How can you have access to your money in Madrid while you’re visiting? And what is the easiest and fastest way to pay for anything?
I outline your options for making payments while traveling to Madrid. Learn what is the best travel card that you should bring with you, how to avoid abusive exchange rates, and the easiest way to pay for your expenses.
Here you have a couple of additional links that can prove useful as well:
1. Money in Spain: How to pay and to access your funds.
2. The best travel money card you can use in Spain (2022).
The takeaway on getting money in Madrid
- Be a smart traveler. Get a travel money card and pay with it everywhere in Madrid.
- Make good use of the extensive ATM network. If you need cash, get it from an ATM as soon as you arrive to the airport.
- Bring a couple hundred euros in cash (only 20 or 50€ notes!) just in case…
- Avoid being charged in your home currency when withdrawing from ATMs or when paying anything. You’ll pay hidden fees and poor exchange rates handed.
- Don’t use your credit card (unless it’s an emergency and you don’t have enough travel funds).
- Don’t exchange your local currency into euros after arriving in Madrid. You’ll pay abusive commissions and you’ll get horrible currency exchange rates.
- Travelers checks? What’s that? Nobody uses and accepts them in Madrid.
How to access your money in Madrid
Accessing your money in Madrid is easy peasy…
1. You don’t need cash. Pay with your debit card!
Travel debit cards are designed to be more than just a regular debit card that can be used for purchases abroad.
It has a unique feature that lets you manage 50+ different currencies in a single account. This means that you can spend or send in virtually any currency you have in your account. There are also no foreign transaction fees, annual fees, and ATM withdrawal charges (for a limited amount).
So, as you can see, you don’t really need a large sum in cash. Get the best travel money card and forget about transaction fees!
And you can use it with your phone, of course.
2. Getting money at ATMs in Madrid
You won’t have any difficulty finding an ATM in Madrid. They are pretty much everywhere…
ATMs are very sophisticated and start by offering you a choice of language (usually English, French, German or Spanish). Instructions are easy to follow and self-explanatory.
Here ATMs give 20 and 50€ notes (occasionally 10€ ones). 100€ notes are the highest denomination in normal circulation and even those may not be accepted for small purchases.
As you’ll read below, withdrawing with your local credit or debit card can be super expensive at ATMs in Madrid! Follow my advice – get and use your own travel money card.
ATM fees in Madrid
In Madrid, you’ll find that most ATMs have a withdrawing fee for international debit cards like Visa and Mastercard.
- Local banks’ fees. It’s generally a percentage of the withdrawal, but it can also be a flat fee. ATMs are legally required to indicate the exact fee and ask for confirmation. So feel free to test around, cancel the transaction if the fee is too high for you and take some time to find the best ATM to use.
- Your home bank’s fees. You’ll be charged for international ATM usage added to your transactions by your own home bank.
- Currency conversion fee. This hidden fee mostly applies when you spend with their non-local currency.
- Dynamic currency conversion (also called DCC for short). This is a headache for travelers! DCC is where you’re offered the choice of paying for a transaction or cash withdrawal in your home currency instead of the local one. If you say yes, the merchant will add a markup to the exchange rate and then pocket the difference. You’ll get a better deal if you always choose to pay in the local currency instead.
Are there any tips to avoiding ATM fees in Madrid?
Sure! You can reduce ATM fees in Spain with a few simple tricks.
Tip #1: Choose your debit card wisely
All bank accounts have their own fee structures for international ATM use. Some are reasonably priced. Some less so.
If you have more than one credit or debit card to choose from, do your research and check out which offers the best deal for overseas cash withdrawals.
Tip #2: Always choose to pay in the local currency
Remember DCC? Don’t let the ATM operator take a slice of your cash without you even realizing it. Avoid this by choosing to pay in local currency!
Tip #3: Get your own travel debit card
3. Getting money exchanging your local currency into euros
I don’t recommend you to exchange any money in Madrid. If you really want to do so, do it at your bank, before leaving home.
First, because if you need cash, withdrawing it from an ATM is easier, faster and above all cheaper.
Secondly, because local banks and other exchange offices apply incredibly high commission rates.
However, if you still need to exchange money you can do it at
- Any bank (international and Spanish). Branches are usually open Monday to Friday from 8:00 to 14:15. Some open on Thursday afternoon from 16:15 to 20:00 (only in fall and winter).
- El Corte Inglés department store. It opens Monday to Saturday from 10:00 to 22:00, and Sunday from 11:00 to 21:00.
- Most hotels.
How to make transactions in Spain
Make sure you have enough change for small transactions. Taxis, for instance, are obliged only to change you up to a 20€ note so they may refuse payment with a higher one. And some shops and restaurants do not accept 100€ notes or higher.
With a debit or credit card
On the other hand, if you want to pay with a debit or a credit card, you will not have a problem. Electronic payment is commonly used in Spain. Use your credit or debit card for big expenses.
Check the fees charged by your bank for spending abroad.
Many banks add a premium to cover the costs of your spending abroad – generally it’s around 1 to 3% of the transaction. Despite this, for convenience and security, spending on cards when traveling is often a good choice.
If you choose to pay for things during your trip on a credit or debit card, you might be asked by the waiter or shop assistant if you want to be charged in your home currency. This is called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) as I explained in the previous section.
Always opt to pay in the local currency (euros) instead.