Exchange rate: Should you buy holiday money in cash or on card? Expert weighs in

Holidays require no end of careful organisation, with travel money being a key part of the pre-getaway planning. In the old days, travellers would jet off with a wad of their destinations’s currency. These days there’s the option of piling the money on a card instead – but which is really best, cash or card?

While many prefer the physicality of cash, some travellers are concerned about handling notes amid the coronavirus pandemic. spoke to James Lynn from Currensea, who have launched a travel card that links directly to your bank account, for his travel advice.

“Many of our customers are especially wary of using cash abroad now,” Lynn said.

“Although UK providers may offer new or clean notes, fear exists about the cleanliness of receiving change when spending abroad, where notes and coins can have passed through tens of hands in a single day.”

For those worried about the nasties lurking on their dingy €20 note, getting your hands on a card might be wiser.

It also means you won’t have to lug around the money.

“Given these perceived health risks, the security challenges around carrying cash, and the lack of protection on cash spend, our advice is to minimise cash use where possible, and stick to the safety of card-based spend,” recommended Lynn.

The expert also pointed out the pros and cons of both cash and card when it comes to holiday money.



Cash is accepted everywhere.


Cash is generally more expensive than using card.

There can be a security risk of carrying round large amounts of cash.

There’s the perceived health risk around handling cash, which can have changed hands tens of times per day.

Cash offers no protection if purchases are faulty or not as described.

Travel insurance generally only covers between £200-£500 if your cash is lost or stolen, so if you’re carrying much more you’re unlikely to get this back.

Travel Card


Travel cards will generally provide you with the best rate, making them much cheaper than cash.

You can use travel cards in multiple currencies if you are travelling across several countries, without the worry of multiple exchanges.

You can still withdraw local currency if and when you need it.

There’s no need to worry about leftover cash.

You’ll get chargeback protection on your purchases.


Some cards (unlike Currensea) charge extra fees such as weekend surcharge.

If you lose your card you may have to pay for a replacement.

You might be charged a fee if you withdraw cash over a certain limit.

Lynn concluded: “Using a travel card will always be a safer and cheaper option than using cash.

“The best way to handle money abroad is to use a travel card and withdraw a small amount of cash if and when you need – but be sure to check if your provider charges you for ATM withdrawals to keep the cost down.”

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