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
Our pick for travel credit card
American Express® Gold Card
Finder rating: 4.6/5
Our pick for multi-currency debit card
Finder rating: 4.5/5
Our pick for 0% transaction fee debit card
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.
- Accepted everywhere
- Contactless payment terminals are common
- 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.
- 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 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.
- Greater payment flexibility
- 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.
- Can be costly with initial purchase charges
- Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks
Compare travel credit cards
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.
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
- Fifth Third Bank
- Citizens Financial Group
Find ATMs in USA
Cash pickup services in USA
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.
$30 to $60 per night
|Hotel or motel|
$150 per night
|5-star hotel or luxury suite|
$350 per night
$5 to $10
$20 to $40
|5-Michelin star restaurant|
$50 a plate
|Activities||Free festivals year round in American cities||Guggenheim Museum|
$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
- Lost luggage
- Stolen travel documents
- Personal liability
Our latest travel deals to USA
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