Spain: Travel Money Guide

Everything you need to know about using money in Spain.


Starling Bank

Take a Starling Bank card to Spain

  • Starling Bank is a great option to take to Spain
  • Order now and it can arrive within 3-5 business days
  • No ATM or transaction fees
  • Manage your money anywhere at any time
Hola, amigos! Planning on heading to the land of Paella and flamenco? Organise your travel money options ahead of time and you can spend more time soaking in the rich culture rather than worrying how you’re going to pay your way. One of the things that makes Spain so travel-friendly is the use of euros as the national currency. But when you go abroad, the way you take, withdraw and spend your travel money can make a big difference to your hip-pocket. Foreign ATM fees, currency conversion fees and foreign transaction fees can eat at your travel budget. The good news is that if you take the time to get your finances in order before you go, you can easily avoid all the extra charges, and have more to spend on sangria instead.

One surefire way to make sure you don’t end up forking out for withdrawal fees is to use a digital banking app. The big names in this field, such as Starling, Revolut and N26, offer zero transaction and withdrawal frees with their products. Mobile by nature, they can also be managed anywhere in the world and aren’t subject to the same restrictions that conventional travel money products are.

Compare travel money services

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Can you get cash? Do you get a free card? Can you load money on an app?
WeSwap has everything you need when it comes to travel money. It offers a debit card and app, or if you prefer cash you can get that too. Signing up takes a few minutes and the card arrives in 3-5 days.
Starling Bank
Starling offers a debit card and app (you can't get travel cash). Starling charges zero fees for spending abroad and the app enables you to lock the card if you lose it while you're on holiday. Also doubles up as a UK current account.
Caxton's currency card allows you to hold multiple currencies in one place. You can use it worldwide and won't be charged any ATM fees. All of that can be controlled from the Caxton app.
No 1. Currency
No. 1 Currency allows you to get travel cash delivered straight to your door, or you can pick it up in store. You can also sell leftover cash back to No.1 Currency.
Currensea allows you to link your travel money card to your everyday bank account. Get your card now and control all your spendings with the Currensea app.

Compare up to 4 providers

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Foreign ATM withdrawals Foreign transactions fee Card cost Delivery speed
Starling Bank
No fees
Between 3-5 working days
Everything you get from a current account, but with new features for mobile living. (E.g. Goals for saving, spending catgorisation, interest on your balances)
Withdrawals of £200/$200/€200 or more – free
smaller withdrawals – a charge of £1.50 per withdrawal

No transaction fees (if you spend in one of the 18 wallet currencies)
Between 3-5 working days in the UK, or within 10 days if you live outside the UK
Tandem (Credit Card)
No ATM fees. However you'll be charged interest from the day you withdraw cash.
No fees
Tandem's credit card doesn't charge fees on purchases abroad, leaving you with more money for your travels.
Two free cash withdrawals per month, £1 thereafter
No fees
App-based current account that keeps you on top of your spending. You can set goals and Loot will help you get there.

Compare up to 4 providers

How many euros do I need to bring to Spain?

Spain is an enormous and diverse country. Prices and expenses will vary depending on the region. Even in the more expensive urban centres of Madrid and Barcelona, there are options for food, accommodation and activities to suit most tastes, and budgets.

Low budgetMid-rangeHigh budget
eat-in-greeceGreat street food, free tapas, or munch on local produce for the market. If you really try, you can get by on £5.00 – £8.00 a day for food.Seafood paella and sample a drop from the best Spanish vineyards. Cost for two people £50+Dinner at the ABaC restaurant
£150 per person
accomodations-in-greeceBarcelona and Madrid are teeming with low cost accommodation. A bed in a dorm will be £10.00 – £30.00 per night depending on the season.A 3 star hotel in Barcelona
£100-£150 per night for a standard double room.
A 5 star hotel in Barcelona
Walk around the fascinating ruins, wander through seaside towns and lounge on the beach. It’s free!City Sightseeing Barcelona Hop-On Hop-Off Tour £25Hot air baloon flight over Catalonia

*Prices are indicative and subject to change

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Travel card, debit card or credit card?

The national currency for Spain is the euro. As one of the major global currencies, all travel cards let you load and spend euros. But is a travel card the best travel money product for your trip? Visa and Mastercard have wide acceptance at shops and ATMs throughout Spain. You can use your debit card or credit card like you would in the UK; just look for the products which waive the currency conversion fee when you spend.

Most digital banking apps, which are a great option owing to very low transaction and withdrawal fees, come with either a Visa or Mastercard bank card. They work as normal bank accounts do, so the “topping up” process simply consists of transferring money into the account.

Travel money options for Spain at a glance

Travel money optionProsConsiderations
Debit cards for travel
  • Ability to use your ATM card in most places
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Debit cards will not incur an interest rate as it uses your own money from your transaction account
  • Most of the debit cards will charge an additional currency conversion fees
  • Not a credit product
  • No emergency funds available though a cash advance facility.
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Ability to hold Spanish Euro on almost every prepaid travel on the market
  • Ability to lock in the exchange rate for the funds that you ‘load’ on to the card before you go
  • Secured by PIN & chip technology
  • Comes with a backup card if yours goes missing
  • International ATM withdrawal fees, card issue fees and initial load fees may apply
  • Reload fees could be high
  • Some travel cards charge for inactivity fee
Credit cards for travel
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Access to funds up to your credit limit
  • Accepted worldwide
  • No currency conversion/ transaction fees
  • Benefits including rewards points on spending, 0% purchases, frequent flyer perks
  • Some credit cards offer complimentary travel insurance
  • Interest-free days when you pay your account in full
  • Emergency card replacement
  • Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)
  • Withdrawing cash can be considered a “cash advance” and can charge you fees and high interests
  • Card scheme anti-fraud guarantees don’t apply in a credit card with a positive balance
  • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)
  • Attracts an annual fee
Traveller’s cheques
  • Have the added security of needing ID to be cashed
  • Availability to cash at banks
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Card schemes such as Mastercard give you a money back guarantee if you’re a victim of card fraud
  • Expect to be charged a commission when cashing your cheques
  • Fees for purchasing and cashing traveller’s cheques may apply
  • Currency exchange rate varies over time
  • Not common in Spain for the simple reason that ATMs are everywhere and offer a more competitive exchange rate and that’s what most people use
  • 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.

How each travel money option works in Spain

Here’s how different travel money products are going to work in Spain.

Using travel prepaid cards

You can load euros onto all travel money cards and spend without incurring the fee for currency conversion. This is the main feature of any travel money card, and one of the main reasons why they’re popular with travellers. With that box ticked, choosing the right travel money card to take to Spain will require a comparison of the cards other features such as reload fees, inactivity fees and ATM withdrawal fees.

  • Tip: You reload these products via online transfer and BPAY while you’re overseas. It can take up to 3 business days for a BPAY payment to clear, even more so if you try to reload your card over a weekend or public holiday. With this in mind, avoid letting your balance drain to $0 before loading to avoid being stranded without any funds.

Using debit cards

Travel-friendly debit cards can give you the best of both worlds: the ability to spend your own money abroad and the freedom to withdraw cash without incurring extra charges. The best debit cards for travel in Spain will allow you to withdraw euro from an ATM without incurring foreign ATM usage fees. Over the length of a trip, ATM fees can add up to the price of a night out. Have a look at the Citibank Plus Transaction Account. You get a Visa Debit card to use over the counter or at ATMs, Citibank don’t charge for currency conversion, there’s no international ATM charge and no account keeping fee either.

  • Tip: Although Citibank are not the biggest bank in Spain, they have a number of branches throughout the country where you can use your Citibank debit card to make cheap ATM withdrawals.

Using credit cards

There are a number of competitive credit card products designed for travellers. Credit cards often come with other bonuses such as complementary travel insurance and rewards for spending. You shouldn’t be using your credit card to get cash from an ATM. Cash advance charges and interest can add up quickly and eat away your available credit.

Using traveller’s cheques

Traveller’s cheques give you security. Only you can cash your cheques. Given the money back guarantees in place from card providers if you’re the victim of card fraud, traveller’s cheques have been made redundant. You’re able to spend conveniently and safely in Spain using your debit card, credit card or travel card.

Paying with cash in Spain

Although many places accept over the counter card payments it is always advisable to have some cash with you in Spain. Expect to use it to pay for smaller purchases of up to €20 at many shops and restaurants. Familiarise yourself with the Euro’s below to make sure you’re not accidentally paying too much on your holiday.


Buying currency in the UK

There’s no limit to the amount of cash you can bring with you to Spain. However, you’ll need to make a declaration at customs if you’re travelling with more than €10,000 cash (this includes traveller’s cheques). You have a number of options for picking up euros in the UK. Your bank can sell you euros for a competitive rate; however, you will be charged a commission for the service.

Providers such as the Post office also sell you euros — you can order online and collect your cash from the airport before you leave. There’s no commission and they offer a slightly better rate than the banks. For example, buying $1,000 worth of euros gives you €641.80 with Travelex and €635.70 at Commonwealth Bank.

Exchanging cash

If you have foreign cash to change you will be overwhelmed with choice in Barcelona and Madrid. Exchange offices away from tourist attractions and banks will have better exchange rates. If you want to get the most competitive exchange rate, don’t get money changed at the airport.

Using ATMs in Spain

You will be able to find ATMs in all Spanish towns and cities, petrol stations, shopping centres and bus and train stations. Bank affiliated ATMs generally won’t charge you for usage except for Catalunya Caixa Bank, who will charge a couple of Euros. Most ATMs, and almost all in larger towns and cities will have an English option.

Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

A combination of travel money products is the best approach to funding your trip to Spain. Use a debit card or a travel card to withdraw cash from ATMs and to make over the counter purchases when available and use a credit card for emergencies and big ticket purchases. Credit cards offer up to 55 days interest free on purchases if you pay your account by the statement due date and there are cards which provide complimentary insurance to protect important purchases against damage and loss.

By spreading your travel money across a couple of accounts, you won’t be caught without cash if a card goes missing and you can take advantage of money saving travel perks. Travellers to Spain may be surprised at how easy it is to get by without spending a fortune. With a few travel money tricks up your sleeve, it’s easy to sample all of the joys of Spain, from flamenco to Dali.

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Interview with Michael about travel money and his trip to Spain

Merrymaking in Barcelona and Madrid

Michael visited Barcelona and Madrid on his way to Lisbon from Paris. Barcelona was his first stop in Spain, and visiting the Sagrada Familia was number 1 on his to do list. All up, Michael spent two weeks in Spain. One week in Barcelona and one week in Madrid. He travelled on the Eurostar, which was a little expensive, but convenient and a great way to see the European countryside.

What cards did you take?

Michael says he took 2 debit accounts and a credit card to Spain.

  • Citibank Plus Transaction Account
  • Existing credit card

Why did you take these cards?

Michael used his Citibank card as a travel card. It was free to open and cost nothing to keep so he wasn’t concerned if he didn’t use it once he got back home. He transferred money from his original account to his Citibank account and then used the Citibank Plus to withdraw from ATMs. Many bank ATMs throughout Europe do not charge local operator fees. His Citibank card doesn’t charge for international ATM withdrawals or for currency conversion so he was getting a pretty good deal each time he took out cash. He also used his Citibank Plus card to make over the counter purchases where you could to avoid the 3% fee for currency conversion. He used his credit card to pay for flights and secured complimentary international travel insurance.

Where could you use your cards?

Michael says he used his card more than cash in Madrid, there were lots of places where he could use his Mastercard and Visa cards. He says minimum transaction amounts were a problem, for example, he had to buy three or four packs of cigarettes at a time to get over the 10 or 20 euro minimum transaction amount. There is a very low or minimum limit for card payments at supermarket chains such as Mercadona and Carrefour.

Did you use ATMs?

Michael says he made withdrawals from ATMs with an affiliation to his banks: Citibank, Barclays Bank and Deutsche Bank. He didn’t have to look far to find one of these machines in Madrid.

What tips do you have for using travel money in Spain?

The Madrid tourist card was offered to Michael but he turned it down. This gives you free entry to museums, free guide books and access to guided tours. Michael says this is only a good idea if you plan on spending a couple of days filled to the brim culture spotting. There’s a saving on museum entry fee of approximately €10.00 but prices for the card start at €50 for a 1 day pass. Michael also says watch out for the IVA tax, which isn’t included in some bills and can be as high as 20%.

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