski trips to destinations like Canada, Europe, New Zealand, Japan and more. Duration: 7-16 days.
Deal

Save 20% off all Eurail passes.

In addition to train travel, with your Eurail pass you can take advantage of hundreds of benefits in countries across Europe. You can get discounts on ferries, attractions and hotels.

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site