Best ways to spend travel money in Peru: Debit and prepaid cards

Learn more about the best card to use, whether you should use a UK debit card and other ways to take spending money to Peru.

The currency in Peru has been the nuevo sol since 1991, and has been one of the most stable currencies in Latin America over the past decade. Like many South American countries, cash is the most common form of payment in Peru. Learn more about how to take and spend money in Peru below.

While it’s true that cash is king in South American countries such as Peru, digital banking apps like Revolut and N26 are nonetheless worth considering. Starling, as do most other top players in the banking app scene, won’t charge you transaction or withdrawal fees, so they’re a great way to keep track of your transactions without having to worry about fees.

Low cost travel money options for Peru

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Prepaid travel cards

There are only a small handful of prepaid travel cards that let you load nuevo soles. Consider a travel card with no currency conversion fees if you’re going to take one of these products to Peru.

These products don’t charge for currency conversion, so you can load them with British pounds and withdraw soles without paying the additional fees. However, these cards do charge for international ATM withdrawals. You can avoid both the currency conversion fee and international ATM withdrawal fee by using debit or credit cards.

Debit cards

A Visa or Mastercard debit card can be used at all ATMs and merchants throughout Peru. Compared to Britain, you’ll find that there are far fewer places where you can use your card for over-the-counter purchases. Consider debit cards that charge less, or even nothing, for international ATM withdrawals and try to avoid cards with currency conversion fees too. It’s good to note that most third-party bank operators will charge a fee to use their ATMs.

Credit cards

Credit cards are a must for any overseas holiday. As well as providing emergency access to a line of credit, you can use a credit card for deposits and online bookings. Credit cards even have some handy travel features such as complimentary insurance and airport lounge access, though most credit cards charge a fee for currency conversion.

It is possible to preload these cards with your own money, which makes credit card withdrawals significantly cheaper. The cash advance fee may still apply; however, you can avoid the cash advance rate of interest.

Traveller’s cheques

Once, traveller’s cheques were a popular way to take foreign currency overseas. Today, this type of travel money has been replaced by plastic. Travel cards, debit cards and credit cards offer the same security features and are more convenient. In Peru, traveller’s cheques can be cashed at most banks, but be aware that you may pay a commission when you do this.


Cash is king in Peru. You will need to make ATM withdrawals so that you can use cash to pay for your travels throughout Peru. You can make an ATM withdrawal or exchange foreign cash at one of the many money changers located throughout the towns and cities.

Exchanging money

In the Miraflores region of Lima, look for the men wearing blue jackets standing in the street. They’re legitimate and there are a lot of them so they offer a decent rate and don’t charge a commission on currency exchange. Make sure you have good US dollar bills if you need to exchange money. Licensed (and even unlicensed) money changers won’t take torn or damaged notes. Many travellers put in the extra work to find quality notes in Ecuador before heading to Peru.

  • Tip: ATMs dispense 100 sol notes and it can be very difficult to find a place to get them broken. Pay for your big ticket purchases using your 100 sol notes.

How many soles do I need to bring?

The cost of living in Peru is cheaper than Colombia and Ecuador, so you don’t need to splash the cash to get a superior experience.

Lima Budget Mid-range Expensive
to-sleepHostel dorm bed
£5 to £15
2-star hotel double room
5-star hotel (Marriott Hotel Lima)
Plate of the day
Main dish at world-class restaurant
guardWatch the changing of the guards at the Palacio de Gobierno
Lima bar crawl (plus drinks)
8-day tour of the Amazon and Machu Picchu from Lima

*Prices are approximate and subject to change. Based on the exchange rate of 1GBP = 5.08 Peruvian sol

Travel card, debit card or credit card?

You will need to make ATM withdrawals to cover your day-to-day expenses while travelling in Peru. Visa is accepted by all merchants set up to handle card payments, though fewer vendors accept Mastercard or American Express.

ATMs are common in the cities; Banco de Credito del Peru (BCP) operates ATMs throughout the country and Citi has a small presence in Lima and Cusco. The maximum you can withdraw in one transaction is 700 soles, and there is a charge from the local ATM operator each time you make a withdrawal.

While you’ll still have to pay withdrawal fees charged by the ATM operator, you won’t have to worry about withdrawal fees charged by your bank if you opt for a banking app such as Revolut or Starling. These work in much the same way as conventional bank accounts do, coming with a debit card authorised by Visa or Mastercard which can be “topped up” from your mobile phone, but the key advantage is that they don’t charge withdrawal of transaction fees.

Travel money options for Peru at a glance

Travel money optionsProsConsiderations
Prepaid travel cards
  • No currency conversion fees
  • No international ATM withdrawal fees
  • Relatively small number of prepaid cards offering to hold Peruvian currency
Debit cards
  • Can be used at all ATMs and merchants in Peru
  • Charge less or $0 fee for ATM withdrawals
  • No currency conversion fee
  • ATM operator fees
Credit cards
  • Complimentary insurance
  • Access to airport lounges
  • ATM withdrawal fees can be waived
  • Up to 3% currency conversion fee may apply
Traveller’s cheques
  • Secured
  • Can be converted to cash in most banks within Peru
  • A commission fee applies
  • Handy
  • Useful for small purchases and payments
  • Security
  • Foreign exchange fee may apply

Amy shopped like a local in Peru

Amy spent 6 months in South America; she started her trip in Colombia and finished in Peru after seeing Machu Picchu and walking the Inca trail. In Peru she visited Chimbote, Lima, Cusco and Agua Calientes.

Where were you able to use your cards?

Amy didn’t use her cards for over-the-counter purchases at all; she used cash the entire time she was in Peru, and almost the entire time she was in South America. She found that high-end retailers, expensive restaurants and hotels were the only places where she could use her cards.

What about ATM withdrawals?

Amy made withdrawals every week-and-a-half or so. She was able to get 700 soles from the machine at a time and she paid 7 soles for each withdrawal. Her traveller card did not charge for international ATM withdrawals so the local ATM operator fee was the only charge.

Do you have any travel money tips?

Always try and get lower denominations from ATMs as it can be hard to break large notes. Also, in Agua Calientes, make sure you have enough cash for your trip to Machu Picchu as banks and ATMs are hard to find.

Buying currency in Britain

Soles are an exotic currency and you may find it difficult to find a bank or exchange office that can sell you PEN, but we have listed some of the places you can get them below.

There are many ATMs in Peruvian cities and key tourist destinations. If you’re concerned about getting a good rate when you exchange currencies, you may want to consider a card that offers free international ATM withdrawals. ATM withdrawals are subject to the Visa and Mastercard international exchange rate, which is often better than what you can get exchanging money in other ways.


Bottom line

You will be using cash in Peru. Take a travel card, debit card or credit card that lets you withdraw your money for less from an ATM. Spread your travel budget across a couple of cards so you have access to money in the event of the unexpected. If you have a question about taking and using travel money in Peru, get in touch with us using the form below.

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