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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.

Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

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.

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.

Madrid Budget Midrange Luxury
eat-in-greece

Street food and tapas
$10

Seafood paella and wine
$15

Seafood dinner with wine
$50 per person

accomodations-in-greece

Hostel
$15–$125 per night

4 star hotel in the city center
$85

5 star hotel with a view
$150
Explore Plaza Mayor and Madrid’s Royal Palace for free

Entry to the Reina Sofia National Museum
$10

Private guided 1/2 day tour of Madrid
$150

*Prices are indicative and subject to change

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.

Send a money transfer to Spain

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.
How to use a credit card in Spain

Travel money options for Spain at a glance

Travel money option Pros Considerations
Debit cards
  • Use at stores and hotels, online and ATMs
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Spending your own money means avoiding interest charges
  • No back-up card if you lose it on your trip
  • Some charge currency conversion and ATM fees
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Lock in exchange rate when you convert USD to EUR
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards.
  • Reloadable online
  • Pay a currency conversion fee to use USD
  • Often charge ATM fees
Credit cards
  • 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

    • You’ll pay a lot for a cash advance
    • Rewards program may cost more than they are worth
    Traveler’s checks
    • Accepted at most banks and hotels
    • Security
    • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
    • Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks
    Cash
    • Greater payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • More difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft

    This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

    How each travel money option works in Spain

    Here’s how different travel money products work in Spain.

    Using travel prepaid cards

    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.

    Using debit 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. 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.

    Using credit cards

    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.

    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.

    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.

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    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 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 Preferred® Card
    60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $750 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
    $95
    Earn a signup bonus worth $750 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
    The Platinum Card® from American Express
    100,000 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, 15x points on directly-booked flights or on flights and hotels on Amex Travel. 1x points on all other purchases. Starting January 1, 2021, your 15x points on flights will be capped on up to $500,000 annually (then 1x points).
    $550
    One of the most valuable premium travel cards, featuring two welcome offers worth up to $4,500, multiple travel credits and unrivaled lounge access. 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.
    Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
    100,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months, plus earn 25,000 after the first anniversary of card membership (offer expires 1/13/2021)
    6x points at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3x at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2x for all other purchases
    $450
    Earn 100,000 bonus points when you spend $5,000 or more within your first 3 months, plus earn 25,000 after the first anniversary of card membership (offer expires 1/13/2021). Rates & fees
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    Compare up to 4 providers

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

    Merrymaking in Barcelona and Madrid

    Michael left Paris to visit Barcelona and Madrid on his way to Lisbon. He traveled on the Eurostar to get from city to city, and found it a bit expensive. But it saved him a lot of time that he could have wasted on a bus. Barcelona was his first stop where he found the Sagrada Familia and the Gothic Quarter to be the highlights of the city. He traveled a bit in the Catalonia countryside and then headed to Madrid where he spent a week.

    What cards did you take?

    Michael says he took two credit cards and one debit card to Spain.

    Simmons Visa®

    Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

    Bank of America debit card

      Why did you take these cards?

      Michael used his Chase Sapphire for big purchases like his Eurostar and airline tickets and hotel stays. He likes this card because not only does it waive the foreign transaction fees, it also offers rewards for travel that he can use towards his next trip abroad. The Simmons Visa® is the card he uses most at home because of the low APR — but it also offers travel insurance. To access his cash, Michael brought his Bank of America debit card because it was part of the Global ATM Alliance. He was able to find Deutsche Banks to withdraw money, without paying transaction fees.

      Where could you use your cards?

      Michael said he used his card more than cash in Madrid where there were lots of places that accepted Mastercard and Visa. Most places required him to purchase a minimum of 10 or 20 euro, but he found supermarkets like Mercadona and Carrefour didn’t require one.

      Did you use ATMs?

      Michael says he made withdrawals from ATMs from Deutsche Bank because it was part of the Global ATM Alliance to save him on fees. He didn’t have to look far to find one of these machines anywhere in 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%.

      Our pick for a prepaid travel card
      Travelex Money Card

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      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.

      American Express

      Travelex

      Worldremit

      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.

      Using ATMs

      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.
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      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 0.836 EUR 833 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
      $10 Within an hour USD 1.99 0.824 EUR 822 Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
      Quick, affordable transfers around the world with both express and economy options.
      Go to site Show details
      $1 Within an hour USD 8.00 0.821 EUR 815 Easily transfer cash to more than 350,000 locations around the world. Show details
      $1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 0.819 EUR 803 The biggest name in money transfers can get your funds to friends, family, or businesses in almost every corner of the globe. Show details

      Compare up to 4 providers

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

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