Money matters: dealing with exchange rates and currency on your cruise

Discover what to do about foreign money when cruising

One of the best things about cruising is the convenience of being able to sign for all your expenses and have them charged to your stateroom. An itemized statement is available upon request anytime or delivered to your stateroom prior to disembarkation. However, those going ashore will want some spending money. There are a couple of options for purchasing items in a foreign country: either use your credit/debit card or use cash.

A Bulletin board full of money from all around the world, in the Travelers cave hotel in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey. Copyright by Moyan Brenn.
A bulletin board full of money from all around the world, in the Travelers cave hotel in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey. Copyright by Moyan Brenn.


Cruise passengers setting sail have a lot to think about before boarding. If you cruise will be calling on foreign countries, make sure to know in advance to avoid potential problems.

  1. Tell you credit card company you will be traveling outside the United States. Ask about their fees to access your money while traveling.
  2. Bring along some foreign currency before leaving for your cruise vacation. Ask at your bank if they sell foreign currency or use a third party exchange.
  3. For your convenience some cruise lines have Automated Teller Machines for the exchange of foreign currencies available on vessels sailing out of European ports and on selected exotic itineraries. Use of such machines may involve transaction fees that are subject to change without notice.

Money talks

Spending your limited time in port is not fun when you spend the best part of the day trying to get cash. Before you leave on your cruise get some local currency at the exchange found at the airport or better yet see if your bank offers a money exchange (with little to no fees preferably). Although you might suffer a less than ideal exchange rate, you will have more options in port to explore instead of hanging out at the bank or searching the streets for the local ATM.

Using ATMs

Some experts think that using your debit card internationally is preferable to using your credit card because fees can be less. Using your debit card at an ATM takes dollars directly from your bank account and gives you foreign cash.  Cruise guests will pay a bank fee, but the exchange rate is better than it would be for exchanging cash into local currency. Read more about what to look out for at if you are cruising in Europe and planning on using an ATM.

Tip: In Europe ATM machines have different names: In France ask for a distributeur, a “cashpoint” in the UK, and a Bankomat just about everywhere else (thanks Rick Steves).

Currency conversion fees

Before leaving on your cruise notify your bank and/or credit card company that you will be out of the country using the card(s). Just remember that using your credit card or debit card will cost you money. Most banks will charge a transaction fee for using your card.

According to an article at, “every time you use your card outside the U.S., American Express, VISA, MasterCard  or whichever network is handling the transaction charges your bank a percentage of the transaction (usually 1 percent) to convert your dollars to dinars, euros, yen — the local currency.”

Don’t wait until you get home to figure out if your bank is going to charge you a currency conversion fee for using your credit card. Read more here


Information about exchange rates and tips for where to get money in port can be answered at the Passenger Services/Purser’s Desk while you are on the cruise.


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