Cash vs Credit Cards vs Currency Cards

Money, money, money! It’s not always that funny - particularly when planning a trip abroad.

Questions cloud the mind (already very much preoccupied with which bikini to pack). What method of payment to bring? How much cash? Where to get it from?

As always, at AIRGOFX, we’ve got your every travel concern covered.

Read on for some inside knowledge on the benefits and negatives to using cash, credit cards and currency cards whilst overseas.


Cash can be a good idea - once you’ve got it, you’ve got it, and there’s no need to worry about exchange rates and hidden charges. That being said there is always the niggly issue of potentially having too little, and it’s best to bring your card to safeguard against this eventuality.

The main trick with bringing cash is to bring enough. Rough calculations can be made by figuring out the exchange rate and gauging how much you will probably spend over the duration of the trip.

And, of course, ensuring you exchange your currency through us will mean getting more for your money than the post office, airport or even your bank could offer. That sounds like a win-win to me.

Once there, if you do need to withdraw money, it’s generally better to get out a large amount at one time. Charges for withdrawals vary from ATM to ATM, and losses can be cut by minimising the quantity of withdrawals.

One of the main problems with cash is its susceptibility to theft. If you do decide to bring a lot of cash with you, ensure you keep most of it in a safe and only take out what you need day-by-day. Alternatively, spread it through your luggage and make sure it's not all kept in one place.

Whatever payment method you decide on, a little cash before you go is always helpful. It saves fuss in the airport on arrival trying to find the nearest bank machine to withdraw money for a taxi (an airport ATM that will certainly not give favourable rates).

Credit Cards

The benefit of using your credit card abroad is mainly that of simplicity. It saves having to carry a bunch of coin and cash around in your wallet, or having to work out how the local currency works (although this can actually be quite fun). Naturally, with no cash, there’s no worry of a surplus at the end of the trip.

Perhaps the greatest benefit to those more wary in foreign countries is that there is little chance of theft when using your card abroad. In the off-chance that your card was stolen, it is unlikely that it could be used before you have time to ring the bank and cancel the card.

However, these benefits are outweighed by the rather hefty charges incurred by using your card abroad - everywhere! (Meaning it’s probably better to bring your card simply as a backup or for use on the odd occasion).

Most banks apply fees to foreign card transactions. These range from anywhere between 2%-3% - meaning you can end up accumulating quite a sum in card charges by the end of your trip.

As mentioned, ATMs also apply a charge for withdrawing money. These are often a fair amount!

It is possible to ring your bank before you leave and find out whether your particular card incurs international transaction fees. If it does, you can apply for a no-foreign transaction fee credit card which can be used overseas with no additional charges.

A final note on using credit cards abroad - if given the option to pay in the local currency or your own, always choose the local one. If you pick your own, you will be charged an exchange rate by the seller to convert the currency (and needless to say, not always a particularly competitive one).

Prepaid Currency Cards

If all of the charges and calls to the bank seem a bit too much like hard work - and cash a little too much hassle - these days there are these clever little things called prepaid currency cards.

Prepaid currency cards can be loaded with currency and used both at bank machines and to make payments whilst away. There are various different cards to choose from, with the Moneycorp Explorer card and Caxton FX some of the most prominent on the market.

You can top up the card online in whichever local currency you require (unless it’s really obscure). This is normally transferred from whichever current account you link to the card.

It’s not all fee-free though. Policies differ from provider to provider, with some charging fees for transactions and withdrawing money and a few cards needing to be bought first.

Nonetheless, there are prepaid currency cards that provide free withdrawals from certain foreign ATMs (such as state banks) and this can really add up to make a difference. Moreover, the prepaid exchange fees are normally much more reasonable than others.

Currency cards are useful when you’re just not sure exactly how much you’re likely to spend. They safeguard against transferring too much money, and also mean that you can easily convert more if needed.

Added to this, they are probably the most travel safe method of payment. Even if the card is stolen, only the money loaded onto it at the time can be used. Of course, if this does happen, receiving a replacement card can take time, and that’s why it’s always best to have a few different options with you.

Read more to find out about our AIRGOFX prepaid currency card today.   

The More the Merrier

In general, it’s wise to bring a few different payment options with you when you go abroad. I would largely stick to cash and a reputable currency card, but it’s good to have a few backup options too such as a credit or debit card. (You know, just in case).

If you are planning to use your cards abroad - make sure you ring your bank and let them know before you go! Nothing worse than trying to withdraw money and having your card blocked. If you think call waiting times in England are bad, wait til you’re try from a foreign country…

Published date: 12/04/2018