Hola, amigos! Are you planning a trip to the land of bullfights and rich history? 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 and spend your travel money can make a 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.
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.
For budget backpackers
For deeper pockets
Some standard prices
Great street food, free tapas, or munch on local produce for the market. If you really try, you can get by on AU$10.00 - AU$15.00 a day for food.
Seafood paella and sample a drop from the best spanish vineyards. Cost for two people could be anywhere between AU$80.00 to well into the hundreds.
Bottled beer: AU$4.00
A meal in a cheap restaurant: AU$15.00
A meal in a mid-range restaurant (for two, with glasses of wine): AU$60.00
Barcelona and Madrid are teeming with low cost accommodation. Some options are pretty good, full of character, friendly and offer breakfast and internet included in the cost. A bed in a dorm will be AU$15.00 - AU$30.00 per night (depending on the season).
In a four star hotel in the centre city for AU$200.00 per night for a standard double room.
Walk around the fascinating ruins, wander through seaside towns and lounge on the beach. It's free!
Get a ferry ticket for an island hopping adventure, tickets are around $15- $50 depending on the length of the journey.
Metro ticket (one way): AU$1.50
Taxi, per kilometre: AU$2.00
*Prices are indicative and subject to change
Exchange rate history
The movement of the euro and Australian dollar currency pair is difficult to predict. The past three years has seen only minor changes in value of the Aussie dollar relative to the euro.
Average annual exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to Euro (EUR)
*Exchange rates are accurate as of 4 September 2017
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 Australia; just look for the products which waive the currency conversion fee when you spend.
Travel money options for Spain at a glance
Travel money option
Debit cards for travel
Ability to use your ATM card in most places while in Spain
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
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
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
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
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 Australian credit cards
There are a number of competitive credit card products designed for travellers. The most suitable credit cards to take to Spain won't charge for currency conversion. However, 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.
Tip: Some credit cards offer complimentary international travel insurance when you charge the cost of your travel ticket to your card.
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
It is advisable to always have some cash with you in Spain. Expect to use it to pay for smaller things like your morning coffee. Being modern Western European cities, using your card to get around in Barcelona and Madrid should be pretty easy. Keep in mind that you're going to need cash for purchases under €10 - €20 at most shops.
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.
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 St.George Complete Freedom 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 the Bankwest credit card to pay for his flights so he got the complimentary international travel insurance. As well as the Citibank card, the Bankwest card didn't charge for currency conversion, he used this card on occasion to make over the counter purchases. The credit card offers up to 55 days interest free, he paid back his card purchases by the statement due date and he didn't get charged any interest.
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%.
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 Australia. Your bank can sell you euros for a competitive rate; however, you will be charged a commission for the service. Providers such as Travelex and Australia Post can 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. Have a look at the following providers if you want to purchase euros in Australia.
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. In Las Ramblas, the famous/infamous main drag in Barcelona exchange offices will be open late, but the rates will be poor.
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.
Tip: Westpac Group cardholders (Westpac, St.George, Bank of Melbourne and BankSA) can avoid the international ATM fee by making withdrawals from Deutsche Bank and Barclays ATMs in Spain.
Find cash and ATMs in Spain
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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