Money and credit cards on the Camino
For many years it was said that Cash is King on the Camino. While that may still be true to a point, many bars, restaurants, and even Albergues now accept debit and credit cards. A change that was more connected to touchless payments and COVID.
It is always a good idea to carry some cash. The currency of Spain, France, and Portugal is the Euro. There are many ways to get euros. Before you leave for your Camino you can go to your local bank or credit union and request some. When you arrive at the airport in America or Spain you can use a money exchange booth (Not recommended as they charge very high fees) or you can use an ATM in Spain to withdraw money from your US account.
Most pilgrims carry between €200 and 300 euros in cash at any one time. It allows you to have 3 to 5 days worth of cash plus or minus. It also keeps you from needing to stop at an ATM every day.
You can expect to pay a fee when you use an ATM in Spain, France, or Portugal. Also, many US banks charge a foreign transaction fee which can be as high as 3% or more. Many also offer an unfavorable exchange rate. So, the best way to avoid the foreign transaction fee and exchange rate problems is to, first check with your bank and credit card companies to inquire as to what they might charge. If you find that they are charging these fees. You might want to consider opening an account with Charles Schwab, Fidelity, or one of the many others that offer free accounts where you can be reimbursed for any ATM fees and receive nearly the exact exchange rate. We do not endorse any specific bank or financial organization, but many in our Community have Schwab accounts because they reimburse us for any ATM fees charged and give us the best exchange rate.
If you are going to use a Credit card during your Camino you should check to assure that they will not charge you a 3% foreign transaction fee. Many do, and again many do not. It just does not hurt to be informed before you go.
Visa and Mastercard are readily accepted in Spain, France, and Portugal. American Express cards are not.