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Travel money guide: India

Discover how to turn your dollars into rupees and pay your way through India.

Banks and ATMs are widely available in India — even in smaller villages. Though it’s still important to have access to cash on your trip, as India is still very much a cash economy.

Bringing a credit card along that doesn’t incur foreign transaction fees can help you save on extraneous fees as well. A combination of card and cash will offer you the most flexibility during your travels.

Our picks for traveling to India

40+ currencies supported

Wise Multi-currency

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  • 4.85% APY on USD balances
  • $0 monthly fees
  • Up to $100 free ATMs withdrawals worldwide
  • Hold and convert 40+ currencies

Up to $300 cash bonus

SoFi Checking and Savings

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on SoFi's secure site
  • 0.50% APY on checking balance
  • Up to 4.60% APY on savings
  • $0 account or overdraft fees
  • Get a $300 bonus with direct deposits of $5,000 or more

Free ATM transactions

HSBC Premier Checking

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  • $50 waivable monthly fee
  • 0% foreign transaction fee
  • Securely move money domestically and globally
  • 5 monthly out-of-network ATM reimbursements
  • Free international HSBC ATM transactions

Travel card, debit card or credit card?

Unfortunately, there aren’t any travel cards that allow you to load INR, meaning you’ll be charged a currency conversion fee if you use one in India. Instead, look for debit cards and credit cards that don’t charge for currency conversion. Reduced fees for ATM withdrawals should always be a factor in your comparison.

Things can go missing, wallets picked from your pocket and cards can get swallowed up by ATMs, so make sure you have different spending options. A debit card and credit card combination will give you the best results, you may also want to bring some extra cash as backup — you can change it out easily enough for a competitive price.

These are your options for spending money in India

Have a look at the different travel money products you can use in India and learn how each product works.

Using a credit card

Credit cards are a good option because they are accepted almost everywhere, have excellent security measures and some come with travel insurance. A card without foreign transaction fees, like the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, will keep you from racking up unexpected charges during your stay (Terms apply, see rates & fees).

Travel credit cards often also come with other useful benefits like travel insurance and the ability to earn rewards. You’ll want to compare travel credit cards and examine your own travel preferences to find one that best fits your needs.

  • Accepted everywhere
  • Built-in security and anti-fraud measures
  • Some cards have features such as complimentary insurance or reward points earning
  • ATM cash withdrawals may attract cash advances and higher fees

Which credit card issuers are accepted in India?

You’ll find that most vendors accept Visa and Mastercard, while some large establishments may accept American Express and Discover cards as well.

Merchant acceptanceATM acceptance
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
American Express
exclamation point iconMedium
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
exclamation point iconMedium

Potential credit card fees in India

When you use your credit card in India, there’s a good chance you’ll pay foreign transaction and currency conversion fees.

Foreign transaction fees

Credit cards that come with foreign transaction fees tend to charge 2% to 3% per transaction. Before you use your card outside of the US, find out how much your card will charge you. Most travel credit cards eliminate foreign transaction fees altogether.

Currency conversion fees

The Indian Finance Act allows merchants to levy a service tax on the purchase and sale of foreign currencies, which includes transactions. Banks can fix currency conversion charges depending on their internal cost structures. As a result, if a merchant offers to convert your bill into US dollars, you may want to pass and make your payment in rupees instead.

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
SoFi Checking and Savings
Finder Score: 4.5 / 5: ★★★★★
SoFi Checking and Savings
$0 per month
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 December 31, 2024.
Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus
Finder Score: 4.3 / 5: ★★★★★
Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus
$0 per month
Chime® Checking Account
Finder Score: 4.8 / 5: ★★★★★
Chime® Checking Account
$0 per month
Refer a friend to Chime using your referral link, and if they complete a $200 direct deposit within 45 days of opening their new account, you both get $100.
HSBC Premier Checking
Finder Score: 3.5 / 5: ★★★★★
HSBC Premier Checking
$50 per month
(can be waived)
0.01% on balances of $5+
Acorns Checking
Finder Score: 3.6 / 5: ★★★★★
Acorns Checking
From $3 per month
1 - 5 of 21
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
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
Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months ​from account opening. See rates & fees
Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card
Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card
Bilt does not have a welcome offer. However, they have a unique bonus offer of double points on the first of each month – that’s 6x points on dining, 4x points on travel, and 2x points on other purchases (except rent). Use the card 5 times each statement period to earn points.
Up to 3x points
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
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
Up to 5x miles
The same rewards and $0 annual fee as the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, but for those with good credit. See rates & fees

Using a debit card

A debit card could be a good travel money choice to take to India. You’ll have access to cash each time you come across an ATM, without carrying lots of cash on you all at once. To avoid additional expenses, find a card that waives the fee for international ATM withdrawals like the one from Betterment Checking.

  • Tip: Citibank has a large presence in India. Make cheap ATM withdrawals using a Citibank debit or credit card.
  • Access to your own money
  • Widely accepted
  • PIN security
  • Can be cancelled if card is lost or stolen
  • No back-up option for lost or stolen cards
  • May charge ATM transaction fees
  • May charge currency conversion fees

Using a prepaid travel card

Since there are currently no travel cards that allow you to preload Indian rupees, you should look for a card with no foreign currency conversion fees to avoid any extra costs. Even though travel cards can be a convenient way to withdraw funds and spend over the counter, it may not seem to be the cheapest option when you factor in the extra fees.

  • Comes with a back-up if the card is compromised
  • Not linked to your bank account
  • Can reload money online easily
  • Pay directly or withdraw from ATM
  • Rupees cannot be preloaded
  • Some cards charge a reload fee
  • Can take up to six days for a transfer

Paying with cash in India

You should always have some cash on you, ideally have some spending money in lower denominations and then keep a large amount in a hidden place. Whether you’re staying in small villages or big cities, you will find that many services, attractions and simply getting around will require you to use cash.

Banks and exchange offices will happily exchange foreign currency at a reasonable rate and with a small commission, if any commission at all. It helps if you can access online rates before you exchange so you can give yourself a rough idea of how much you should get and don’t get ripped off.

  • Tip: Indian rupee notes can get pretty scruffy and ripped, and overly creased or otherwise damaged notes will not be accepted. People love to try and give them to tourists.
  • Payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • 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 checks and to cash them. You’re better off using a debit or travel card which lets you make cheap or free ATM withdrawals to get Indian rupees.

  • Tip: Traveler’s checks are good for locking in a good exchange rate. So if you watch the forex market, get them while the getting’s good.
  • Acceptance
  • Security
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks
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Indian currency

The money used in India is called the Indian rupee (INR). It comes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 notes — the 500 and 1000 note were demonetized in 2016.

Indian 5-rupeeIndian 10-rupeeIndian 20-rupee
Indian 50-rupeeIndian 100-rupee

The main banks in India are:

  • Axis Bank
  • Bank of Baroda
  • Bank of India
  • Canara Bank
  • HDFC Bank
  • ICICI Bank
  • IndusInd Bank
  • Kotak Mahindra Bank
  • Punjab National Bank
  • State Bank of India
  • Yes Bank

Buying currency in the US

If you’re a foreigner, you can bring up to 25,000 rupees into India, whereas returning residents can only bring 5,000 to 7,500 rupees into the country. There’s no restriction to the amount of foreign currency you can bring with you, though you’ll have to claim more than $5,000 cash at customs.

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ATMs in India

ATMs are widely available in India and you should have no trouble finding one. Limits vary depending on the machine, but you should be able to withdraw up to your local bank’s ATM withdrawal limit. If not, 10,000 rupees ($150) is a standard amount to withdraw.

If possible, use a debit card that doesn’t charge international ATM fees, like the one from Betterment Checking.

  • Tip: If the ATM is slow to respond, don’t worry, sometimes it takes a good half minute for an ATM to process the transaction.

Keep your travel money safe in India

Specific areas in India are out of bounds for US travelers. In more US-friendly spots it’s wise to use an elevated level of caution and avoid traveling alone.

Never wear flashy or luxury items out in public and keep your valuables at home. Conceal your wallet in your pocket or consider using a money belt to tuck your funds away out of arm’s reach. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

How much should I budget to travel in India?

If you’re wondering how much money you’ll be spending on your trip to India, that’ll depend on your tastes and budgets. You can get by on as little as $10 a day or spend thousands just sleeping in a 5-star hotel. All prices are in US dollars.

On a budgetMid-rangeLuxury
MealsStreet food or a thali (platter of various dishes)
A meal in a restaurant.
A meal at a Delhi or Mumbai famed culinary establishment.
$250 for a meal and a glass of wine
ActivitiesEven in big cities, most museums, parks, temples and attractions are free.Ticket to an exhibition or a show.
All inclusive tour with a driver, luxury hotel, meals and day trips to major tourist destinations.
$2,500 and up
AccommodationA basic guesthouse in the mountains, forest, small village or an ashram.
$2–$4 per night
Mid-range hotel.
India has a selection of the most luxurious hotels in the world.
$10,000 for one night

Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

Case study: Jane's experience

Jane profile photo

Case study: Jane’s Indian sabbatical

Jane spent just under two months traveling in India. She started in the north making her way from New Delhi to Uttar Pradesh so she could visit the Taj Mahal and the city of Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India. She finished her trip relaxing on the beaches of Goa. Her trip took her off the beaten track, through tourist spots and India’s bustling cities.

What travel money tips do you have for India?

  • Tricks and scams. Be aware of scams that can be anything from a detour in a taxi, thieves trying to pick pockets or fake tourist bureaus at New Delhi train station and around Connaught Place. Jump on blogs and official websites to read up on the latest tourist scams.
  • Bargaining. Tourists are frequently charged higher prices for goods in India. Don’t be afraid to bargain. Sellers don’t expect you to pay the asking price. Bargaining is a part of the culture in India so don’t be shy, but don’t take it too seriously, either. If you agree to a price make sure you are happy with it because once you agree, you’re obliged to pay it.

Travel insurance for India

India has a unique set of risks which is why you should give travel insurance a look. Travel insurance can protect against situations such as:

  • Flight delays
  • Stolen cash
  • Rental vehicle excess
  • Overseas medical emergencies
  • Lost luggage

Bottom line

It is a country so dense, so stimulating to the senses and impulses that the first visit to India can be a shock to even the most road-hardened traveler. Find the right travel money to take to India so you can access your money cheaply and conveniently and fully experience the country’s rich cultural tapestry.

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Written by

Kyle Morgan

Kyle Morgan is SEO manager at Forbes Advisor and a former editor and content strategist at Finder. He has written for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He holds a BA in journalism and media from Rutgers University. See full profile

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