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Travel money guide: Spain

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

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Hola, amigos! Are you planning a trip to the land of bullfights and rich history? Organize your travel money options ahead of time and you can spend more time soaking in the rich culture rather than worrying how you’re going to pay your way. One of the things that makes Spain so travel friendly is the use of euros as the national currency.

But when you go abroad, the way you take and spend your travel money can make a difference to your hip-pocket. Foreign ATM fees, currency conversion fees and foreign transaction fees can eat at your travel budget. The good news is that if you take sthe time to get your finances in order before you go, you can easily avoid all the extra charges, and have more to spend on sangria instead.

Our picks for traveling to Spain

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?

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. You can use your debit card or credit card like you would in the US, just 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. By spreading your travel money across a couple of accounts, 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 flamenco 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. Carrying a credit card gives you the added benefit of travel insurance and discounts, depending on your provider. For added savings, take advantage of the interest-free period by paying your balance in full each month.

We don’t advise using your credit card to get cash from an ATM. Cash advance charges and interest can add up quickly and eat away your available credit.

  • Tip: Some credit cards offer complimentary international travel insurance when you charge the cost of your travel ticket to your card.
Pros
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Accepted worldwide
  • May come with benefits like travel insurance
  • Interest-free days when you pay your account in full
  • Emergency card replacement
Cons
  • You’ll pay a lot for a cash advance
  • Rewards program may cost more than they are worth

Using a debit card

Travel-friendly debit cards can give you the best of both worlds: spending money you have and withdrawing it without paying international service fees. There are plenty of ATMs in Spain, and should have no problem accessing money when you need it. If you have a debit card with Visa or Mastercard, you’ll be able to make over the counter purchases.

  • Tip: Make sure your debit card has a chip to avoid situations where you card won’t be accepted.
Pros
  • Use at stores and hotels, online and ATMs
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Spending your own money means avoiding interest charges
Cons
  • No back-up 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. You can 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.
Pros
  • Lock in exchange rate when you convert USD to EUR
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards.
  • Reloadable online
Cons
  • Pay a currency conversion fee to use USD
  • Often charge ATM fees

Paying with cash in Spain

It is advisable to always have some cash with you when you travel. You can expect to need cash for things like coffee and tapa shops 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 at most shops.

You can always send your money to Spain ahead of time with a money transfer service and have it waiting to be picked up when you arrive.

Pros
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • More 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 euro for your travel.

  • 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.
Pros
  • Accepted at most banks and hotels
  • Security
Cons
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveler’s 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
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. Plus up to $50 statement credit towards groceries
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on up to $1,000 on groceries until April 30, 2021, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a signup bonus worth $1,000 plus up to $50 statement credit towards groceries with this popular travel card.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
75,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 6 months, plus 10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 in combined purchases in the same timeframe
10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 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
$550
One of the most valuable premium travel cards, featuring two welcome offers worth up to $4,500 based on Finder's valuation, multiple travel credits and unrivaled lounge access. Terms apply, see rates & fees
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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). You 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. Try not to exchange 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 finda 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, who will charge a couple of eruros. Most ATMs, and almost all in larger towns and cities will have an English option.

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

Cash pickup services in Spain

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 0.819 EUR 815 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 0.806 EUR 805 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 0.804 EUR 798 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 0.802 EUR 786 Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world. Go to site Show details

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

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.

MadridBudgetMidrangeLuxury
MealsStreet food and tapas
$10
Seafood paella and wine
$15
Seafood dinner with wine
$50 per person
AccommodationHostel
$15–$125 per night
4 star hotel in the city center
$85
5 star hotel with a view
$150
ActivitiesExplore Plaza Mayor and Madrid’s Royal Palace for freeEntry to the Reina Sofia National Museum
$10
Private guided 1/2 day tour of Madrid
$150

*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, offering entry to museums, free guide books and access to guided tours. He turned it down because he found it pricey at €50 for a 1 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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