Which payment method do you take with you when traveling?

7 min Reading time

Are you eager to set off on vacation? First, consider which payment method is best to take along – your credit card, debit card, or cash? We'll help guide you.


First and foremost, we advise against exchanging a large amount of euros into the local currency of your destination and departing with a wallet full of banknotes. You can carry a small amount of cash for security, but the most convenient and safest option is to pay digitally.

Traveling with your debit card


Most of us use a debit card for payments or cash withdrawals in our own country. But even abroad, your debit card works perfectly fine. Therefore, you don't necessarily need to acquire a credit card specifically for your trip. However, keep a few things in mind:

  • If you're traveling outside of Europe, you need to temporarily activate your debit card with your bank. For example, if you're heading to the US, Thailand, Morocco, or Egypt, your debit card won't work unless you unblock it first. If you're going on a cruise or using services from a US company (e.g., renting a car), it's a good idea to check with your bank to see if your card needs to be enabled. Conveniently, some banks allow you to activate your debit card yourself via the banking app.
  • For trips within the Eurozone, paying with your debit card is always free. Outside the Eurozone, additional charges apply. In most cases, it's more advantageous to use a credit card for payments outside the Eurozone. The best advice: review your bank's fee schedule beforehand to avoid surprises later.
  • If you want to withdraw money, you'll find it cheaper within the Eurozone with a debit card. When traveling outside the Eurozone, a credit card is sometimes more cost-effective for larger amounts. Again, consult your bank's fee schedule for details.

Traveling with your credit card


If you already have a credit card, it can also accompany you perfectly on your trip. The advantage of a credit card is that your account is not immediately debited, but once a month.

If you want to predefine how much you spend, a prepaid card may be a good option for you. This alternative to a credit card needs to be loaded with a certain amount beforehand. What isn't on it can't be spent.

A few points to consider when taking your credit card:

  • If you're traveling to the United States, sometimes you may need to have your credit card authorized by your bank. The same applies if you're going on a cruise or using services from a US-based company. So, be sure to check with your bank.
  • Paying within the Eurozone with a credit card is free, just like with a debit card. Outside the Eurozone, a credit card is often more cost-effective. But be cautious: a credit card isn't always the most economical choice. Withdrawing money within the Eurozone is usually cheaper with a debit card. If you're traveling outside the Eurozone, using a credit card to withdraw money can be cheaper for larger amounts.

Moral of the story: consult your bank's fee schedule in advance. The costs for your debit or credit card can vary significantly depending on your destination. For instance, you might find your debit card cheaper in Spain, but your credit card might be more advantageous in Tanzania. You can find the fee schedules at your bank branch and on your bank's website.

When using your card outside the Eurozone, be mindful of dynamic currency conversion. Some local merchants might offer you the option to pay in euros instead of the local currency. While this isn't a problem in itself, be aware that the local merchant may charge a commission for this service, which could be higher than your bank's commission.

Our tip: Always pay in the local currency to avoid high conversion fees.


Traveling with cash


If you prefer to carry some cash, it's best to check in advance which currency is used at your destination. If you need foreign currencies, plan to visit your bank ahead of time. Many banks allow you to order and collect these foreign currencies in advance (online) at the bank branch.

Keep in mind that your local bank branch might not have these foreign currencies readily available. Going on the morning of your departure might not be a good idea. Some banks may charge a fee for this service, while others may not. Again, be sure to check your bank's fee schedule.

And what about your smartphone?


Using your smartphone for payments remains an ideal option for domestic destinations. It's quick, safe, convenient, hygienic, and always available. However, don't assume that your smartphone can be used as a payment method everywhere abroad.

This is because mobile payment solutions are often offered locally (in Belgium) and not internationally. In foreign countries, they have their own local solutions that we as Belgians might not have access to. Exceptions are Apple Pay and Google Pay. These two mobile payment solutions can be used both in Belgium and abroad.


Safety first


No matter which payment method you choose, always remain vigilant. Fraudsters and pickpockets remain active even during the summer months.

Here are a few golden tips:

  • Keep your debit and/or credit card in your pocket or safely stored. Don't leave them visibly lying around.
  • Ensure your card is always within sight. For example, don't hand your card to the waiter at a restaurant to pay the bill.
  • Keep your PIN secret. Don't choose an easily recognizable code, don't write it down anywhere, and don't share it with anyone. If you suspect someone else knows your PIN, choose a new one.
  • Shield the keypad of the payment terminal or ATM when entering your PIN and ensure no one can watch over your shoulder.

Lost or stolen card abroad?


Immediately notify Card Stop in case of loss or theft of your debit or credit card. Card Stop will block your payment cards. The number is easily accessible from abroad (24/7): +32 78 170 170.

Also, if you still have your card in your possession and you notice unrecognized transactions on your account statements or if you've given your personal PIN or response code to a scammer, call Card Stop and your bank. The Card Stop website has a new page where you can find all contact information per bank.