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Should you use a card or travel money outside the UK?

If you're heading on a trip outside the UK, you might be wondering whether to use your debit card or credit card, or take travel money.

There's not necessarily a right or wrong answer, but there are some pros and cons in certain situations. On this page, we explain some of the benefits of each.

Using your debit or credit card

Spending


A wide range of shops and restaurants accept debit and credit cards, so they're convenient. You can also use your debit card to take money out of cash machines while you’re on your trip.

You may have to pay a fee when buying things on both debit and credit cards, as well as when withdrawing from cash machines. Charges vary according to the bank you're with and the type of account you hold. So, look closely at what they may be before you go.

If you’re using your card in shops, bars or restaurants outside the UK, you have a couple of options:

  • paying in pounds will give you more certainty on how much things cost

  • if you choose to pay in local currency, you’ll avoid dynamic currency conversion fees and in most cases will get a better exchange rate

Security


If your card is lost or stolen, you should have the same level of protection when travelling outside the UK as when you’re at home. Before travelling check how you can report any issues with your bank. It may also be a good idea to save your bank's contact details in your mobile phone for easy access.

If you’re with HSBC and have mobile or online banking, you can freeze your cards instantly if they're lost or stolen.

Easy tracking


If you like to keep a close eye on your spending and have mobile or online banking, you can log on to keep track of your finances while you're away. This way you can act instantly on any issues you see and also manage things like bills and Direct Debits.

Using travel money

Convenience


You won't need to worry about finding a cash machine when you arrive, or when you’re heading to any of the local shops.

Easier budgeting


If you're sticking to a fixed budget while you're away, taking travel money makes it easier by limiting what you have available to spend. Plus, once you've exchanged the amount you want, there are no further fees to pay for using your money outside the UK.

Security

Carrying a lot of money around with you can be very risky as it’s difficult to track if it’s lost or stolen. If you're doing this, think about using a safe deposit box. That way, you can carry smaller amounts with you day to day. If you have travel insurance, it may also be worth looking at how much cash you're covered for carrying.

Also, if you've only got cash and no other spending options, you risk running out of money before your trip is over.

What about a mix of both?

It may be a good idea to use a mix of cards and travel money while you’re outside the UK. That way you’ll have cash on hand when you arrive, but also the security of a card while you’re out and about. But always make sure you're aware of any fees and charges for using your card outside the UK.

Explore: Managing your money before, during and after travel