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Travel money guide: Scotland

Use a card without foreign transaction fees and carry cash for incidentals.

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As a part of the United Kingdom, Scotland is a safe place for all kinds of payment methods. You can use plastic for hotel stays, dining, supermarkets, gas and even for smaller establishments like local bars. Still, some places, like a family-owned B&B, may take only cash. To make sure you’re always covered, consider carrying a combination of cash and plastic.

Travel card, debit card or credit card?

All major card networks are widely accepted in Scotland. Just make sure your card has no foreign transaction fees, otherwise, you could pay a fee up to 3% of every purchase made abroad. Another way to save money is to avoid conversion fees by paying in local currency.

If you’re looking to make cash withdrawals, consider using a debit card to avoid cash advance APRs and fees. You could also try withdrawing money with a prepaid travel card, but only if it’s loaded with British pounds. Otherwise, you’ll pay a foreign transaction fee, which is higher than what debit cards incur.

Pros and Cons of travel money options in Scotland

Travel money optionProsCons
Debit cards
  • No cash advance fee
  • No cash advance APR
  • No overdraft
  • Weak or no rewards
  • No access to a credit line
  • Potential foreign transaction fees up to 3%.
  • Potential ATM withdrawal fees
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Can load multiple currencies
  • No cash advance APR
  • No links to your bank account
  • Many fees
  • May take time to load
  • No rewards
Credit cards
  • Credit line access
  • Rewards
  • May come with travel insurance and coverage
  • May come with concierge service
  • Cash advance fees on ATMs
  • Cash advance APR on ATMs
Traveler’s checks
  • Security
  • Not accepted everywhere
  • Fees for purchasing and cashing checks
Cash
  • Payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • No need for ATMs
  • High risk of theft

How credit cards, debit cards and travel cards work in Scotland

Using a credit card

Using a credit card without foreign transaction fees in Scotland gives you the best exchange rates on all of your purchases.

If you frequently travel to Scotland, consider an airline cobranded card. You can save money on flights, checked bags, lounge access and more. Alternatively, consider a travel credit card to get rewards on your travel purchases, travel insurance, luggage insurance, car rental insurance and more.

Using a debit card

Debit cards can be a great option for cash withdrawals in Scotland. Some debit cards have no foreign transaction fees and no ATM withdrawal fees.

What are the best travel debit cards?

Using a prepaid travel card

Using a prepaid travel card is a particularly safe option as they are not linked to your bank account. However, travel cards come with many fees that make them an expensive alternative to credit and debit cards.

Prepaid travel cards explained

Using traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks can be an expensive, inconvenient option. They incur a number of fees, including a foreign exchange fee, and many shops and hotels do not accept them. You’ll have to cash your checks in at exchange bureaus or banks, which will cost you time and more fees.

Traveler’s checks quide

Paying with cash

Having cash in your wallet is always useful wherever you are. In Scotland, you’ll need cash to pay for taxis, incidentals, small purchases and tips. You can take US dollars with you and exchange them at the airport or make an ATM withdrawal.

Compare travel cards for Scotland

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a huge signup bonus worth $$1,000 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
$250
Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 with this upper-mid tier travel card. Rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Get a generous $300 in annual travel credits, 3x points on travel and dining, and a 50% bonus on point redemptions with Chase's premier card.
Hilton Honors American Express Card
80,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
$0
With a massive welcome offer for a no-annual-fee card and up to 7x points at Hilton, this is a solid pick for Hilton fans and occasional travelers. Rates & fees
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
N/A
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1% for cash back
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
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What’s the Scottish currency and where can I get the best exchange rate?

Scotland uses the British pound with a symbol £ and a currency code GBP.

Banks typically have the best exchange rate for cash. You can also make an ATM cash withdrawal, which also comes with an excellent exchange rate. But make sure you use a debit card without foreign transaction fees or ATM withdrawal fees.

Using money transfers to safely travel with cash

WorldRemit lets you send money to Scotland before you depart. Once you’re in Scotland, you can pick up your cash from a local WorldRemit agent.

But before you make the transfer, you’ll need to provide a Scottish address and a phone number. If you’re without one, WorldRemit recommends using the address of the place you’ll be staying at in case the local agent needs to contact someone.

What’s the current USD to EUR exchange rate?

Cash pickup services in Scotland

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 0.768 GBP 765 Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details
$1 Within an hour USD 8.00 0.754 GBP 748 Easily transfer cash to more than 350,000 locations around the world. Show details
$1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 0.753 GBP 737 The biggest name in money transfers can get your funds to friends, family, or businesses in almost every corner of the globe. Show details

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

Case study: Roslyn’s experience

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Roslyn McKenna
Publisher

I visited Scotland with friends in October 2018. I used my Quicksilver card just about everywhere because it offers no foreign transaction fees and a flat cashback rate on everything. Credit cards are even accepted in rural areas like Inverness and Aberfeldy. I also brought some cash for small transactions and exchanged it at London Heathrow at a fair rate.

The only issue I encountered was the new scanning credit card machines. I’d researched to make sure I had the newer chip-and-PIN card when going to Japan, but I didn’t know Europe and the UK have already switched over to new scanning styles. There were several places my card wasn’t accepted, like at Tesco supermarkets, because it could only be inserted or swiped.

If you’re going abroad, I recommend bringing a solid cashback card that doesn’t charge for foreign transactions and uses the most up-to-date payment style.

Verdict

Credit cards from such major networks as Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover, are widely accepted in Scotland. They are best used for purchases where it’s possible to earn rewards, while debit cards are best used for ATM cash withdrawals. Prepaid travel cards can also work if you load them with British pounds.

But whichever card you choose, make sure it comes without foreign transaction fees.

If you’re still not certain which payment method will work best while traveling to Scotland, check out our travel money guide page.

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