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Travel money guide: USA

Explore the land of stars and stripes and discover how you can access your cash in the USA.

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The dollar is one of the world’s most stable currencies and is the only currency accepted in the US. If you’re traveling to the states, you’ll have no problem using your credit card. Banks are common and ATMs are inside most corner stores as well.

Read on to find out which cards will work cheapest in the United States of America.

Our picks for traveling to USA

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?

You’ll find most Americans rely on their credit card or debit card to make purchases as much as cash. There are times when you’ll need to pay cash — if your buying a drink at a small bar or a hotdog from a food truck.

However, you’ll see that most merchants in American cities are set up to handle card, contactless and mobile payments.

Use a combination of travel money products which don’t charge for currency conversion and have low or no international ATM withdrawal fees. A travel card or debit card combined with a travel friendly credit card will give you a cost effective way to make both over the counter purchases and ATM withdrawals in the USA.

Compare travel money options and apply for a card you can use to spend for less in America to avoid throwing money at your bank while you’re visiting the United States of America.

These are your options for spending money in USA

Using a credit card

America is a society of credit and any card you use will likely be accepted if the retailer can handle card payments. Contactless payment terminals are common at places like Walmart, Target, Kmart and other major retailers.

  • Tip: Rewards credit cards which also don’t charge for currency conversion can be a good way to rack up the points in the US.
Pros
  • Accepted everywhere
  • Contactless payment terminals are common
Cons
  • Overseas ATM fees and currency conversion fees may apply

Using a debit card

You can use any Mastercard or Visa branded debit card in the United States. The Visa or Mastercard exchange rate applies to foreign currency transactions. This rate is as close to the market rate you can get using a travel product overseas.

Pros
  • No currency conversion, international ATM, account keeping fees
Cons
  • May be subject to forging transaction fees

Using a prepaid travel card

Although Visa, Mastercard and American Express are accepted everywhere, not all prepaid cards have your name printed on the front, which may cause the merchant to reject them. These instances may be limited to smaller shops. You may be better off using a credit or debit card instead.

Pros
  • Locked-in exchange rates
  • No currency conversion fee
  • International ATM withdrawal fee waiver on some cards
Cons
  • Fees to consider such as local ATM, initial load, reload and inactivity fees

Paying with cash in USA

Dollar bills can give you the impression your wallet is fatter than it actually is. And although you can get by using your card for most purchases, there are times when you’re going to need cash. The US has a culture of tipping, it’s a substitute for low wages. You’ll likely need cash to tip, especially if you’re at a bar, restaurant, club or hotel.

  • Tip: There are no rules about how much or little you should tip. But be aware that many service staff in the United States are underpaid and rely on tips to make up their income. You don’t have to tip big, but don’t be stingy unless you’ve received genuinely bad service.
How much should I tip?
  • Restaurant. Waiters should get anywhere between 18% to 20% of the bill. Some restaurants will add tips onto the final bill (more common in tourist areas), if this is the case, you don’t need to leave a tip.
  • Bar. Drinks are pretty cheap. It’s good form to tip $1 per drink. You may even get a free one from the bartender if you tip a $5.
  • Hotel. Tip the porter $2 to $5 for a big bag and an extra $1 for every other bag. Tip housekeepers anywhere from $5 to $10 a day.
  • Taxis. Tip 10% to 20% of the fare.
  • Cafe. The barista making your coffee doesn’t necessarily need a tip unless he or she has done something special.
Pros
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

Using traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks were once a staple for any overseas trip. In recent times, card acceptance and security have made these travel money products a burden.

Pros
  • Acceptance
  • 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
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
100,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95

Up to $1,250 signup bonus

Earn a massive signup bonus of 100,000 points with this popular travel card. That's worth up to $1,250!
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
The Platinum Card® from American Express
100,000 points after spending $6,000 in your first 6 months, plus 10x points at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the US on up to $25,000 in combined purchases in the same timeframe
10x points at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the US on up to $25,000 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
$695

New Platinum Exclusive Offer

One of the most valuable premium travel cards, featuring two welcome offers worth up to $7,000 based on Finder's valuation, multiple travel credits and unrivaled lounge access. Terms apply, see rates & fees
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USA currency

Have you ever found yourself in the country with a wad of foreign cash? It can be all too easy to give a fifty instead of a five. Don’t get ripped off. Familiarize yourself with US currency before you leave.

5 US Dollar banknote10 US Dollar banknote20 US Dollar banknote
50 US Dollar banknote100 US Dollar banknote

Did you know?

In addition to the standard $1 to $100 bills, America also has notes to cover larger denominations.

  • Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th U.S president had a $1,000 note named after him.
  • James Madison, the 4th U.S President had a $5,000 note named after him.
  • Salmon P Chase, the 6th U.S Chief Justice had a $10,000 note named after him.
  • Woodrow Wilson, the 28th U.S President had a $100,000 note named after him.

The main banks in USA are:

  • JPMorgan Chase & Co
  • Bank of America Corp
  • Wells Fargo & Co
  • Citigroup Inc
  • U.S. Bancorp
  • Truist Bank
  • PNC Financial Services Group Inc
  • TD Group US Holdings LLC
  • Capital One Financial Corp
  • Bank of New York Mellon Corp
  • Goldman Sachs Group Inc
  • State Street Corp
  • HSBC
  • Fifth Third Bank
  • Citizens Financial Group

Find ATMs in USA

Cash pickup services in USA

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 74.071 INR 73,776 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 72.955 INR 72,809 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 72.769 INR 72,186 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 72.582 INR 71,131 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 USA?

There’s an old saying first coined in the Reader’s Digest, once you’re finished packing your suitcase, take out half the clothes and take double the money. Ultimately, how you take your money is up to you. Someone couch-surfing in San Francisco will have a different budget to someone on a New York shopping holiday. All prices are in US dollars.

New YorkBudgetMidTop
AccommodationHostel
$30 to $60 per night
Hotel or motel
$150 per night
5-star hotel or luxury suite
$350 per night
MealsFood truck
$5 to $10
Restaurant
$20 to $40
5-Michelin star restaurant
$50 a plate
ActivitiesFree festivals year round in American citiesGuggenheim Museum
$25
Broadway Musical
$200 to $800

*Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

Travel insurance for USA

While the USA is a pretty safe travel destination, accidents can happen anywhere. Don’t leave yourself with a large bill for out of pocket medical expenses.

Protect yourself financially with travel insurance. Travel insurance can cover you for:

  • Emergency medical and dental
  • Evacuation
  • Lost luggage
  • Stolen travel documents
  • Personal liability

Compare travel insurance policies

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Our latest travel deals to USA

Deal

New York City Hotels up to 60% off

Expires 7 Aug 2021
T&Cs apply
Deal

Save 40% off New York's 6 best attractions

Expires 31 Dec 2025
T&Cs apply
Deal

Amtrak deals on train tickets from $39 one way

Get great deals on Amtrak tickets to cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, LA, San Diego, and more.

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