How much spending money do I need for the USA?

A low-cost trip to the USA can cost you just AUD$64 a day, but if you're planning a luxe getaway it can cost up to AUD$323 a day.

We’re reader-supported and may be paid when you visit links to partner sites. We don’t compare all products in the market, but we’re working on it!

How much spending money do I need for the USA?

For spending money, we recommend bringing the following, based on your travel budget:

  • Low-cost: US$50-75 (AUD$64-97) a day per person, per day if you're eating cheap meals, not renting a car and doing some cheap to moderately priced sightseeing.
  • Mid-range: US$100-150 (AUD$129-193) per person, per day will cover moderately priced meals and sightseeing.
  • Luxe: US$250+ (AUD$323+) per person, per day will get you meals at nicer restaurants, all of the tourist attractions you want to see and some money for shopping.

The exchange rate is approximate as of 23 April 2021.

Compared to Australia, activities, food and drinks are generally cheaper in the United States. However, how much cheaper depends on where you're visiting.

That's because despite being one country, each US state (and at times cities within each state) operates its own set of rules and sales tax rates, which affects the end cost of everything from souvenirs to meals. For example, in Montana, the sales tax is 0%, but in Louisiana, it's 10%.

This is why determining how much to budget depends on where you're visiting. For example, you'll find cities such as New York City, Washington and Los Angeles on the higher end of the scale while Nashville and Detroit (Michigan) are more budget-friendly.

What is the best way to take money to the US?

Cash and card are both widely accepted throughout the US, with the exception of cash-only payments for street food vendors or small bars/restaurants.

ATMs are widely available so it's easy to get cash from your debit or travel money card.

How much are taxis in the USA?

Taxis, like other goods and services, vary in price across the country. For example, in New York City, taxi rates start at US$2.50 (AUD$3.45) and are US$2.50 (AUD$3.45) per mile with your typical medium fare being $20.50 (AUD$28.41).

In Los Angeles, taxi rates start at US$2.85 (AUD$3.95) and are US$2.70 (AUD$3.74) per mile and your typical medium fare is US$22.30 (AUD$30.90).

In cheaper cities like Detroit, the start price is US$2.50 (AUD$3.45) but the per mile cost falls to US$1.65 (AUD$2.29) per mile to deliver a typical medium fare of US$11.80 (AUD$16.38).

These rates were acquired using TaxiFareFinder.

How much does a hire car cost in the USA?

Zipping around from A-B around the USA? Again, costs vary depending on where you're hiring your vehicle from.

For example, a week-long rental in New York starts at US$260 (AUD$360.34) for an economy vehicle booked a month in advance. In Los Angeles, a similar week-long hire from downtown starts from US$125 (AUD$173.23), and in a more inexpensive city like Orlando, it starts from US$114 (AUD$158.60).

Prices were found using our car rental search engine. Prices may also vary depending on demand and the type of vehicle hired.

For more information regarding car hire, including deals, popular road trips and driving FAQs, check out our USA car hire guide.

How much is food and drink in the United States?

Like everything else, food and drink can differ quite a bit depending on which area of the country you're in.

CNBC calls out states such as Maryland, Alaska and New York as having some of the most expensive food while states such as Alabama, Oklahoma and Michigan are some of the cheaper states.

Overall, you can expect to pay around US$5 (AUD$6.89) or more for fast food to US$50+ (AUD$69+) for fine dining.

The cost of beer is pretty standard across the country and ranges from US$5 ($6.89) in local pubs to US$10 (AUD$13.78) at restaurants. A glass of wine typically costs between US$7-$15 (AUD$9.65-$20) per glass.

Tips and taxes are not included in these prices. For tips, 15-20% is expected.

How much is sightseeing in the USA?

Popular attractions in the US include visiting the Empire State Building (AUD$50), seeing a show on Broadway (AUD$110+), visiting the Grand Canyon (AUD$137+) and visiting Walt Disney World (AUD$150+). Many of these can be pre-booked online through sites like Viator, which can save you money via early-bird discounts and also help you manage your on-ground budget.

For those on a strict budget, the US doesn't scrimp on free attractions. This includes visiting MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art) in New York on Friday night, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, San Francisco's Cable Car Museum and Chicago's Millennium Park.

If you're visiting numerous attractions, you may even consider purchasing a Smart Destinations multi-attractions pass.

Skip the Line at the Empire State Building
Skip the Line at the Empire State Building

Get Your Guide

How much for an American SIM card?

While you can purchase SIM cards at the airport upon arrival, you'll often find a larger range of options available if you hold out and purchase one at a dedicated mobile phone carrier in the city.

Generally, prices are US$35 (AUD$48) for 1G or US$45 (AUD$62) for 4G.

For tourists staying 3 weeks or less, plans exist that are US$30 (AUD$41) for 2G.

You can also pre-purchase SIMs online so you can hit the ground running when you arrive.


Quick facts about money in the USA

  • Currency: United States dollar (USD)
  • Exchange rate: AUD$1 is equal to US$0.72
  • Cost of food: US$7-100 (AUD$9.65-138)
  • Cost of a local beer: US$5-10 (AUD$6.89-13.78)
  • Travel money cards: Browse top travel money cards for USA

Compare travel money options for the USA

Name Product Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Initial Load Fee Reload fee
Cash Passport Platinum Mastercard
AUD,USD,CAD,EUR,GBP,HKD,JPY,NZD,SGD,THB,AED
USD $2.50, EUR €2.50, GBP £2.00, NZD $3.50, THB ฿80.00, CAD $3.50, HKD $18.00, JPY ¥260.00, SGD $3.50, AUD $3.50, AED 10.00
$0
$5
Up to 11 currencies on 1 card locked in exchange rates and no load fees.
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Foreign currency conversion fee Interest-free period Purchase rate Annual fee
Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard
0%
Up to 55 days on purchases
14.99% p.a.
$0
Get 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 26 months (with a 2% BT fee), ​an ongoing $0 annual fee and 0% foreign transaction fees.
Coles Rewards Mastercard
0%
Up to 55 days on purchases
19.99% p.a.
$0 annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Get 20,000 bonus Flybuys points (worth $100 at Coles), a $0 first-year annual fee and an 18-month balance transfer offer. Ends 30 June 2021.
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
0%
Up to 55 days on purchases
0% p.a. for 15 months, reverts to 9.9% p.a.
$0 annual fee for the first year ($69 p.a. thereafter)
Get 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, a $0 first-year annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
NAB StraightUp Card
0%
N/A
$0
Save with 0% interest charges and 0% foreign transaction fees. Plus, $0 monthly fees when you don't use the card or carry a balance.
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

$
Name Product Card access ATM Withdrawal Fee Monthly Account Fee Internatonal ATM Fee Foreign transaction fee
HSBC Everyday Global Account
Visa
$0
$0
0%
Special offer: $100 cash bonus for new HSBC customers.
Earn 2% cashback on tap and pay purchases (T&C's apply).
Enjoy no minimum ongoing balance or transaction requirements and the flexibility to hold up to 10 currencies. Apple Pay and Google Pay available.

Great Southern Bank Everyday Snap Account
Visa
$0
$4.50
2.95%
Refund of international ATM withdrawal fees and international card transaction fees (conditions apply).
$0 monthly account fee. Unlimited fee-free everyday transactions.
Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay available. Savings Top Up tool automatically transfers to linked savings account.
Citi Global Currency Account
Mastercard
$0
$0
0%
Earn up to 0.75% p.a. interest on your AUD balance.
$0 monthly account fee.
Enjoy one linked debit card to hold up to 10 currencies and receive foreign currencies for free.
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Minimum Order Amount Maximum Order Amount Delivery/Pickup Method Commission Fee
Foreign Xchange Travel Money
$0
$9,999
In Store,Home Delivery
$0
Order multiple currencies in one transaction and have it delivered directly to your door anywhere in Australia. No delivery fee for orders over $1,000. A $10 flat fee applies to orders less than $1,000.
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy and Privacy & Cookies Policy.
Go to site