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credit cards en route


Not to inundate this forum with newbie questions, but I'm still curious about the use of credit cards along the way. I've never traveled overseas before, so I'm not sure if I could use my current debit/credit card (VISA) there or how to exchange dollars for euros with the card. Or is there some other account I should sign up for and transfer my money into beforehand and use that card?

I gather there's some sort of ATM where everyone is withdrawing money along the way, perhaps in bars or albergues? How much should one carry around in cash? I've read anywhere from 35 euros to 200, since it costs each time one withdraws money.

Thanks for the help.



Nunca se camina solo
Neil - no doubt fellow dollar spenders will give their own experience also. Spain is a fully developed and sophisticated country. Cash dispensing machines are available throughout Spain and the locations on whatever route you are planning are usually listed in a good guide. Just like everywhere else good restaurants and shops are happy to take credit cards although shops may ask for a note of your passport number. Chip/Pin technology is spreading in Spain but even in major cities it hasn't really penetrated - yet. At all airports and larger towns there are Cambios where you can change currency. You can work out whether their charge is greater or less than the charge on the ATM. As for a cash reserve - I take enough, well secured, so that if I lost everything I would have enough cash to get me out of diffiuclty.


Staff member
There are a lot of ATMs in Spain. Every small tow should at least have one.

The ATM here will ask you for a 4 digit pin. I know some US banks operate with 6 digit pins, so make sure you ask them what do do when you are asked for the 4 digit pin.

How much to carry? It is up to you, but since it will cost you for each time you use the card (check how much, normally cheaper with debit cards I think) I would take out about 200-300 euros each time.

The larger restaurants and larger chain supermarkets take VISA/Mastercard, but the smaller ones do not. So walking through smaller villages, probably cash is the best option.

Buen camino,


You should be able to use your current debit/VISA check card, but check with your bank for additional charges. Wells Fargo can charge up to $15 as a fee, in addition to conversion charges and a percentage of the charge you're making. Do you have a credit card?

Citibank, and large credit card companies in general, tend to have better exchange rates at ATM machines than most exchange kiosks. If you have a credit card, I suggest using it for large purchases ($50+). But the rest of the world is still very much a cash based place, I suggest withdrawing most of your spending cash through ATMs as needed.

Yes, they may charge per transaction (depends on the company), so when you do withdraw, make it worthwhile! ($200-$500) This will depend on your personal spending habits and daily withdrawl limits.

Good luck!


Camino(s) past & future
September 2006
August - September 2017
Debit/Credit Cards

I had no trouble using my Bank of America Debit card at even the smallest village's atm machine. A traveling companion did have problems with his Credit Union Card (IBM Credit Union), however, and often could not get atms to accept the card.
I did notify my card's security section of the dates when and where I would be traveling. Check with your card company, they will know.
Bune Camino,


Active Member
Visa is accepted all over Europe, including small villages in Northern Spain. They sometimes hesitate to accept for small amounts as they have to pay fees to use the Visa services.

Debit card related to Visa is accepted World wide if it has the "PLUS" symbol on it,wether it has 4,5 or 6 PIN security code.

I know because I used it in 2005 and 2006 in Spain, in China, in India, in France, in Belgium, in Japan and at home...


Thanks everyone for the tips. I just got off the phone with my bank and they said basically the same thing, adding as Jerry pointed out that I should notify the security number shortly before I leave. I was also told that the charge would probably be between $2-3 plus a $1 charge from the bank itself, and that automatic conversion would be done. I guess that's the plus side to globalization.


Javier Martin

Veteran Member
You will have no problems to use your VISA card in greater places, most hotels and restaurants, but when your pocket money is less than 50 euros I would get more in any ATM.

Buen Camino,

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
In 2005, there were no ATMs between Astorga and Ponferrada, and unless things have changed since then, you might wish to make sure that you have enough cash at hand for this stretch.

Javier Martin

Veteran Member
Yes, it's true. No ATMs between Astorga and Ponferrada, because all towns are very smalls. You have to teke cash in Astorga, Ponferrada, Cacabelos, Villafranca, ¿Cebreiro, may be?, Triacastela, Sarria, Portomarin, Palas, Mellide, Arzúa. These are the towns enough big to give you the option to obtain cash, every one / two days.

But, between Astorga and Ponferrada, you can use your credit card in Rabanal in at least two restaurants, and in Molinaseca in a lot of them, for example.

Buen Camino,

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.


Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I am from Singapore and my ATM card works everywhere overseas for cash withdrawal. Just make sure you have a 'Plus' and/or 'Cirrus' behind the card. Taking out 300 euros at a time, you will only need to recharge that every 10-15 days depending of your spending.

It sure beats carrying all that money at one go.



Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
June 2008 Camino Frances with Daughter, 2014 Camino Frances with Son
Visa or American Express?

How excepted is AMEX on the Camino? Is it just as accepted as Visa? I only want to carry one.


Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
On the Camino since 2008
And if any one of you british pilgrims are looking for a good deal on a credit/debit card to take on the camino go to:
Basically the best ones of them are:
for a debit one: Nationwide (no charges at all anywhere in the world)
for a credit card: Abbey's new ZeroCard (only cash w/d interest to pay).
They both are Visas & Mastercards so there should be no problem using them instore/at ATM.
Don't forget to insure your cards as well.

Stay safe! Buen Camino.


New Member
Readers need to be aware that most American cards put a 4-8% surcharge on all foreign purchases and withdrawals. This can really ADD UP. I advise looking for a card that doesn't charge, before you go. p


Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
June 2008 Camino Frances with Daughter, 2014 Camino Frances with Son
On my camino, we did run into a problem getting money from our ATM card in many cities. Our card is supposed to work with Plus and/or Interlink. What I found in Spain was that it would not work in 70% of the ATMs. My daughter noticed that it would not work in the Telebanco ATMs but usually would work in the ServiRed ones. Since most cities had several options, we usually found one that worked, but in Fisterra, there are only three and all were Telebanco. I had a teller check to see if I was doing something wrong and she said it was my bank that was blocking it.

When I had my wife call the bank, they told her that it should work and we had to only use Plus/Interlink ATMs. But all the Telbanco units were Plus!

Just an FYI. In Astorga we tried 7 ATMs before we got our money.



Active Member
Like Rambler, I sometimes had to try 2-3 ATMs in a city before I found one that would let me withdraw money.
Both of my USA based credit cards charge 3%. I"m not sure but I believe that Capitol One cards do not charge a foreign transaction fee. You'll need to check it out to be sure. I rarely used the credit card--usually just cash from the ATM.


Staff member
I had some of the same experiences as others, and have confirmed that you will get a better rate on Capital One Visas than other Visa cards. As viajero said, they don't add the 3% transaction fee, and I checked it out this past March by splitting a purchase into three separate purchases and then comparing the bills when they came back in the US. I also find that it's generally better to use the Capital One card for purchases as often as possible rather than pay in cash, because the rate is better than the ATM exchange rate. In the end, the differences probably don't add up to a whole lot, though it is frustrating to feel like you're getting taken by the credit card companies.

Gary Hiker

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2010 October
Not trying to be negative but the chip is not secure at the moment.
I just watched a video on the subject and am concerned. The subject is becoming
more wide spread as are the cards issued by your cc company. They provide wifi
capability so that your card can be waved in front of a receiver rather than
slid through a tape reader. The concept is good but risky.
Your data can be captured quite easily by one person in a crowd or just passing
by you on a walk.
Watch the news video on the subject and decide for yourself. Here is the link:

It only takes one person to capture any wifi document. Not just your credit
card. Your passport also has the chip.
Gary Hiker


Jakobsweg Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-19
The video you refer to deals with a different technology, based on wireless RFID. The chips in European credit cards are not based on wireless technology (yet).

Many vendors of travel supplies sell inexpensive "security sleeves" to block signals from the wireless chips. As with so many things these days, be cautious, but don't let anything stand in the way of your Camino.

WineShoppe Guy

John Morritt
Camino(s) past & future
(2013)-SJPP to SdC
(2014)-SJPP to Burgos
(2015)-Burgos to Leon
(2016)- Leon to Finesterre
Travelling in Ireland in 2010 I was having a difficult time finding an ATM that would accept my M/C cash request for $500 Euro. Every machine declined my request even though I wasn't even close to my credit limit. Turns out that my daily cash withdrawl maximum is $500 CAN not 500 EURO. DAH! Requested 300 and out came the money. Live and learn.


Veteran Member
For the last few years customers in Ireland can withdraw up to €700 daily but sometimes when we travel abroad we're limited by regulations in the country we visit.



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