Using cash vs card abroad | NatWest

Using cash vs card abroad

Spending while you're on holiday

Order your travel money

Wondering whether to take cash with you on holiday or spend on your card? Here are some of the pros and cons of each, to help you decide the best way to spend while you’re away. 

Pound and Euro sign

Pound and Euro sign

Using cash overseas

The obvious benefit of cash is that it’s accepted everywhere for everything from food and drink to taxi fares. It can often be a good idea to bring cash if you’re travelling somewhere with an uncertain political or financial situation, so that you’re not just relying on being able to use a card.


Getting money from a cashpoint abroad can come at a cost though, as you’re often charged a Non-Sterling Transaction Fee and a Foreign Cash Fee. To keep those costs down, try to avoid making lots of small withdrawals.

Pound and Euro sign

Pound and Euro sign

Keeping your cash safe

Tourists can stand out to thieves, so always be alert. Try not to take more cash with you than you’ll need, and use your hotel safe if you've got one whenever you can. A good tip is to keep smaller notes and coins in easy reach, so you can pay for cheaper items like ice creams and drinks without having large amounts of money in a wallet or purse on show.


Keep your cash safe when you’re out and about by splitting it across different places like your wallet, a secure bag and a money belt.

Bank card

Bank card

Debit and credit cards

Paying by card can be easier than digging around for notes and coins. On the other hand, many debit card payments will also charge a foreign purchase fee – which can be up to 2.99% depending on your provider.


Just like debit cards, credit cards are widely accepted overseas, just look out for the Visa and MasterCard logos. Exchange rates are set by Visa and MasterCard, and currencies change every day. If you're getting money from a cashpoint abroad, you’ll pay a cash transaction charge of between 2% and 3%.


The key to smart spending overseas on a credit card is picking the right one and registering it for travel. Let us know online, over the phone or in a branch that you're going away at least 24 hours before you go away to reduce the risk of any payments being blocked.

Bank card

Bank card

Using contactless abroad

If your debit card is contactless, you can use it abroad like you can in the UK – just look for the contactless symbol. Although contactless payments in the UK are limited to £30 a day, this amount can vary when you’re abroad. For example, the limit is €25 (about £18) in France, $100 (about £48) in Canada and $100 (about £45) in Australia.

Thanks, we appreciate the feedback.

Please tell us what you thought about this article.

"Invalid Characters: \/\\:&()<>"

Did you find this useful?

Cookies must be enabled

Tools to help you plan your holiday

Savings Goal Tool

Set up a savings goal to start saving for your holiday

Compare my Borrowing Options

Compare the different borrowing options that could help you

Holiday Spending Calculator

From Brazil to Beijing, work out how much you should take with you

Set Tab for lightbox