When you visit Spain or in general, Europe, you will need to make purchases in euros and this is when the question arises: is it convenient to pay in cash or with cards? What is the commission for each option?
Generally, the cheapest way to make your purchases will be with your debit or credit cards because normally no commission is paid and there is a real currency conversion (although I recommend you to ask your bank and make sure if there is commission).
But it is important to know that you will need cash as well because:
- Not all places accept cards (for example if you want to buy souvenirs or food on the street they will only accept cash).
- Small establishments require a minimum purchase amount to be able to pay with a card.
- Sometimes the cards don’t pass (when I arrived at Madrid airport, the train ticket machine didn’t recognize my Mexican card).
- Many times public transport only accepts cash (like buses).
- Tips are left in cash.
That’s why you’ll need euros but I’ll give you some tips to find them at the best price.
My first recommendation is that you use Google to find out what the real exchange rate is. For example, type “500 MXN to EUR” and the search engine will tell you what is the real or “fair”exchange for that amount in real-time, then you can compare this amount with the options that I’ll mention below.
- Book your euros ONLINE
- Check the commissions of different ATMs
- Avoid changing in AIRPORTS
- Avoid exchanging in EXCHANGE OFFICES
- Avoid exchanging in BANKS
1. Book your euros ONLINE
We live in a different era where everything can be done online and now you can also book your euros online!
Ria is the leading online foreign exchange company in Spain with over 30 years of experience and 25 years of presence in Spain. It will allow you to reserve your euros and pick them up at the destination point. I like that on its website and App you can write the amount you want to change and it will show you the euros you will receive (it is very simple and fast).
Then you can choose between:
- Collecting your euros when you arrive in Spain (changing your money in cash or paying by card)
- Home delivery (making a bank transfer or paying by credit card)
*If you want to pay with a credit card, different conditions apply depending on the bank issuing the card.
*For home delivery shipping is free if the exchange rate is higher than 500 Euros. Below this amount, there is a fee of 8 Euros.
Booking online rewards the customer “people who reserve their currency in advance benefit from better exchange rates”. The exchange rate is maintained for 5 days and the advantage is that if in the end, you do not go to the office, the reservation is canceled at no cost. Or on the contrary, if the next day you see that there is a better exchange rate, you can make a new reservation.
Ria works with 60 different currencies, including U.S. dollars, Mexican pesos, Chilean pesos, Uruguayan pesos, Argentine pesos, Paraguayan Guaraníes, etc.
Ria has locations in the main Spanish cities: you can exchange euros in Barcelona (3 shops), Madrid (7 shops), Málaga-Costa del Sol (2 shops), Valencia (1 shop), Mallorca (2 shops). To see the exact location of the shops in Ria, click HERE.
I got an exclusive discount for my readers. Get it by reserving your currency in Spain HERE.
2. Check the commissions of different ATMs
Withdrawing cash from ATMs can sometimes be expensive. You should check three things:
- The exchange rate: (or conversion) that is done at the time of withdrawal.
- Your bank’s commission: call your bank and ask what commission they will charge you for withdrawing money abroad.
- Spanish bank commission: even if your bank does not charge you a commission for withdrawing cash, it may be that the bank in Spain charges its commission for the service. I recommend you go somewhere where many ATMs are located nearby and check which of them has the lowest commission (you can try them all and cancel the operation at the end, then you will know which one is best).
*Tip: try to extract the maximum amount that your bank allows, to save commissions for extracting many times.
*For example: if you are charged 2 euros per commission and the maximum amount is 300 euros. It’s a good idea to withdraw the 300 euros only once than to withdraw 3 times 100 euros, which would triple the total commission you would pay (well it all depends on your budget, if you won’t need that much cash then just withdraw the necessary for your trip).
3. Avoid changing at AIRPORTS
Airport bureaux de change pay operating licenses to the airport authorities, which are usually very high, especially at airports with a lot of international traffic. This is why they pass on this cost to the customer by applying unfavorable exchange rates.
4. Avoid changing at EXCHANGE OFFICES
Exchange offices also take advantage of the travelers’ need for last-minute euros. Take a good look at the total commission you are going to pay for making the change.
5. Avoid changing at BANKS
Most of the time you will need to have an active account with the bank you want to change currency so in reality you can only refer to the exchange rate of your local bank and you will not be able to exchange with banks abroad.
Unfortunately, there are generally unfavorable exchange rates and management fees.
- Since generally the cheapest option is to make payments directly with credit or debit cards. Check your bank’s fees when shopping with your cards abroad.
- Compare the real exchange rate on Google with what you will receive through online agencies, ATMs, airports, bureaux de change and banks.
- At the end of your trip do not forget that exchange houses like Ria, repurchase the euros you have left before returning home.
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