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Travel money guide: Spain

Spend with convenience and avoid unnecessary fees on your vacation to Spain.

Hola, amigos! Are you planning a trip to the land of bullfights, tapas and flamenco? One of the things that makes Spain so travel-friendly is the use of euros as the national currency. Credit cards, debit cards and cash are all accepted.

Credit cards that waive international fees, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, are your best bet for dodging some extra expenses to your wallet. Here’s a look at your money options before making the trip to Spain.

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Travel card, debit card or credit card?

The national currency for Spain is the euro. As one of the major global currencies, all travel cards let you load and spend euros. But is a travel card the best travel money product for your trip?

Visa and Mastercard have wide acceptance at shops and ATMs throughout Spain. Use your debit card or credit card like you would in the US, but look for cards that waive the currency conversion fee when you spend.

You’ll need to take a variety of spending options on your trip to the Iberian Peninsula. Use a debit card or a travel card to withdraw cash from ATMs and for over-the-counter purchases, and save your credit card for emergencies and big-ticket purchases.

Credit cards can offer up to 30 days interest-free on purchases if you pay your account by the statement due date. And there are cards that provide travel insurance and travel perks.

Spread your travel money across a couple of accounts so you won’t be caught without cash if a card goes missing. Travelers to Spain may be surprised at how easy it is to get by without spending a fortune. With a few travel money tricks up your sleeve, it’s easy to sample all of the joys of Spain, from the Royal Alcázar to Dali.

These are your options for spending money in Spain

Using a credit card

There are a number of competitive credit card products designed for travelers, and the best for travel to Spain won’t charge foreign transaction or international ATM fees. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a good example, waiving such fees while also offering the opportunity to earn miles on purchases. Carrying a credit card may also give you the added benefit of travel insurance and discounts, depending on your provider.

Travel credit cards come in all shapes and sizes when it comes to features, with some offering big luxury perks at a high cost. It pays to compare your travel card options before applying to make sure you get the card that best fits your travel needs.

    • Protected by PIN and chip
    • Accepted worldwide
    • May come with benefits like travel insurance
    • Interest-free days when you pay your account in full
    • Emergency card replacement
    • You’ll pay a lot for a cash advance

    Which credit card issuers are accepted in Spain?

    Visa and Mastercard are most popular in Spain, with American Express closely behind. But if you have a Discover card, you may find it hard to pay with it.

    Merchant acceptanceATM acceptance
    check mark iconHigh
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    check mark iconHigh
    check mark iconHigh
    American Express
    exclamation point iconMedium
    check mark iconHigh
    cross mark iconLow
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    Compare travel credit cards

    Select Compare for each card that interests you for a side-by-side study on features, rewards and fees to help you decide which card best suits your needs.

    1 - 3 of 29
    Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
    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

    2x miles on every purchase, every day, 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5x miles when you book on Turo, the world’s largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months ​from account opening.
    Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
    Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
    Earn unlimited 1.25x miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
    Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
    Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card
    70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $4,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
    3 miles per $1 on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 miles per $1 on all other purchases
    Get 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $4,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

    Compare up to 4 providers

    Using a debit card

    Though rarer than travel credit cards, travel-friendly debit cards can give you the best of both worlds: spending money you have and withdrawing it without paying international service fees. Providers like Betterment Checking are a good choice as they reimburse international ATM and foreign transaction fees. There are plenty of ATMs in Spain, and should have no problem accessing money when you need it.

    • Tip: Make sure your debit card has a chip to avoid situations where you card won’t be accepted.
    • Use at stores and hotels, online and ATMs
    • Protected by PIN and chip
    • Spending your own money means avoiding interest charges
    • No backup card if you lose it on your trip
    • Some charge currency conversion and ATM fees

    Using a prepaid travel card

    Travel cards can lock in conversion rates once you load USD. Use it for purchases without worrying about rates each time you spend — debit and credit cards often charge 3% for each transaction.

    Where you save in the conversion rates you may pay in fees. You’ll pay fees each time you load the card, ATM withdrawals and sometimes even an inactivity fee.

    • Tip: Banks that provide travel cards make money by applying a higher margin to the exchange rate. Get a better rate using a debit card or credit card.
    • Tip: When you get a travel card, you’ll get two for the same account. This can come in handy if your first card is lost or stolen, so make sure to keep the second card in a safe place.
    • Lock in exchange rate when you convert USD to EUR
    • Protected by PIN and chip
    • Emergency card replacement and backup cards.
    • Reloadable online
    • Pay a currency conversion fee to use USD
    • Often charge ATM fees

    Paying with cash in Spain

    It’s advisable to always have some cash with you when you travel. Expect to need cash for things like coffee and tapas, and anytime you need to make a purchase for anything between €10 and €20.

    When you’re visiting the larger cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Seville, you should be able to live on your credit and debit cards. Keep in mind that you’re going to need cash for purchases under €10 at most shops.

    One option is to send your money to Spain ahead of time with a money transfer service and have it waiting for pickup when you arrive.

    • Greater payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • More difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft
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    Spain currency

    5 Euros10 Euros20 Euros
    50 Euros100 Euros

    The main banks in Spain are:

    • Banco Santander
    • Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A.
    • CaixaBank
    • Banco de Sabadell
    • Bankia
    • Banco Popular Español
    • Bankinter
    • KutxaBank
    • Caja Rural Group
    • Unicaja Banco

    Buying currency in the US

    There’s no limit to the amount of cash you can bring with you to Spain. However, you’ll need to make a declaration at customs if you’re traveling with more than €10,000 cash, including traveler’s checks.

    Your bank will sell you euros at a competitive rate, though you’ll pay a commission fee. You can use a money transfer company like Western Union or Travelex to order euros and pick them up once you arrive at the Spanish airport. They don’t charge a commission and that can offer a slightly better rate than most banks.

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    Exchanging cash

    If you wait to exchange your money in Spain you’ll have lots of choices in Barcelona and Madrid. You’ll find better rates if you venture away from tourist attractions. Avoid exchanging your money at the airport if you want the most competitive rates.

    Exchange rate history

    The euro, though a young currency, has historically stood up to the USD. If you watch forex markets and find a favorable rate, lock it in with a travel money card or traveler’s checks.

    ATMS in Spain

    You’ll be able to find ATMs in all Spanish towns and cities, gas stations, shopping centers and bus and train stations. Bank affiliated ATMs generally won’t charge you for usage except for Catalunya Caixa Bank, which will charge a couple of euros. However some banks like Betterment Checking offer debit cards that reimburse for foreign transaction fees or international ATM charges. Most ATMs will have an English option.

    • Tip: Bank of America cardholders can avoid the international ATM fee by making withdrawals from Deutsche Bank in Spain.

    Keep your travel money (physically) safe

    Remain alert to street crime, especially where two or more people operate together to distract victims before taking their valuables. Instances of theft at airports are frequent, so stay vigilant while arriving and departing. Numerous reports come up about theft from rental cars so never leave your wallet or purse in a parked car.

    In some cases, thieves pose as cops and ask to see wallets for identification purposes. In this case, make sure you’re speaking with genuine police officers. It’s highly unlikely that a real cop will want to sift through your wallet.

    What should I budget for my trip to Spain?

    Spain is a bit smaller than the size of Texas, and prices throughout the country vary. Cities like Barcelona and Madrid tend to charge more for accommodations and food. On average you can expect to spend between $50 to $350 a day.

    MealsStreet food and tapas
    Seafood paella and wine
    Seafood dinner with wine
    $50 per person
    $15–$125 per night
    4-star hotel in the city center
    5-star hotel with a view
    ActivitiesExplore Plaza Mayor and Madrid’s Royal Palace for freeEntry to the Reina Sofia National Museum
    Private guided 1/2 day tour of Madrid

    *Prices are indicative and subject to change

    Case study: Interview with Michael about travel money on his trip to Spain

    What tips do you have about travel in Spain?

    He was offered the Madrid tourist card providing entry to museums, free guide books and access to guided tours. He turned it down because he found it pricey at €50 for a one-day pass. He thought that it could be worth it if he was interested in seeing lots of museums while he was in Madrid.

    Michael also says watch out for the Value Added Tax (IVA) tax, which isn’t included in some bills and can be as high as 20%.

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