Normal banking hours in Spain are Monday-Friday from 9am-2pm. Banks are usually closed over the weekend. If you are exchanging cash, plan ahead so that you have enough cash on hand to last through the weekend if banks are closed. If you are in a bind, you can exchange money at the following after-hour locations (keep in mind that these locations normally do not offer the best exchange rates):
- Centro Comercial El Corte Inglés
- Airport, Train Stations, Hotel Front Desks
There are a few things you need to think about before changing your money:
- The exchange rate. This rate determines how many euros you’ll get for your dollar, before transaction fees are deducted. Not all financial institutions offer the same rate. Exchange rates for traveler’s checks are usually slightly better than the cash rate.
- The commission rate. Commission rates are an extra transaction fee charged by some institutions. These fees are most often expressed as a flat rate (ie. 5€), but may also be expressed as a percentage (ie. 3% of the amount being exchanged). Be careful of exchange centers that advertise 0 commissions, as these locations often do not offer very competitive exchange rates.
- The use of travellers checks is not common in Spain, and businesses will not accept them as a form of payment. If you purchased travelers checks prior to leaving the US, you’ll most likely need to convert them into cash at the bank or through the company that issued the checks.
- You will need your original passport with you when exchanging money.
- Be sure that you stand in the right line; often the proper line is marked with the word “cambio.”
- Credit Cards
Most day-to-day purchases in Spain are made with cash and you may find that many small businesses do not accept credit cards. Others request a 4 digit pin number in order to pay, which does not work with US cards unless you have one with a chip. You can normally tell them it doesn’t have a pin and it will go through. For larger purchases such as airline tickets, hotels, clothing, and gifts, using a credit card can be a convenient option. Credit card companies generally offer good exchange rates on international purchases but may add a transaction fee of around 2-3% onto the cost of your purchase.
Check with your credit card company for more specific information on exchange rates and transaction fees for international purchases. If you plan to use your credit card while in Spain, please make sure to notify your credit card company. Many are becoming increasingly concerned about credit card fraud and will deny international charges if you have not informed them in advance of where you will be.
Tip: If you want to get cash and only have a credit card handy, why not pay for something like a group dinner on your card and have everyone give you their part in cash?
- ATM Cards
ATM cards can be a very convenient way of obtaining cash while in Spain, as they provide quick and easy access to your US bank account. If you plan to use your ATM card in Spain, there are several things to keep in mind:
- Most US banks charge transaction fees for international ATM withdrawals. Normally, transaction fees are around 2-3% of the amount withdrawn and there may also be set fees of several Euros for using ATMs not affiliated with your bank. Transaction fees are charged by your home bank, not the Spanish one, so check with your bank for details.
- Take note of any withdrawal limits associated with your card. Most US banks set limits on the amount of cash you are able to withdraw in any given day (i.e. 300 EUR per day limit). If you have trouble accessing the funds in your account, it may be that you’ve exceeded your withdrawal limit.
- The ATM card you use in Spain must be associated with a checking or money market account. Cards linked to a savings account may not work.
- Verify that your password is a four digit number. There are no letters on ATM keypads in Spain, so your password must be expressed in numbers, not letters. Students have had trouble using cards when the password contained more than four digits.
- Should you have trouble finding a machine that works with your card, check with your home financial institution, as they should be able to give you the location of a machine that functions on your network.
- You may be able to use a credit card (rather than an ATM card) to obtain cash advances from ATMs. Interest rates on cash advances, however, normally begin to accrue from the date on which the money is withdrawn. As such, credit card cash advances can be very expensive and should only be used as a last resort.
As in the United States, be cautious when using ATMs in Spain. Try to use machines that are in well-lit, familiar locations. Be particularly aware of your surroundings when entering your PIN or withdrawing cash. Once you finish your transaction, put your money and your card in a safe place immediately.
- How to Wire Money in an Emergency
If your parents need to send you money in an emergency, the best option is an international wire transfer via Moneygram or Western Union. General information including FAQs on performing international wire transfers can be found at their websites