Using cash vs card abroad | NatWest

Man and woman paying by card

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

Cash is accepted everywhere for everything from food and drink to taxi fares, so it can often be a good idea to bring cash especially if you’re travelling somewhere with an uncertain political or financial situation.


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

Tips for 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
  • 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, 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%.


You can register your cards for travel using the mobile app to reduce the risk of any payments being blocked. You can also let us know online, over the phone or in a branch, and should let us know at least 24 hours before you go away.


MasterCard customers only, each credit card must be registered separately. App available to customers with Online Banking and a UK or international mobile number in specific countries.


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
  • $100 (about £45) in Australia

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