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Money in Spain

MoneyEl dinero es la raíz de todos los males…

Well maybe it is the root of all evil, but it’s certainly needed. Oranges fetch so little nowadays, we can’t make jewellery to sell at the market – and M’s busking skills have taken a nosedive over the years.

Trying to figure out the most efficient and cost effective way to access cash while in Spain was an important task. The main options available were: opening a Spanish bank account; an off-shore UK bank account, or getting a ‘currency card’.

We didn’t want the bureaucracy of opening a Spanish bank account and the costs of transferring money from a UK bank account (£10-20 per transaction). We read that some Spanish banks also charge to receive a transaction. We know you can get deals for transferring larger amounts of Sterling but we just need to transfer small chunks of money without incurring extra costs – including ATM fees (£1.50-£2 per transaction).

We decided on a currency card. This gives complete clarity on how much our Euros cost. We set up an account in the UK before leaving and our new cards arrived within a few days. There is a ‘primary card’ and we ordered a secondary card so that we both have one.

It’s easy to load the card online (or by text, though we haven’t done this yet) – money is available to withdraw within minutes. The rate you get is exactly the amount you have to spend – no ATM or transaction fees. We’ve used it successfully so far to take out cash and pay for things over the counter.

Importantly, you can transfer money, or use an ATM, as often as you like without worrying about being charged each time. This also means you don’t need to carry more than a few days’ spending money at any one time.

It’s not a credit card – which you’d need, for example, for hiring as car. It acts a bit like a traditional debit card – although, as it’s a pre-paid card, you need funds in it to withdraw money. Using the internet to check your account is therefore important.

If you’re asked at an ATM if you want to pay in Euro or Sterling, always choose Euros otherwise it will do a conversion to Sterling, which will incur a fee.

There are lots of currency cards to choose from. We picked a Caxton card as it has a reasonable exchange rate. It’s not the best rate but there are no ATM usage fees – and we liked the UK-based call centre which has been very efficient.

Note that if you withdraw money on a non-banking day (eg a Sunday), then log in to your (Caxton) account on, say, the Monday, the amount you took out may appear in the ‘Pending transactions’ figure, rather then as a debited amount. This did catch us out.

There are plenty to choose from and there may be better deals but it makes our lives – and sticking to a modest daily budget – pretty easy.

A criticism of the Caxton card is that the online interface is OK, however, it shows the transactions but not a debited/credited figure like a ‘normal’ bank account.

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