Q: I will be travelling to Barcelona with a group. Is it better for me to carry US Dollars to exchange for Euros in Barcelona, or do I get a better exchange rate for exchanging in the States for Euros before the trip?
A: It would be a good idea to think a little about which option for currency exchange is best for you. The main options are:
1. Change money into Traveller's checks before starting the trip,
2. use a credit card and withdraw cash at the automatic cash machines (ATM) in Barcelona when needed or to change cash.
3. Bring Cash
Use your credit card/cash card and withdraw cash at automatic cashiers (ATM)
Many banks offer a cash card that functions both as a credit card and a cash withdrawal card. Bear in mind that you probably need to advise your bank that you wish to use your credit card / Cash in Spain during the travelling period when coming from the US. Some banks block the card for security reasons unless you advise your bank that issued the card before your trip. And there will be a fixed commission you need to pay every time you withdraw money. Ask your bank how much this commission is. Bear in mind if you withdraw funds from your credit card and not from your bank account, you will also have to pay a higher interest rate for credit withdrawal. This can be quite high for a credit card. Therefore if given a choice opt to have your cash withdrawn directly from your account rather than your credit card allowance.
Using your credit card/cash card to withdraw money also represents an easy way to get money in the foreign currency whenever you need it (you do not depend on bank opening hours). There are auto banks situated all over the town centre so you will have not problems finding an ATM. Most of these ATMs will accept any card with the Visa sign. Others will accept other types of card as well, e.g. MasterCard, AMEX etc.
Use traveller's checks
If you choose to change money to traveller's checks in the USA, this is quite a safe option because you need to sign them when receiving them at the bank and a second time when changing them into cash in Barcelona. Keep in mind that you would obviously only be able to cash the traveller's checks during normal banking hours in Spain. Make sure you ask at your bank about the exact terms of conditions and at which banks you can exchange the checks. You have the option to get the checks in US dollars or in euros. Personally, I would get traveller's checks in euros. This way you know exactly how much money you have left at any moment in the foreign currency.
In addition to the banks some larger hotels will exchange traveller's cheques however you will need to confirm with the hotel in advance of your trip if they operate this service.
Bring cash in the foreign currency
We do not recommend carrying a lot of cash with you while visiting Barcelona. However, it is a good idea to bring a small amount of Euros cash in advance to cover some initial expenses like taxi, meal etc. until you can arrive at a bank or cashpoint to obtain some more money. Barcelona does have a pickpocketing problem, and it is advised to ensure you do not carry too much cash around with you.
Bank opening hours
Banks usually only open from Monday to Friday from between 08:00 and 08:30 to 13:30 or 14:00. They may open once a week during the afternoon during the winter period (October to April). You may also ask at your bank if they are represented in Barcelona and which opening hours they have.
We also recommend you to read about our safety tips by visiting this page:
To find out the currency exchange rate, please see our link to the Barcelona currency converter which converts many currencies into euros referring to the following link:
Ask your bank about all three options and choose the best one for you. Remember banks usually open from Mondays to Fridays about 08:00 to 14:00, depending on each bank. There are some exceptions, but these are a general guideline for opening hours. Please also bear in mind the general safety tips given by following our link.