How should I pay when traveling in Europe?

As you finalize your packing list for your upcoming trip to Europe, learn about the different payment options.

So you’re traveling to Europe for the trip of a lifetime. Wherever you’re headed, you’ll have no end of memorable sights to see and cuisine to sample.

There’ll be choices to make about your money, too. Before you jet off, read on to find out which payment types to bring and how you can use them. 

Credit card

Credit cards can offer convenience and protection, like security alerts and $0 liability for unauthorized charges, when you’re traveling. You can use your card anywhere that accepts the payment network linked to your card. Credit cards using the Mastercard® and Visa® payment networks are generally widely used and accepted across the world. 

Many U.S.-based credit card issuers, including Capital One, use chip-and-signature technology. You dip or tap the card and then, for extra security, you might be asked to sign. In Europe, most cards combine the chip technology with a four-digit personal identification number. 

If you want extra reassurance that your chip-enabled card will work while you’re away, some credit card issuers—including Capital One—let you request a PIN for your credit card before you leave. 

Fees and travel notifications

Foreign transaction fees may come into play when choosing which credit card to bring to Europe. Capital One’s U.S.-issued cards don’t charge a fee for using your card for foreign currency transactions, but other credit card issuers might. You can check your card’s terms and conditions to see what fees there are. 

Dynamic currency conversion may also be an option if you’re using a card abroad. This optional service converts the foreign price to your home currency. But merchants aren’t usually providing this service for free. 

Some credit card issuers, including Capital One, don’t even need you to tell them anymore when you’re going abroad. So that’s one less thing to put on your pre-travel checklist.

Debit card

A debit card could be a good alternative for making purchases. You can pay using money you already have, without carrying cash. Or you can use the card to withdraw cash. 

Bringing your debit card on a European trip can be especially helpful if you keep it in a separate place from where you store your credit card. If you stash just one credit card in your wallet and have no backups, you could be left without access to money if that credit card is lost, stolen or declined.

Keep in mind that you could be charged ATM fees when you use a debit card abroad. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, some banks and credit unions don’t charge customers a fee for using their ATMs. But they might charge you if you’re not a customer—and that could be in addition to a fee charged by the operator of the ATM.

Digital wallet

You could get the benefits of a credit card without actually carrying the card by using a mobile or digital wallet. A mobile wallet is essentially a digital version of your real wallet. Depending on the wallet, you may be able to store and access things like credit cards, debit cards and event tickets from devices like your smartphone, smartwatch, computer or tablet.

There are many different types of digital wallets. And most can hold several cards at once. If you’re planning to use your digital wallet when traveling, make sure it’s one that’s accepted in Europe—like PayPal, Apple Pay® or Google Pay™.


There may be times when it helps to have cash on hand. For example, you might want to make sure you have cash before visiting local markets. And it could be nice to have cash for tips after a meal or when you’re taking a tour. 

But remember: You don’t have to travel with cash. You can visit a bank when you get to Europe and withdraw money from an ATM using your debit card. Some checking accounts may charge a fee when you use your debit card at ATMs abroad. And some banks might also charge a foreign transaction fee.  

Capital One doesn’t charge any additional international ATM withdrawal fees when you use 360 Checking and MONEY Teen Checking products abroad. But there might be fees if you’re withdrawing money from other Capital One checking accounts when you use an ATM outside of the U.S. and its territories. And ATM operators could also charge a fee no matter what account you have.

Traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks might be another option, but they’re not as common as they used to be. You can buy these checks at certain financial or travel-related companies. Then, to make a purchase, you can use the checks where they’re accepted—or you can cash them when you reach your destination. Just keep in mind that there may be fewer participating merchants than there used to be—and that certain fees may apply when purchasing, exchanging or depositing traveler’s checks.

Traveler’s checks are generally printed with a unique serial number, which means you may be able to get a refund if your checks are lost or stolen. Be sure to check the terms and conditions to understand any restrictions or fees that might apply.  

Keep your options open

Credit, debit, cash, digital…Your payment choices when traveling to Europe are almost as plentiful as places to visit. The bottom line? Consider the different situations you’ll find yourself in and plan accordingly. Plus, choose options that are secure and avoid fees, and you’ll be all set for an unforgettable journey.

Where will Venture X take you?

Earn 75,000 bonus miles and other exclusive perks with the Venture X card.

Learn more

Related Content