I break free from the tyranny of paper money this summer
And it is true that in some countries cash still dominates – particularly in Malta (where 88% of payments were made in cash), Spain and Cyprus (83% each). But in Finland and the Netherlands, respectively, only 35% and 34% of payments were made in notes and coins.
But, whatever the official figures say, my experience of visiting popular towns and resorts over the past four or five years has been that I have always been able to use my card – and there are huge benefits to do it.
Generally, the amount you lose on a foreign card payment is much less than what you lose when buying foreign currency. The costs, however, depend on the card you use. Banks can extract money from you in different ways, including direct fees on each transaction and by charging the exchange rate – and fees vary from bank to bank. But even the more expensive ones, which tax the exchange rate by 3%, cost less than buying, say, euros at the airport.
For a few years now I’ve used a Monzo card (monzo.com), which has no such charge (although you do have to pay extra if you withdraw more than £200 per month from ATMs overseas ). When you buy something overseas, the bank simply passes on the current Mastercard exchange rate, which has a markup of just 0.33% above the European Central Bank rate.
Who? recommends Monzo, as well as debit cards issued by Starling Bank, Cumberland Building Society, Virgin Money and Chase. He also highlights a handful of good-value credit cards that offer similar rates, including the Halifax Clarity Card (although credit cards are obviously only a bargain if you pay off the balance each month).
Anyway, after writing this, I think I convinced myself. I will free myself from the tyranny of paper money. I’m in France this week and I’m going to blow my €20 bills over a slap-up lunch in Marseille before leaving. Assuming, of course, that the restaurant accepts cash.