Currency Exchange - British Pounds to Euros

Should you exchange your money for Euros in the resort or at home? Can you pay for everything with a card or with Google Pay or Apple Pay on your smartphone? Is it expensive to withdraw from an ATM?
We will attempt to answer these very common questions here.

Exchange Money at Home or in the Resort?

Although it is questionable whether you need to physically take cash with you on holiday at all, nowadays, you are probably slightly better off exchanging cash in your home country. Bank branches have been closing across Spain, and those that are still open often have long queues to see a cashier. Some resorts, particularly those that have a very large proportion of British tourists (i.e. tourists from outside the Eurozone), may have shops that offer competitive exchange rates, but it might be a struggle to change foreign currencies in a town where 90% of the tourists come from countries that use the euro. If you do find a shop offering a more competitive rate than the inter-bank rate, then you have to wonder if you are taking part in a money-laundering scheme.

Card, Cash or use your Smartphone?

Although the Canary Islands still have some way to go before becoming a ‘cashless’ society, cash transactions plummeted during the pandemic and cashless transactions have become the preferred method of payment for many. That said, there are still some situations where cash is preferred: restaurant tips are preferred in cash and some bus services can only be paid for in cash, however it is now very rare to find a shop, bar or restaurant that does not accept card payments.

On the flip side, paying in a foreign currency presents an opportunity for banks to charge their customers expensive commissions and fees – often without them noticing. When paying with a credit or debit card, the fees and exchange rate vary wildly between one bank and another. In order to make sure that you are getting a good rate, you should check these rates with your bank or card provider before going abroad – if your bank does not offer a competitive exchange rate, consider getting a specialist card such as the one from Revolut to exchange money before you leave. If you are using your normal debit or credit card, you will be presented with an option to pay in euros or in your own currency – the common advice is to choose euros rather than your own currency, however this very much depends on how competitive your own bank’s rate is, so it is not always the cheapest option.

Withdrawing from ATMs

Just as when using your debit card to pay in a shop or restaurant, the same applies to withdrawing from an ATM – with the potential bonus of a hefty fee from the ATM provider. In the past, it was always cheaper to withdraw from an ATM attached to a bank branch, however, nowadays some banks also charge very high ATM transaction fees (up to €6 per transaction). Thankfully some banks still have no (or low) ATM withdrawal charges: Banca March and Deutsche Bank are the cheapest (free), Bankinter has low fees (less than €1), while some banks, such as BBVA, charge up to €6 per withdrawal. There will also be exchange rate commissions, and the best way to reduce these is to make sure your bank charges a competitive rate, or to use a card such as Starling or Revolut pre-loaded with euros. UK customers of Santander can withdraw cash from Santander ATMs in the Canary Islands without any extra fees.

Traveller’s Cheques

Nowadays traveller’s cheques are mostly obsolete and you may even struggle to find anywhere to exchange them.


While there is often some advantage to having a small amount of US Dollars while travelling in other parts of the world, there is no advantage to carrying USD in the Canary Islands. The islands attract very few American visitors, and it unlikely that you will find any businesses that will accept it.

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