How much spending money do I need for the USA?
Budget your holiday to a "T" with this guide on how much you can expect to pay once you land in the USA.
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!
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.
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$69-103) 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$138-207) per person, per day will cover moderately priced meals and sightseeing.
- Luxe: US$250+ (AUD$345+) 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 and was obtained from xe.com on 16 November 2018.
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.
Los Angeles airport transfers
New York airport transfers
Honolulu airport transfers
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.
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.
Grand Canyon Visit from Las Vegas
Skip the Line at the Empire State Building
Get Your Guide
Disney World tickets
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
More guides on Finder
How to drive from Toronto to Niagara Falls in a day | A couple of travel makers
What you need to know to hit the road to spend a day driving from Toronto to Niagara-on-the-lake and on to Niagara Falls.
Podcast: How much Australians are really spending on travel
On this episode of the Pocket Money podcast, we explore the relationship between our travel habits and our wallets, plus so much more.
How to sell on Wish
All the essential info you need to know about selling (successfully) on Wish.com.
How much spending money do I need for Fiji?
School-up on how much money you’ll need to save to pay for a trip to Fiji, from food costs to sightseeing.
How much spending money do I need for Japan?
Budget before your trip with these top tips for how much spending money you’ll need while in Japan.
How much spending money do I need for Thailand?
Budget accordingly for your trip to Bangkok by nutting out the cost of food, transport and tours here first.
How much spending money do I need for Bali?
Find out exactly how much everything in Bali costs so you can budget for the ultimate holiday.
How much spending money do I need for Europe?
Find out how much everything from beer to sightseeing costs when you’re travelling in Europe.
12 best places to visit in the USA
Find out which places in the USA are must-visits, ranging from incredible cities to draw-dropping nature sites. The USA is one place where you’re going to want to spend some time.
Student Travel Money Guide
Whether you're taking a gap year, studying abroad or taking a vacation between semesters, here's everything you need to know about organising your travel money and insurance before your holiday.
Ask an Expert