Spending abroad: last minute options

It is never too late to find an affordable way to spend abroad, here are your options based on when you plan to travel.

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What are your options?

There are several ways you can spend abroad, but some take longer to sort out than others.

This table shows each option and whether you can get them before your trip:

Updated 7 April 2020
ProductTravel tomorrowTravel next weekTravel next month
Travellers chequesPossiblyYesYes
Prepaid cardNoYesYes
Debit card/credit cardNoPossiblyYes
*Some everyday prepaid cards, debit cards and credit cards also offer cheap foreign spending, so there is a chance you already have a great option in your wallet!

If you have to wait for any of the above to be delivered, any postal delays could slow things down even more, so pick a back-up option if you are short on time.

Use cash

You can buy foreign currency in lots of ways, and its wide availability makes it the fastest way to get your hands on travel money for your trip. You can:

  • Go to a travel money provider on the high street and pick up currency straight away

  • Order online and get it delivered* to your home or nearest branch the next day

* Also an option for telephone orders.

While popular currencies like the euro and US dollar are easily found in stock, less common currencies may need to be ordered in.

You should do the following to make sure you get your currency in time:

  • Research the currency you need to see if it is easy to get on the high street or online and if you have time before you travel, buy in advance to avoid disappointment.

  • If a travel money provider does not advertise a particular currency, contact them and ask if they can order it in for you, it might not be possible but could end up saving you time.

  • If time is running out, you can still order currency from some online providers, such as Travelex, for pick-up at the airport which will be much cheaper than buying it there.

Most providers let you pick up your currency from 1pm the next day, but to be sure double check the provider's terms and conditions before you make your purchase.

Find out how to get the best travel money deals here

Use a travellers cheque

You cannot walk in and buy travellers cheques in store anymore as they are being phased out.

You can buy travellers cheques online and have them delivered to your address or collect them from a store.

Many travel money providers let you pick up travellers cheques from 1pm the next day, but double check before buying. This can take longer if you order travellers cheques over the weekend.

If you choose for travellers cheques to be delivered over the weekend, there will often be an extra charge, for example Post Office charge £1.50 and John Lewis charge £3.60.

Read our guide for more on the costs of using travellers cheques abroad.

Use a prepaid card

If you apply for a new prepaid card it will take between 3 to 5 days to arrive, following the completion of your application.

Before you apply, compare prepaid cards and the cost of using them abroad because picking a card with low overseas charges could save you money.

If you already have a prepaid card you can top it up ready to spend abroad, though you could face expensive foreign usage fees.

For more information on the cost of using a prepaid card, read our guide on the best ways to spend abroad.

Use a debit or credit card

Debit and credit cards operate in very different ways overseas and can end up costing you a fortune if you are not careful, so make sure you pick the right one for foreign usage.

If you need to apply for a new debit or credit card the delivery time is usually between 3-7 days, although this can be longer if applying over the weekend.

You can gamble on your new card and PIN arriving in the post within 1 week, but make sure you have a back-up plan in case they do not.

Use an existing debit or credit card

This will be a quick and easy option, but it might not be the best choice. If your existing debit or credit card:

  • Charges you for spending abroad then read our guide to find out how much you could be paying to make a cash withdrawal or card transaction.

  • Does not charge you for spending abroad then you can go away the next day and start spending.

Spending abroad can be costly, so make sure you compare the market for the best exchange rates available on your travel money before jetting off.