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Traveling in the USA: cash or credit card

Traveling in the USA: cash or credit card 

What money to take with you to travel around the USA, cash or plastic – we answer these and other questions regarding money. Including in what cases you need cash and which ATMs to use, Visa or Master card and others.

It is known that you can travel without money in two cases – in a dream or through YouTube channels.

In the United States, the role of cash is minimized, you can pay with a card in 99 percent of cases, but there are some nuances that we will talk about. But first, a few words about bank cards.

All known payment systems work in the States, but if you choose between Visa or Master Card, then Visa is preferable – it is pegged to the dollar. Therefore, either a dollar Visa or a Visa in your local currency. In this case, you will still pay a small percentage for the conversion, the money will be withdrawn at the exchange rate.

IMPORTANT. For travel to the USA always take at least two bank cards, in some cases, for various reasons, one of them may not work. However, this rule also applies in other countries.

The bank that issued the card must be large and reputable, otherwise there may also be problems with card payments in the United States.

Those who are going to spend a long time in the United States, it makes sense to get a bank card from an American bank – for this you need to open an account with a US bank. To open an account, you need an address where you live in the United States, for example, a rented apartment, a hotel address will not work. There is no registration in the States – so this is not a problem.

When making payments in stores, they may ask whether you have a debit card or a credit card. By default, the cards of banks of the countries of the former Soviet Union are considered credit cards, even if they are essentially debit cards.

You can get cash from your card through an ATM. At an ATM of a foreign bank, they take a commission of $ 2 plus the commission of the issuing bank, which can be 1-2%. Conclusion – we don’t use an ATM at all and take some cash with us.

How much cash to take to travel in the USA?

A little, I usually take 10-20 percent of the amount. For example, if the total budget of the trip is supposed to be $ 3000, then 300-600 dollars in cash is enough, the rest is evenly distributed on two or three bank cards. It’s better when one of the cards has a credit limit for unforeseen expenses. Part of the cash is worth having in small bills and coins. In America, vending machines for the sale of services are widespread that accept only coins – parking meters, washing machines.

Where you need cash in the USA

In 90 percent of cases, you can pay by credit card, but there are exceptions.

1 | Small private parking lots

Usually, the parking lot also accepts cards, but sometimes there is a settlement only with coins or give money to the valet. This happens even in Los Angeles, though rarely.

2 | Buses

On the bus, you can pay only in cash, and the driver does not change money and does not give change. The machine only accepts $ 1 bills or 25 cents.

3 | Tipping the maids

Typically, tips in restaurants, bars or cafes, as well as types of taxi drivers, are debited from the bank card. In the case of hotel maids, we pay tips in cash. $ 1- $ 5 is enough for such purposes. Also, cash comes in handy if you want to encourage a street artist, musician, or guy to help you find a parking spot.

4 | Automatic laundries

Small, inexpensive hotels or apartments often have automatic washing machines that only accept 25 cents. There are similar laundry machines on the streets in cities.

5 | Souvenir shops and small shops

Small souvenir shops or private shops in some Indian wilderness also accept cash only. The same story with buying from private sellers.

6 | Small purchases

Not always, but quite often purchases less than a certain amount, for example $ 5- $ 10, can be paid only with cash.

7 | Slot machines or drinks vending machines

There are vending machines for drinks and small items in entertainment areas or public places. They only accept cash. It’s the same story with children’s play machines.


  • Stock up on small bills and 25 cents.
  • You can change a $ 100 bill either at a bank branch or by buying something small in a supermarket.
  • If there is no cash at all and you do not want to lose money by withdrawing cash from an ATM, you can ask the cashier to give you a cash back when paying with a card – usually up to $ 20 can be received this way.

How to rent a car while traveling in the USA? – guaranteed a good car at the best price from both leading car rental companies and local car rental companies. We are happy with them, which is what we wish for you.

It is also useful to read:

When is the best time to go to California

California travel guide

Buy a sim card in the USA, cellular communication. Travel tips

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