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

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

Poland has been a member of the European Union since 2004 and a member of the Schengen common travel area since 2007. But it isn’t a Eurozone member, its national currency is the Polish zloty. So, if you’re travelling around Europe you will probably want a travel card with no currency conversion fees for transactions in euros and zlotys.

Travel money options for Poland

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Using debit cards

Current accounts with travel features don’t usually charge for currency conversion or international ATM withdrawals. But you may find that some ATMs, or bankomats as they’re known locally, charge a local ATM operator fee when you withdraw cash using a card from a non-Polish financial institution.

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    A debit card with no overseas fees
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    • Free debit card
    • Real exchange rate
    • Start spending before your physical card arrives

    Using credit cards

    Travel credit cards let you spend in zlotys without paying the additional 3% charge to convert British pounds into a foreign currency. This is a handy feature when you’re overseas as it allows you to use your credit card in Poland for approximately the same price as Britain.

    In Poland, as in most developed countries, credit cards are widely accepted, especially Visa and Mastercard. However, be mindful that in smaller businesses and out-of-city areas credit card acceptance might not be so common.

    • Tip: Some credit cards offer complimentary travel insurance when you meet conditions such as paying for your return airfare with your credit card.

    Exchange rates. When you make a transaction in zlotys using your credit card or debit card, the Visa or Mastercard (or American Express) foreign exchange rate applies. This rate can be better than the rate you’ll get on a travel card and is pretty close to the market rate.

    Using travel prepaid cards

    A few widely available British travel money cards support the Polish zloty, including cards from Revolut, Wise and FairFX. Unless you have zlotys loaded on to the card or you’re using a no currency conversion fee travel card, you’ll pay an additional fee when you use your travel card to spend and withdraw.

    The cards which don’t charge for currency conversion can charge for ATM withdrawals, so keep an eye out before you pop your card into a machine.

    Using traveller’s cheques

    Traveller’s cheques are a travel money dinosaur. These products have been replaced by debit cards and travel cards and you will have trouble finding a place where you can get your traveller’s cheques cashed. Taking traveller’s cheques to Poland is not advised.

    Paying with cash in Poland

    You will find that you can pay using your card in Poland in a similar number of places to Britain. The difference is the time it takes for the transaction to process. It can be minutes rather than seconds with some merchants, and you may get the odd look while a line builds up behind you. Some stores will only take cards for transactions over the Polish equivalent of £10. Pubs and clubs are frequently cash only as with some restaurants. Many markets are also cash only.

    How many zlotys do I need to bring to Poland?

    Poland is still cheap compared to Western Europe, with 1 pound being worth roughly 5 zlotys. How you choose to travel will dictate the final cost of your trip. If you eat out (and drink out) every night and stay in nice hotels, your trip will be much more expensive than somebody who rents a bed in a dorm and cooks with food from the market.

    to-sleepHostel dorm
    £5 – £15 per night
    2-star hotel
    £20 – £45 per night
    5-star hotel
    £75 – £150 per night
    to-eatZapiekanki (Polish pizza)
    Pierogi (Polish dumplings)
    Restaurant and wine bar
    £6 – £12 per dish
    plus wine
    £11 (500ml)
    5-star restaurant traditional set 3-course menu plus drinks
    £45 a head
    camera1-hour river cruise
    Bike tour of Krakow
    £18 per person
    Auschwitz-Birkenau guided tour from Krakow plus museum entry
    £25 per person
    Private wine tour of Krakow over 2 nights with accommodation
    £130 per person

    *Prices are approximate and for 1 guest in summer.

    Which travel card, debit card or credit card?

    You won’t have a problem using your Visa or Mastercard debit card, credit card or travel money card at point of sale terminals and Polish bankomat machines. Like in Britain, American Express is not accepted in as many places as Visa or Mastercard. Card payments are the norm in supermarkets, shops, petrol stations, restaurants and more, especially in major towns and cities such as Warsaw, Krakow, Lodz, Wroclaw and so on.

    There are 2 charges to worry about: Compare products which waive the currency conversion fee when you spend in zlotys and compare cards that let you withdraw from Polish ATMs without paying the international ATM withdrawal fee.

    Travel money options for Poland at a glance

    Travel money optionProsConsiderations
    Debit cards for travel
    • No currency conversion, international ATM withdrawals or both
    • ATMs are the common feature of the public spaces in Krakow
    • There can be a fee for ATM cash withdrawal (approx. 8.50zł) from bankomats
    Prepaid travel money cards
    • Convenient and safe
    • Prepaid travel cards can be used to spend and withdraw (fees may apply)
    • There are cheaper travel money products to use than a prepaid travel card
    Credit cards for travel
    • Credit cards are widely accepted, especially Visa and Mastercard
    • Some cards have no annual fees, no foreign exchange fees and they perform currency exchanges at the best possible interchange rate
    • Credit cards can usually only be used in larger cities and tourist areas and you may be charged to use them
    • Smaller businesses and out-of-city areas credit card acceptance might not be so common
    Traveller’s cheques
    • Security
    • Traveller’s cheques can be exchanged at the larger hotels
    • Only accepted by main banks and hotels
    • They are not accepted by kantors.
    • Greater payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • More difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft

    This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.


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    Example: Top Deck Tour: One day in Krakow

    For her 19th birthday, Kacey visited Poland as part of a 13-day Top Deck tour. She spent a day travelling from Vienna to Poland and 1 day in Krakow before continuing to the Czech Republic.

    Where could you use your cards?

    She didn’t have a problem with card acceptance. When she arrived in Poland, she made 1 ATM withdrawal of about 200 Polish zlotys (about £36), which was more than enough to cover her for a day and a half – the tour paid for breakfast, but not lunch, dinner, drinks or activities for the day. She didn’t want to withdraw too much money as they headed to the Czech Republic the next day, and she had to make another ATM withdrawal so she could get Czech Koruna.

    What about ATM withdrawals?

    Kacey made a withdrawal from a Bank Polski bancomat around Krakow’s main square and was charged a fee of 5zł, which is about £1. She says that the ATM offered an English language option and displayed exactly what she would be charged before she accepted the transaction.

    Do you have any travel money tips?

    • Reload time. Kacey says it took at least 2 or 3 days to transfer money. She says watch out for weekends, she tried to make a transfer on a Friday and the funds didn’t clear until Wednesday (5 days).

    * This is a fictional, but realistic, example.

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    Buying zlotys in the UK

    Whilst you can buy zlotys in most high street or online travel shops, you will get a better deal if you wait to purchase zlotys in Poland as the rate is likely to be worse than what you’ll get from an exchange office or ATM when you arrive. You can compare travel money services here.

    Exchanging cash

    Pounds, euros and US dollars can all be easily changed at Polish “kantors” or exchange offices. Kantors can offer a very good exchange rate. Always use a kantor which displays a “buy” and “sell” rate, if there is only one rate on display, there’s a good chance it’s a dodgy exchange office and you may get ripped off.

    In Krakow, head to Slawkowska Street close to the main square of the city to find a decent place to exchange cash. There should be no commission but double check before you start the transaction. Avoid changing money at the airport. If you find yourself in smaller villages, banks will usually change foreign currency, but come prepared with enough zlotys beforehand.

    • Tip: Some towns near the border of Eurozone member states may accept euros as a form of payment. Always pay in the local currency to avoid an unfavourable exchange rate.

    Contactless payments

    Contactless payments are extremely handy when you’re overseas. This form of payment eliminates the minimum transaction limit so common among merchants. Poland has had an enthusiastic uptake of contactless payment technology and is currently the biggest market in Europe for Visa PayWave. Almost half of all Visa payments in Poland are contactless and all Visa point of sale terminals will support contactless payments by the end of 2017.

    The bottom line

    The best advice for how to carry and use your travel money while in Poland is to split up your travel funds between cards, always have access to cash to make small payments, and carry enough cash on your person to get you through any small emergency.

    In larger cities like Krakow and Warsaw, pulling out your card to pay for lunch is not likely to raise an eyebrow; paying with card is perfectly normal. There will definitely be some situations where cash is the preferred, if not the only way to pay. That’s why it makes sense to keep your options open, and have easy access to both cash and cards.

    If you are planning a trip to Poland, or are considering travelling to Europe, compare the travel money options before you leave. If you have any other tips for travelling wisely and using travel money in Poland, leave a comment in the forum. If you have any questions, ask us using the form below.

    We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you.

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