Spain’s currency is the euro, and is shared by 18 other European Union’s Member States. In Spain, students are encouraged to use cash in smaller cities as they many not accept credit cards. Many of the business in Madrid accept credit cards. Using a credit card ensures the best exchange rate. However, be weary of international fees and charges.
We do not recommend opening a bank account in Spain.
Students usually access funds in their US checking accounts by using an ATM machine in Madrid. Travelers’ checks are NOT recommended for your every day expenses as they are far too inconvenient. However, AU Abroad does recommend taking approximately a few hundred dollars in Travelers’ checks to be kept for emergency spending if your wallet is lost or stolen.
You may want to investigate banks that do not charge ATM fees and/or banks that are found throughout Europe. The cheapest and easiest way—and the best exchange rates—to get your hands on some euros is to simply use your US based bank’s ATM/debit card at the many ATMs located throughout Madrid.
Also ask your bank about the international ATM transaction fees they charge. Some banks charge anywhere from $2-7 each time you take out money at an international ATM. Still the best exchange rate is at the ATM, so we recommend taking larger quantities of cash out less frequently, and keeping cash is a safe spot in your room at your apartment. Only carry with you each day that cash that you will need for that day.
Cost of Living
You will find that Madrid is a very affordable city. You can get a filling meal in Madrid for around 10.00 euro! Coffee, the staple of Spain, is usually 1.50 to 2 euro at any local café! To see a flamenco show in Madrid, budget 50 euro. If you want to enjoy dinner and a flamenco show, budget 100 euro. If you plan on seeing an opera at the Teatro Real, the major opera house in Madrid, tickets start at just 11 euro. However you plan to spend your time, you will find that there are many affordable attractions in Madrid.