Currency Exchange and Solutions for Expats

11 February 2021

Euros, Dollars and Pounds

Information on exchanging currency from sterling and dollars to euros for expatriates living in Spain.

Bank transfer: This is the best way if you need more money than an ATM machine can manage."


If you don't already have a Transferwise account, what's stopping you? Go sign up here for Transferwise now and save yourself soooo much hassle, not to mention fees and exchange rates. Transferwise is an online-only bank-like entity providing you a way to receive, convert and send money in almost any currency. Better, their internal exchange rates are at the market rate – yes, that's right, there is no markup. They make a small amount of money on a flat fee based on however much you have converted, but it's so small compared to most bank fees and exchange rate differences it's negligible. If you're in the US, this is how you can move money into EUR without having to open a new account in Europe or Spain. Very very handy.

ATM Machines and the Old Ways

This is the fastest way to get dollars from a foreign bank account into euros in cash, as long as your bank doesn’t charge a ‘conversion fee’ for international use, and the ATM doesn’t charge a transaction fee. (ATMs from cajas tend to be less likely to charge a transaction fee than bank ATMs). With ATM machines, there is currently no spread between buy and sell rate. My bank in Canada charges $5 for each foreign withdrawal however. To avoid many of these fees, transfer your money into Transferwise, then convert to your Transferwise EUR account, then either get the Transferwise debit card or transfer the money into your Spanish account. Bank transfer: This is the best way if you need more money than an ATM machine can manage. See Banking. Personal checks: In our experience, Spanish banks charge a minimum commission of .5% to transfer money via a foreign check, and it could take a few weeks. (Before you deposit the check, make a copy of it and the deposit form.) Traveler’s checks: With a big spread between the buy and sell rate, this isn’t as good as ATM’s. Credit cards: with travel insurance, purchasing insurance, no transaction fees and reasonable exchange rates, credit cards can be very effective for most purchases. You will have to show the cashier your passport or Spanish photo ID (if you have one) in order to use them. Note: Since 1999, some banks began charging fees of 1% - 7% for use of a credit card on overseas transactions. Read your monthly statements!
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