Traveling to a foreign country, whether it’s for business or vacation, can cost quite a bit of money. But booking the airfare and hotel rooms is only the beginning – once you arrive at your destination, you’ll have to pay for almost everything you do. The big question, then, is what’s the best way to pay for everything when you’re abroad? Should you pay for everything on a credit card? Or is it better to exchange currency and stick to cash? With that in mind, we decided to put together some pros and cons for carrying cash when you travel abroad.


Pro: Paying in Cash Helps You Stick to Your Budget 


The problem with paying for everything with a card is that it can be easy to lose track of how much money you’ve spent, especially when you’re buying a lot of souvenirs, snacks or entertainment. This is where carrying cash can help. If you create a daily budget and then only carry that amount of money, you’ll be much more likely to stick to your budget. Each time you open your wallet, you’ll have a visual cue for how much money you have left, which can help you stop mindlessly spending money.

Con: It’s Less Convenient Than Carrying a Credit Card


If you go for an all-cash approach, it’s likely you’ll start to accumulate an assortment of small bills and coins as your trip goes on. And while there isn’t really anything wrong with that, it can become quite unwieldy to have pockets overflowing with loose change and a wallet crammed full of small bills. Using a card for your transactions helps you avoid this inconvenience.

Pro: You Can Avoid Transaction Fees


While the card you use abroad may not charge foreign transaction fees, there’s no guarantee that the establishment you’re doing business in won’t tack on a fee or surcharge. They’re usually called a “convenience fee” or “service fee,” but the only convenience you’re paying for is the privilege of swiping your card.

Con: You Can’t Earn Points or Rewards on Cash Purchases


Many credit cards, like those in our core credit card suite, offer rewards like points or cash back for every purchase you make. As these points or cash back accumulates, you can use them to pay for your next trip abroad!

Apply for a National Bank of Arizona Credit Card today!

Our Suggestion? Use Cash and a Card…

Given these pros and cons to carrying cash abroad, there are clearly certain situations where one method of payment is preferred over the other. While it makes sense to carry around cash for discretionary spending like souvenirs, snacks or entertainment, a credit card would be better suited for larger purchases like lodging, nice dinners out or transportation. This way, it will be easier for you to stick to a budget while also having the flexibility to make large or one-off purchases with your credit card.


…But Exchange Your Dollars for Foreign Currency Before You Leave

We’ve talked before about some of the common counterfeit currency scams you may encounter traveling abroad, which is why it’s always best to exchange your currency before you leave. National Bank of Arizona can help you exchange your currency – both before you leave and after you get back – so you can be sure you’re getting the best rates and genuine currency1. To get started, simply schedule an appointment at any of the following branches, which always have foreign currency on hand.


  • Biltmore:  6001 N 24th St Phoenix, AZ 85016
  • Wilmot: 335 N Wilmot Rd Tucson, AZ 85711
  • Cornerstone:  9878 W Camelback Rd Glendale, AZ 85305
  • Kingman: 3825 Stockton Hill Rd Kingman, AZ 86409
  • Yuma Regional: 538 E 16th St Yuma, AZ 85365
  • Flagstaff:  211 N Leroux St Flagstaff, AZ 86001


(1) Shipping and handling charges may apply, and not all currencies are available immediately at every branch. Some services may not be available to non-customers.