Use a card without foreign transaction fees and carry cash for incidentals.
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.
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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
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Case study: Roslyn’s experience
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.
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.