Finder makes money from featured partners, but editorial opinions are our own. Advertiser disclosure

Travel money guide: USA

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

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

40+ currencies supported

Go to site
  • 4.85% APY on USD balances
  • $0 monthly fees
  • Up to $100 free ATMs withdrawals worldwide
  • Hold and convert 40+ currencies

Up to $300 cash bonus

Go to site
on SoFi's secure site
  • 0.50% APY on checking balance
  • Up to 4.60% APY on savings
  • $0 account or overdraft fees
  • Get a $300 bonus with direct deposits of $5,000 or more

Free ATM transactions

Go to site
  • $50 waivable monthly fee
  • 0% foreign transaction fee
  • Securely move money domestically and globally
  • 5 monthly out-of-network ATM reimbursements
  • Free international HSBC ATM transactions

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 you’re 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 that 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 less in America to avoid throwing money at your bank while you’re visiting the US.

These are your options for spending money in the 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 that also don’t charge for currency conversion can be a good way to rack up the points in the US.
  • Accepted everywhere
  • Contactless payment terminals are common
  • Overseas ATM fees and currency conversion fees may apply

Compare travel credit cards

Explore top debit cards with no foreign transaction fees and travel credit cards by using the tabs to narrow down your options. Select Compare for up to four products to see their benefits side by side.

1 - 5 of 9
Name Product Fee Minimum deposit to open Annual Percentage Yield (APY) Offer
SoFi Checking and Savings
Finder Score: 4.5 / 5: ★★★★★
SoFi Checking and Savings
$0 per month
4.60% on balances of $0+
0.50% on balances of $0+
1.20% on balances of $0+
Get up to $300 cash bonus with qualifying direct deposit. Terms apply. This offer is available until December 31, 2024.
Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus
Finder Score: 4.3 / 5: ★★★★★
Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus
$0 per month
Chime® Checking Account
Finder Score: 4.8 / 5: ★★★★★
Chime® Checking Account
$0 per month
Refer a friend to Chime using your referral link, and if they complete a $200 direct deposit within 45 days of opening their new account, you both get $100.
HSBC Premier Checking
Finder Score: 3.5 / 5: ★★★★★
HSBC Premier Checking
$50 per month
(can be waived)
0.01% on balances of $5+
Acorns Checking
Finder Score: 3.6 / 5: ★★★★★
Acorns Checking
From $3 per month
1 - 5 of 21
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Up to 5x miles
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. See rates & fees
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
Up to 5x miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months ​from account opening. See rates & fees
Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card
Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card
Bilt does not have a welcome offer. However, they have a unique bonus offer of double points on the first of each month – that’s 6x points on dining, 4x points on travel, and 2x points on other purchases (except rent). Use the card 5 times each statement period to earn points.
Up to 3x points
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
$200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Up to 1.5% cash back
More than an unlimited 1.5% cash back card: you'll also earn 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply). See rates & fees
Capital One VentureOne Rewards for Good Credit
Capital One VentureOne Rewards for Good Credit
Up to 5x miles
The same rewards and $0 annual fee as the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, but for those with good credit. See rates & fees

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.

  • No currency conversion, international ATM, account keeping fees
  • 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.

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

Paying with cash in the 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 to 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 $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.
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • 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.

  • Acceptance
  • Security
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks
Back to top

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 US president, had a $1,000 note named after him.
  • James Madison, the 4th US President, had a $5,000 note named after him.
  • Salmon P Chase, the 6th US Chief Justice, had a $10,000 note named after him.
  • Woodrow Wilson, the 28th US President, had a $100,000 note named after him.

The main banks in the 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 the USA

How much should I budget to travel in the USA?

There’s an old saying first coined in 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 than someone on a New York shopping holiday. All prices are in US dollars.

New YorkBudgetMidTop
$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
$20 to $40
5-Michelin star restaurant
$50 a plate
ActivitiesFree festivals year round in American citiesGuggenheim Museum
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
Back to top

Written by

Kyle Morgan

Kyle Morgan is SEO manager at Forbes Advisor and a former editor and content strategist at Finder. He has written for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He holds a BA in journalism and media from Rutgers University. See full profile

More guides on Finder

Ask a Question provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Go to site