One of the main worries for many people when travelling is financing the trip itself. Budget planning can go out of the window on a whim or a special treat, and if you're on a well-deserved holiday, why not splash out once in a while, as long as it doesn't break the bank?
One of the first things to recognise in Barcelona is the currency is the Euro, which is currently enjoying a strong period in comparison to the US Dollar or the English Pound Sterling, for example. So gone are the days of calculating more or less one and a half to treat yourself - think of it as equal, and then you won't get a surprise back home with your bank statements! Paying in cash is accepted every where, and indeed certain establishments won't accept any form of card payment due to the high bank charges the vendor has to incur. It's wise to always carry some cash with you for the simple necessities you may need on a day out sightseeing, but as with any foreign city, don't carry it all! Your accommodation will have a safe in your room or at reception, or if you're staying in a self-catering holiday apartment for example, then ensure you lock away everything just as you would at home.
Going back to the mention of cards, American Express Cards are not as widely accepted as Visa and MasterCards, so if you're a traveller whose wallet is usually only Amex, you might want to ask your bank about taking out a Visa or MasterCard as a back up. Always keep cards separate, too, and don't take everything out with you in your wallet. If you're unfortunate enough to lose one or if a bank machine swallows your card, you have the back up.
Many places in Barcelona will ask for a photo identification when paying for goods - even with the new chip and pin cards, give that nationally, it's commonplace to show your national identity card in order to identify yourself and the signature is rarely scrutinised as in other countries. If you don't want to carry around your passport as photo identification, make a photocopy of it beforehand, and keep that with you on days you want to experience the great Barcelona shopping!
Another warning when paying with a credit card: some establishments will offer you the opportunity to pay for any goods in your own currency, so if they recognise the card as a UK based bank, they might ask you if you want to pay in pounds. This often sounds more acceptable, as you know your own currency better than Euros, and think that this will avoid any charges of the exchange rate, etc. However, it is the vendors who can apply their own exchange rate to the machine, and this is almost always higher than the current published rate, and a cunning way for them to get the client to pay for their bank commissions. If you find yourself in this situation, always decline politely - it's better to know you have paid the same amount as it says on the ticket than a pumped up exchange price.
ATM or cash machines are abundant in the city, but foreign users are often charged for taking out cash - once by their own bank and sometimes by the Spanish bank, too. Check before you travel if your own bank has any sister branches with a more favourable exchange rate - this often is the case. And try and budget for the weekend or week rather than taking out small amounts every day - and thus incurring more charges - withdraw a larger amount so you are only charged once. Better still, ensure you have changed money before you arrive, and use your cards only as a back up. Travellers cheques can help in this way, but are not always accepted as payment and it can be a hassle finding a place to change them out of banking hours which won't charge a hefty commission, so this can often be a false economy.