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Travel money guide: Turkey

How to pick the right travel money product to take with you to Turkey

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Where the Eastern and Western worlds meet, Turkey is a destination for those with a curiosity of history. Grab a snack along the cobblestone streets or take a walk along the ancient trade route of the Bosphorus River to feel a fusion of the modern West and the more traditional Eastern cultures.

The Turkish lira is the accepted currency in Turkey, and although you can pay with euros in some places, you’ll always get a better deal paying in the local currency. Get lira from ATMs using your debit card or travel card — withdrawing cash on credit is not advised. Visa and Mastercard cards are widely accepted, especially in the big cities. We’ll help you save money on your trip to Turkey by avoiding unnecessary fees.

Travel warning in Turkey

As of October 2017 The US State Department as issued a travel warning to American travelers to beware of threats from terrorist groups in Turkey. They advise to reconsider travel to southeast Turkey, including travel to Istanbul and Adana.

Our picks for traveling to Turkey

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?

Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Turkey. American Express cardholders may have issues with card acceptance, especially outside the major cities. There is an abundance of ATMs in Turkey, and if you think you’re going to have an issue using your card in a particular destination, make a withdrawal and use cash instead. You can find debit cards that waive the currency conversion fee and international ATM fees. For using cash, this is the best option because no prepaid travel cards support Turkish lira.

You won’t have any problems using your Visa and Mastercard credit card and debit card in Turkey, but a thousand things could happen to your card when you’re away. So you should always have more than one way to access your money in Turkey, or anywhere for that matter. A debit card is ideal for ATM withdrawals, especially if your card waives the international ATM fee.

Meanwhile, a credit card gives you a line of credit that can come in handy for large or emergency purchases. Purchases will cost you more if you don’t pay your account in full each month.

Prepaid travel cards are not the cards to take to Turkey because they don’t carry lira. However, on a trip where you’ll be visiting countries that take euro, you may be able to pay the conversion fee when you make purchases.

If you’re careful about how to spend your travel money, saving on foreign transaction fees and getting a good exchange rate, you can earn yourself a bus tour or a meal!

Compare travel money products to keep your budget in check while you enjoy your trip abroad.

These are your options for spending money in Turkey

Using a credit card

Travel credit cards give you a line of credit to use for emergencies, large purchases or over the counter transactions. Find yourself a credit card that waives foreign transaction 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.

Cards that offer travel perks and waive fees often charge an annual fee, so make sure the fee is worth it before you bring it along on your travels. If you’re ever in a jam, credit cards also offer the ease of cash advances, though we don’t recommend it. You’ll pay high fees and interest rates apply the moment you get your money.

Pros
  • Rewards program
  • Contactless payments
  • Interest-free period on purchases
  • Complimentary travel insurance
Cons
  • Cash advance fees
  • International ATM fees

Using a debit card

A travel debit card lets you spend your own money through ATM withdrawals and making purchases anywhere Visa or Mastercard are accepted. You can use a debit card over the counter and to withdraw money from ATM where Visa and Mastercard are accepted throughout the country, which is most places. Because you’re spending your own money, you avoid interest charges you’d pay with credit cards. The Citibank Plus waives the fee for international ATM withdrawals and doesn’t charge a monthly account keeping fee.

  • Tip: Citibank no longer has a presence in Turkey. You can use your Citibank Plus to make free ATM withdrawals from Denizbank ATMs (and most ATMs from Turkish banks), the company which purchased Citibank’s Turkish operation.
Pros
  • Save on currency conversion fees
  • Waived overseas ATM withdrawal fees
Cons
  • No access to cash advance

Using a prepaid travel card

No travel cards support Turkish lira, so look for a card which waives the currency conversion fee, such as Qantas Cash, if you’re set on taking a travel card when you visit Turkey. These products won’t apply the additional charge for currency conversion when you spend in lira, which can be higher than what you’d pay if you use your regular debit or credit card. The compromise is these cards will charge you to use an international ATM withdrawal in Turkey, which is a couple of dollars for each withdrawal. You can load these cards with euros to use at some merchants— but don’t count on it. And you won’t get the best exchange rate.

  • 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
  • Holds various currencies
  • Save on currency conversion fees
Cons
  • Doesn’t hold Turkish lira
  • Come with lots of fees for loading and reloading, inactivity and ATM withdrawals.

Paying with cash in Turkey

Always have lira on hand when you’re out and about in Turkey, as you’re bound to run into situations where a business won’t accept your card. Cafes, small eateries and tea houses are all cash only. Larger stores are likely to take cards but some of the best experiences, like shopping in the Grand Bazaar, are cash only.

If you’re bringing a card that has no currency conversion and no international ATM fee card, using an ATM is the best way to get lira in Turkey. When you use your card to withdraw cash, you’ll get the card’s foreign exchange rate, which is a better rate than what you’ll get at exchange offices or banks. If you have cash to exchange, most exchange offices will buy USD and sell you lira. You can find these businesses in tourist areas like Taksim in Istanbul. And unlike banks you may not pay a commission. You’ll get a poor rate if you exchange money at the airport.

  • Tip: Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, as tourists are often the target of criminals, especially in areas of Istanbul.
Pros
  • Accepted anywhere
  • Convenience
Cons
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • High risk of theft

Using traveler’s checks

It’s far more convenient (and it can be cheaper) to use your travel friendly debit card or prepaid travel card to make ATM withdrawals rather than a traveler’s check when you need cash. They must be cashed at banks and they are not accepted at exchange offices or businesses.

Pros
  • Accepted at most banks
  • Security
Cons
  • Fees for purchasing and cashing
  • Hard to find merchants that accept them

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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Turkish currency

5 Turkish lira banknote10 Turkish lira banknote20 Turkish lira banknote
50 Turkish lira banknote100 Turkish lira banknote200 Turkish lira banknote

The main banks in Turkey are:

  • Ziraat Bank
  • Isbank
  • Garanti Bank
  • AKBank
  • Yapi Kredi Bank
  • Denizbank
  • Finansbank
  • Vakifbank
  • Halkbank
  • Türk Ekonomi Bankası

Buying currency in the US

While you’ll get a better rate if you wait to get Turkish lira in Turkey , you can purchase lira in the US from your bank or a foreign exchange provider like Travelex. Here are some popular ways to exchange your US currency into lira.

Live Rate

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Exchange rate history

The USD has grown significantly against the TRY in the past 10 years. Watch the forex markets and determine a good time to buy liras and lock in a favorable rate with traveler’s checks or travel money cards.

Which exchange rate is the best?

Transactions on Visa, Mastercard and American Express branded credit cards and debit cards use the same exchange rates that are close to the market rate — often 5%–10% better than banks or currency conversion centers. Travel money cards use their own rate, determine by the financial institution that released the card.

As for cash, it’s best to exchange your money when you arrive in Turkey. The commission at money exchanging kiosks in the US are much higher.

ATMs in Turkey

Good news! Turkish bank ATMs do not charge a local ATM operator fee, though your bank may. You can use a debit, credit and travel cards with the Visa or Mastercard logo to get cash from Turkish ATMs. You can withdraw both lira and euros, but save yourself the over the counter currency exchange rates and use lira for your purchase

  • Tip: There are instances when the transaction times out. If this happens to you try a different ATM. Contact your bank if they charge you for a withdrawal and you didn’t get your money.
Find ATMs in Turkey

Cash pickup services in Turkey

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 73.312 INR 73,019 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 72.206 INR 72,063 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 72.022 INR 71,446 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 71.838 INR 70,401 Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

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

How much should I budget to travel in Turkey?

Turkey is a bargain for US travelers. You’ll pay significantly less for accommodations, sight seeing tours and food. What’s more is that taking a public bus is not only more economical, it can also be pleasant, with free snacks and drinks brought to you by a steward. You won’t see that in New York City! For budget travelers, you can survive on less than $20 a day, mid-range travelers can budget $50 per day. For more luxury hotels and dinner, plan for $150 a day. All prices are in US dollars.

BudgetMidrangeA royal experience
MealsDürüm kebab (street) less than $5At a mid-range restaurant $10–$20 per dish5 star restaurant, mains from $40+ per dish
AccommodationHostel dorm $9+ per night2 star hotel $25+ per night5 star hotel $80 + per night
ActivitiesStroll through the Grand Bazar freeOne day sightseeing tour $100 per person (includes lunch)Private photo tour of Istanbul $400 per person for 4 hours

*Prices are approximate are subject to change.

Case study: Luke's experience

Luke profile photo
Luke

Luke’s trip to Turkey

Luke spent a week in Istanbul, Turkey before joining a TopDeck tour which took him to the Gallipoli dawn service at Lone Pine to end up in Greece. We interviewed Luke about his travel money experience while in Turkey.

Do you have any travel money tips for Turkey?

Luke says take note of the following:

  • Let your banks know where you’ll be heading so they don’t block your cards.
  • Don’t be tricked by exchange offices at Istanbul bus stations. Luke says he got ripped off the first time he tried to change cash. This only happened once, but he says the memory still stings.
  • You need to have Turkish bank account if you want a Turkish debit card to use while you’re on holiday. Luke says he didn’t encounter any shops or businesses selling these cards to tourists.

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