You Shouldn’t Exchange Money on a Cruise Ship – Here’s Why


If you are taking a cruise you might be wondering how you can exchange money onboard and if this is the best thing to do. I’ve been on a number of cruises and have tried almost all methods of money exchange at some point.

Some methods are costly but there are a number of things you can do to save money.

Can you exchange money on a cruise ship?

You can exchange money on cruise ships. Most cruise lines will have ATM machines onboard for guests to use and currency exchanges. The exchange rates are often unfavorable for the guests but exchanging money on a cruise ship is often the easiest option.

There are a number of things you can do to reduce the cost of your currency conversion.

currency exchange

Why Shouldn’t You Exchange Money on a Cruise Ship?

Not all Ships Have Currency Exchanges

Relying on cruise ships having an exchange onboard for you to change your money is a bad idea. Most of the larger new cruise ships will have currency exchanges on board but not all ships do. They may also be closed a lot of the time and trying to exchange money at a currency exchange on board isn’t always the most convenient.

Smaller cruise lines may not have any money exchange options onboard at all so don’t rely on the ship having one.

Limited Currency at Currency Exchanges

Currency exchanges on cruise ships will have a limited amount of money available to them and they will only have limited currencies which they can provide. This means that the ship may run out of smaller notes or may be completely unable to complete your exchange if they don’t have the amount that you need.

Bad exchange rates at currency exchanges and ATMs

Generally speaking the exchange rates on cruise ships aren’t as competitive as that which you’d find on land. I like to download a currency converter app when I travel so that I can keep an eye on the rate and compare this to the rate offered by anywhere offering an exchange.

The currency exchange rate offered by onboard ATMs is often even worse as it may have been set quite a bit prior to the cruise taking place. ATM machines on cruise ships very rarely have accurate and up to date exchange rates.

Use chip and pin not signature

Using ATMs on cruise ships will usually require a chip and pin card with a 4 number pin. 4 number pins are the standard within most of Europe but people from some parts of the world, the US particularly, do still have cards that require a signature. It’s unlikely that the ATM onboard would be able to accommodate this but the currency exchange might. Either way, if it is possible to get a chip and pin card before your cruise I’d strongly recommend you do it.

Fees, Fees, Fees!

ATM machines on cruise ships will often charge a hefty fee to withdraw money in addition to the currency exchange rate offered. This can sometimes be as much as $5 or $10 per transaction. If you do find that you have to use onboard ATMs it’s usually better to take out a greater amount of money rather than making multiple smaller transactions.

A Strange Trick to Avoid ATM Fees

Top Tip:

One way that you can avoid ATM fees is to use the casino. On most modern cruise ships you’ll play in the casino using funds added onto your onboard casino account. One way to avoid fees is to load money onto your casino account and then cash it out.

It’s usually quite easy to do this, you sit at the machine, enter your details to transfer money to your account, and then hit the cash out button. The cash out button will give you a slip of paper which you take to the desk to receive your cash. 

Scarlet Lady Casino Machines Games
Scarlet Lady Cruise Ship Casino

Other Options

Exchange Currency Before You Leave

By far the best option is to change your currency before you leave for your cruise. Doing it like this means that you have time to shop around and find out which currency exchange local to you has the best exchange rate.

The problem with this approach is that you have to carry the cash with you which some people don’t like to do. It all depends on how much money you are planning on taking with you on the cruise. I travel very light and the same goes for currency. I generally only take a little bit of physical cash and put the rest on cards.

This guide will help you to work out how much cash you will need for your cruise, including budgeting for things like transport, entertainment, and food:

How Much Cash Should I Bring on a Cruise? Budgeting Guide

Convert Currency on Land

Another good option is to exchange your money in currency exchange shops in the port that you are visiting. Generally speaking the most convenient shops right by the cruise ships will have the worse rates and if you want to secure the best rate it’s usually a good idea to take a short walk into town. Again, having a currency app downloaded to your phone can make it easier to know if the rate being offered is good or not.

Spend on cards – Card with no transaction fees

My favorite way to spend money when on a cruise is by using a credit or debit card. It’s worth doing your research into cards before you travel in order to find one with little or no transaction fees on foreign currency.

It is always worth having some small notes or coins for things when you travel but in most cruise ports you’ll be able to use your cards without too much trouble. In most European ports it easy to use a credit or debit card in local shops and on public transport. May places actually prefer you to use cards than cash. I’ve been on complete cruises where I’ve never actually used any cash!

ATM’s on land

Another good option is to find an ATM in the ports that you are visiting. It’s worth checking before committing to withdraw money if there will be a charge for doing so. On most card machines when you enter your card it’ll let you know about the charge and ask if you want to go ahead.

The ATMs in cruise ports and shopping centers tend to charge more than regular ATMs in the town center. The safest option is always to try and find a bank and use their ATM. Almost all ATMs will have an English option so make sure you don’t miss pressing that!

Where To Next?

There is not a lot that I love more than going on a cruise, meeting new friends, and realizing that I paid considerably less than everybody else for the exact same cruise.

Finding and booking a cruise is no easy task. I’ve been able to cruise for as little as $50 per night and I regularly save over 60% compared to advertised brochure prices. You can do it too!

Start Today.

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Emma Le Teace

Hey! I'm Emma. A cruise blogger, YouTuber and founder of the 'Cruising Isn't Just For Old People' Facebook community and website. You can learn more here: About Me.

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