Europe travel Qs [Questions]

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
psteinx
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Europe travel Qs [Questions]

Post by psteinx » Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:56 am

Going shortly on a leisure trip with our family of 5, to France (Paris and Strasbourg) and Germany (Munich), with possible side-trip to Salzburg, Austria.

First time to Europe for me in many years.

Qs:

1) Cash - Will probably take at least 2 different Visa credit cards. I figure we'll want some paper Euros too. Rick Steves says get them from an ATM in Europe, with a debit card. I've got my USBank ATM (logos on the back for "MoneyPass" and "Plus", but not Visa or Mastercard). Will this work? Or should I use one of the CCs? I don't know the PIN for the CCs, or even if I have a PIN for them. Alternatively, I could get cash from my local bank - the markup & fees on 400 Euros seems to amount to about 9%. If I get Euros from an ATM, will I likely be able to tell from the ATM screen what the relevant conversion rate and fees will be?

1b) Or should I even bother with many Euros at all? In the US, at non-tourist businesses, I'd guess ~90% of the time CCs and cash are basically equally useful, but there are a few situations where cash is better (and a few where CCs may be better). Also with certain individuals (i.e. tips or the like)...

2) International Drivers' Permit (from AAA). Getting slightly mixed messages on this. Seems not required in France, maybe required in Germany, probably required in Austria. Will be renting car in France, dropping off in Germany (in/near Paris and Munich, respectively).

3) CC usage. Probably will use CapOne Visa as primary, State Farm Visa as backup. I think they're both chipped. I've called both to notify (though CapOne's robo system said, I think, notification not needed for theirs). Should be good? Any way to know in advance or at the time of transaction what the fees and conversion rates will be? CapOne claimed, I think, no foreign transaction fee.

4) In Paris, there is a cross-museum pass that seems economical for us. Should be available at most of the major museums, I hope? At the same price(s) at all of these museums? I think I could get this in advance via internet if really needed (i.e. if alternative was standing in a 1.5 hour line at the Louvre, say), but seems simpler to wait and get it there.
Last edited by psteinx on Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:37 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Shallowpockets
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by Shallowpockets » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:21 pm

Use an ATM card for the cash. Preferably a card that reimburses ATM fees. I use Schwab. Get your cash as you need it. There are ATMs all over. You can use the airport ATM when you land.
They take CC over there with no problem. They will usually bring a handheld CC machine to the table. Not take your card like in the US. Use a no transaction fee card. You will not know the transaction cost or the exchange rate until you get your CC bill. However, I have my CC set to email me on transactions, so I know the dollar amount I pay before I return to the hotel. Then you can do the math yourself. All the big banks get a best rate. You will not do better by searching around for alternatives.
>>>>>>>>>
Do not buy Euros here before you go.
Get cash per ATM card in airport to start.
Use your CC for all else.

Buy a Rick Steves Europe or country specific. Or get one out of the library. Most all your questions will be answered in the books. In fact, you will learn more and better than reading through a bunch of replies on the forum.

ResearchMed
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by ResearchMed » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:25 pm

When you charge something, do NOT allow them to convert to dollars "for your convenience".
Charge in the local currency.

Let the card company (e.g., VISA/bank) do that at official rates, rather than unknown rates and also unknown fees.

RM
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MathWizard
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by MathWizard » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:25 pm

Was in Paris in 2012.

The museum pass saved lots of time in line. I don't know if I saved money with the pass,
but getting to and staying in France was expensive, so time was money.

Similarly with the Metro Pass. You'll encounter lots of pickpockets. The less time you are
stuck in front of a ticket machine paying attention to the machine, the better.

My wife had 350 Euro stolen from her purse in a crowded elevator.

The ATM card should work just fine (but you could ask the bank) Also let them know where you are
traveling, and maybe up the daily limit.

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Raybo
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by Raybo » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:26 pm

I, too, use the Schwab debit card for getting currency in Europe. I haven't ever had it refused at an ATM and always find an ATM in the airport for getting as soon as I land.

I try very hard NOT to use US credit cards in Europe. The issuers almost always impose a fee just for using your CC in Europe. In addition, there is the problem of converting from Euros to Dollars. There usually is a hidden mark-up there, as well. It can easily add 10% to the actual cost of whatever you are purchasing.

I simply take out Euros as I need them and spend cash. Note that the upper limit on European ATMs is much higher than US. I can get up to 400 Euros in a single transaction.

Be sure to alert your bank that you are going to use your debit and credit cards overseas. Otherwise, they will be cancelled on first use.
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livesoft
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by livesoft » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:31 pm

I cannot answer all your questions, but will comment anyways.

1. I don't take cash and try to never get money from an ATM. I just use a decent no-foreign-transaction fee credit card like Capital One when I am in Europe. I've even paid for bus tickets with a credit card. Your CapOne card will be good.

You will probably not be as adventurous, so just get cash from an ATM. Will your ATM card work? It should, but check with your bank. As for the 9% in fees, that's outrageous. Your bank sucks. My spouse went to Cuba and bought euros beforehand through our bank. The fee was only 3% and the euro bills came to our front door via Fedex.

2. I've driven in Europe with my Texas drivers license. The rental car agencies seemed satisfied with hat. My spouse has a no-expiration international drivers license, so I usually just let her drive.

3. What are you doing for cell phone? :)

4. Instead of driving, why not take the overnight train from Paris to Munich? I've done that plenty of times. That will save you a night in a hotel and give you a full day of excursions and sight-seeing. Trains from Munich to Austria are easy as well.
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new2bogle
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by new2bogle » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:35 pm

psteinx wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:56 am
Going shortly on a leisure trip with our family of 5, to France (Paris and Strasbourg) and Germany (Munich), with possible side-trip to Salzburg Austria.

First time to Europe for me in many years.

Qs:

1) Cash - Will probably take at least 2 different Visa credit cards. I figure we'll want some paper Euros too. Rick Steve's says get them from an ATM in Europe, with a debit card. I've got my USBank ATM (logos on the back for "MoneyPass" and "Plus", but not Visa or Mastercard). Will this work? Or should I use one of the CCs? I don't know the PIN for the CCs, or even if I have a PIN for them. Alternatively, I could get cash from my local bank - the markup & fees on 400 Euros seems to amount to about 9%. If I get Euros from an ATM, will I likely be able to tell from the ATM screen what the relevant conversion rate and fees will be?

1b) Or should I even bother with many Euros at all? In the US, at non-tourist businesses, I'd guess ~90% of the time CCs and cash are basically equally useful, but there are a few situations where cash is better (and a few where CCs may be better). Also with certain individuals (i.e. tips or the like)...

2) International Drivers' Permit (from AAA). Getting slightly mixed messages on this. Seems not required in France, maybe required in Germany, probably required in Austria. Will be renting car in France, dropping off in Germany (in/near Paris and Munich, respectively).

3) CC usage. Probably will use CapOne Visa as primary, State Farm Visa as backup. I think they're both chipped. I've called both to notify (though CapOne's robo system said notification not needed). Should be good? Any way to know in advance or at the time of transaction what the fees and conversion rates will be? CapOne claimed, I think, no foreign transaction fee.

4) In Paris, there is a cross-museum pass that seems economical for us. Should be available at most of the major museums, I hope? At the same price(s) at all of these museums? I think I could get this in advance via internet if really needed (i.e. if alternative was standing in a 1.5 hour line at the Louvre, say), but seems simpler to wait and get it there.
1) Take two different ATM cards and get Euros once in Europe. I use and take the Schwab ATM and Fidelity ATM cards. Both give fees back. Do not use CC in the ATM. You probably don't need to get Euros beforehand. Note that in other countries (i.e., non-European, it is advisable to get some local currency before going. I'm going to France in Nov and will NOT be getting Euros beforehand).

2) You need this for Austria for sure. Germany I believe does not require it. I am not sure about France. You will also need to get a windshield decal before you drive into Austria. You can get that from any gas station on the autobahn out of Munich going into Salzburg (but get it before you reach Austria - you will get a ticket if you don't have this).

3) Sounds good! I'm taking my CapOne in Nov too. I'll also take a couple others as backups

4) Right now I am thinking about getting the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus for the two of us. We are staying next to the Eiffel tower and there is a stop there. The bus will take you to all the major tourist spots. Only other place I want to go is the catacombs.

Have fun!

KNomad
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by KNomad » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:37 pm

Make sure to use a no foreign transaction fee credit card and a debit card that reimburses ATM fees. Others have mentioned Schwab, but I've really enjoyed my Fidelity Cash Management debit card for foreign travel. It's a free account with no minimums.

Many credit card terminals in Europe allow contactless payment, which most US cards don't support. However, if your credit cards support Apple Pay, Android Pay (Google Pay) or Samsung Pay, you can load your cards into your phone and use your phone as a contactless credit card payment device. It saves you from having to sign receipts, which almost no one with European credit card holders need to do. It makes buying train tickets, paying for taxis, etc so much easier.

psteinx
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by psteinx » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:39 pm

My wife is in charge of cell phones.

I'm still a little concerned about the fact that my USBank ATM card is not associated with Visa or Mastercard. But it should still work over there?

The rental car works for us for a number of reasons (including that we're stopping off at Strasbourg on the way from Paris to Munich) and in any case is part of the travel package I've already paid for.

---

What's this about a window sticker for going into Austria? What's the purpose of the window sticker?

The Austria side trip is not entirely pre-ordained. I've been to Salzburg before, like it, and wouldn't mind going again (and showing our kids). But it already means a bit of a drive from Munich, and if it adds a lot of other complications, it may get scratched from possible plans...

jodydavis
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by jodydavis » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:50 pm

psteinx wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:56 am
1) Cash - Will probably take at least 2 different Visa credit cards. I figure we'll want some paper Euros too. Rick Steve's says get them from an ATM in Europe, with a debit card. I've got my USBank ATM (logos on the back for "MoneyPass" and "Plus", but not Visa or Mastercard). Will this work? Or should I use one of the CCs? I don't know the PIN for the CCs, or even if I have a PIN for them. Alternatively, I could get cash from my local bank - the markup & fees on 400 Euros seems to amount to about 9%. If I get Euros from an ATM, will I likely be able to tell from the ATM screen what the relevant conversion rate and fees will be?
ATM card should work. You can always call your bank to confirm. (Also notify them of your travels, so they don't cancel your card while you are traveling). Make sure your PIN is 4-digit, since some foreign ATMs may not accept longer PINs. Call your bank to ask about transaction fees. Some banks have agreements with local banks to waive transaction fees. You won't be able to tell the conversion rate on the screen, but conversion will likely be at a bank rate, which is almost always better than you will get at a currency exchange.
psteinx wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:56 am
1b) Or should I even bother with many Euros at all? In the US, at non-tourist businesses, I'd guess ~90% of the time CCs and cash are basically equally useful, but there are a few situations where cash is better (and a few where CCs may be better). Also with certain individuals (i.e. tips or the like)...
Usually good to have at least some cash. Where you are going, CCs will be accepted almost everywhere, but I find having a little cash is handy for the reasons you note.
psteinx wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:56 am
2) International Drivers' Permit (from AAA). Getting slightly mixed messages on this. Seems not required in France, maybe required in Germany, probably required in Austria. Will be renting car in France, dropping off in Germany (in/near Paris and Munich, respectively).
I would get one just in case. I've had rental agencies in Europe ask. Wouldn't want to get there and find out the hard way.
psteinx wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:56 am
3) CC usage. Probably will use CapOne Visa as primary, State Farm Visa as backup. I think they're both chipped. I've called both to notify (though CapOne's robo system said notification not needed). Should be good? Any way to know in advance or at the time of transaction what the fees and conversion rates will be? CapOne claimed, I think, no foreign transaction fee.
CC company will let you know if there are any fees. Definitely use a no-fee card. As to conversion rates, I don't think there is any way to tell ahead of time, though all sources say that the rates are generally pretty favorable. Note the difference between chip-PIN and chip-signature cards. Most U.S. cards are chip-signature. Most retail stores/restaurants can handle either, but be aware that many automated kiosks will take only chip-PIN. (Sometimes they will work, and sometimes they will accept a 0000 PIN).
psteinx wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:56 am
4) In Paris, there is a cross-museum pass that seems economical for us. Should be available at most of the major museums, I hope? At the same price(s) at all of these museums? I think I could get this in advance via internet if really needed (i.e. if alternative was standing in a 1.5 hour line at the Louvre, say), but seems simpler to wait and get it there.
Yes, definitely get the pass if you will visit enough museums. Can allow you to skip some lines, which is invaluable.

jminv
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by jminv » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:52 pm

Don't forget that on the first Sunday of every month in Paris, all the museums are free. So if you're there when you can take advantage of it, it's a real plus.

They don't care about an international drivers permit when picking up a rental in France at all. You do supposedly need one in Austria if you're stopped/in an accident and you could technically get fined for not having it.

If you go into Austria, remember to buy a vignette for the roads before entering (at border or online for 10 days for 9 euros). If you don't enter on the express way then buy one at the first gas station. There are steep fines for going on the wrong road without one. I like Austria a lot, lovely country. Salzburg is pleasant. Get the Salzburg card, it'll pay for itself just for the lift ticket up the mountain, which is the top attraction in town. The Stiegl brewery tour is also interesting (besides all of the Sound of Music, mozart stuff, etc in town).

mrb09
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by mrb09 » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:54 pm

Was in Italy in May, flew in/out of Munich

- Had two ATM cards from Ally, they worked at all ATM machines

- Italy likes cash more than northern Europe, but never had any issues Visa cards with hotels and higher end restaurants. Did go through a lot of Euros though, we were binging a bit ;) Agritourismo we stayed at required cash. Might be the case if you stay at some private pensions or do private tours.

- Europe uses chip and pin, your cards will be chip and signature. Tourist areas will know exactly how that works, in non-tourist areas, might need to tell them you need to sign a receipt. Their machines will handle it, but they might not know.

- Did get a international drivers permit, was never asked for it, but took just a few minutes to get it and took a little stress off. Been to Europe several times but first time I drove there.

- I did notify CC companies of travel, Visa and Mastercard have online forms. I called Ally and they took travel date info over the phone.

KNomad
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by KNomad » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:54 pm

There is a dedicated railway line between Strasbourg and Paris and you can also easily travel from Strasbourg to Munich by train. No way I would want to deal with the hassle of renting a car. Parking in most European cities is hard to come by and expensive.

No idea about US Bank. Without a Visa or MC logo, it may not work in Europe. Everyone is telling you to get Schwab of Fidelity. Just do that.

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midareff
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by midareff » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:59 pm

Check out the Uber Visa. 4% cash back at restaurants, 3% at hotels and no foreign transaction fees.

ResearchMed
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by ResearchMed » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:00 pm

Your bankcard (ATM) issuer may have an online list (and map) of ATM locations in each city you'll be in.

If you can find one inside a bank, that's best.
First, fewer chances of someone nearby interfering.
Second, if you have trouble, there's someone to ask.

We had some difficulty in Italy with no English instructions.
Fortunately, our dear friends are Italian, so one of them usually went with one of us.
(Or IF there were English instructions/choices, we couldn't find the Italian pointer to switch to English!)

Other than that, it was all very simple.

Carry purses pressed under armpit, tightly, when in crowds, or directly in front of you.
Or don't take a purse.

RM
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FireProof
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by FireProof » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:02 pm

It's often very hard to use a credit card in Germany (to buy metro tickets, for example) - frequently one can only use a unique kind of German cash card that you will not have. In general, it may be harder to use a credit card for very small transactions in France as well. You shouldn't need large quanities of Euros, but you will definitely need some.

The good thing is that you can just withdraw money from an ATM, and often even more easily than it would be in the US, where you may have to look for a particular ATM - unlike in the US, very few European ATMs have fees, so a Schwab card is nice, but hardly a necessity. So the only thing that's important is having a debit card without foreign exchange fees, but that's equally important for a credit card (Capital One should be fine, though). I actually made a 30,000 Euro payment by withdrawing at ATMs from my American bank account, since bank transfers are expensive (0.6% from TransferWise).

I don't know about USBank, or if it will even work, but I wouldn't take it for granted that it doesn't have foreign transaction fees. the ATM will tell you its own fees, but not if your bank will screw you on the exchange rate.

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alpine_boglehead
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by alpine_boglehead » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:22 pm

1) take real care in Paris, my wallet was stolen there, and I witnessed another theft (fraudsters asking for donations, and on top of that making a run for it instead of giving people their change if they get a high-denomination note).

2) maybe take the train from Munich for a day-trip to Salzburg, it's likely more pleasant than by car. As an Austrian, I can strongly recommend Salzburg :)

psteinx
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by psteinx » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:23 pm

alpine_boglehead wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:22 pm
2) maybe take the train from Munich for a day-trip to Salzburg, it's likely more pleasant than by car. As an Austrian, I can strongly recommend Salzburg :)
Ooh - didn't think about this.

Convenient times (every hour or two in both directions)?

About as fast as car, I assume?

City center to city center?

Cost per person?

EDIT: Couple more...

It's a bit over an hour from Munich to Salzburg, by car, or perhaps train, right?

If we did go by car, I assume there are some parking lots a bit outside of the city center where we could park for the day, then walk into the city center, right? FWIW, my wife is not much of a walker (>3-5 km in a day and I will likely hear a lot of complaints), and I'm slightly worried there'll be a lot of walking anyways...

mak1277
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by mak1277 » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:32 pm

Use any leftover cash to pay (part of) your hotel bill and avoid having to change it back to USD.

psteinx
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by psteinx » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:37 pm

Our hotel should be prepaid, but we have one known late expense (returning rental car at other than originating city), and in any case, I'd probably try to burn most cash on meals and such on the last day or two.

02nz
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by 02nz » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:54 pm

Watch out for "dynamic currency conversion," where the merchant offers to do the conversion for you, so that you get charged in dollars instead of euros. ALWAYS DECLINE and pay in euros or whatever the local currency is, because with DCC you'll get ripped off on the rate, to the tune of 5 to 7%. Watch out for this at ATMs, too.

Credit card acceptance is lower in Europe than in the U.S. Hotels and higher-end restaurants and bigger stores generally take credit cards, but many smaller establishments do not.

02nz
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by 02nz » Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:00 pm

psteinx wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:23 pm
alpine_boglehead wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:22 pm
2) maybe take the train from Munich for a day-trip to Salzburg, it's likely more pleasant than by car. As an Austrian, I can strongly recommend Salzburg :)
It's a bit over an hour from Munich to Salzburg, by car, or perhaps train, right?

If we did go by car, I assume there are some parking lots a bit outside of the city center where we could park for the day, then walk into the city center, right? FWIW, my wife is not much of a walker (>3-5 km in a day and I will likely hear a lot of complaints), and I'm slightly worried there'll be a lot of walking anyways...
1.5-2 hours each way, car or train. I'd DEFINITELY do this by train - buy the Bayern-Ticket from the Deutsche Bahn (German railways), 31 euros for 2 people. Valid for a day (starting at 9 am) on all regional trains in Bavaria, including frequent M trains (but not the IC/EC/RJ) on the Munich-Salzburg route. No need to pre-book, but I think there's a small surcharge if you buy the ticket at a counter instead of online (www.bahn.de).

new2bogle
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by new2bogle » Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:20 pm

02nz wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:00 pm
psteinx wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:23 pm
alpine_boglehead wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:22 pm
2) maybe take the train from Munich for a day-trip to Salzburg, it's likely more pleasant than by car. As an Austrian, I can strongly recommend Salzburg :)
It's a bit over an hour from Munich to Salzburg, by car, or perhaps train, right?

If we did go by car, I assume there are some parking lots a bit outside of the city center where we could park for the day, then walk into the city center, right? FWIW, my wife is not much of a walker (>3-5 km in a day and I will likely hear a lot of complaints), and I'm slightly worried there'll be a lot of walking anyways...
1.5-2 hours each way, car or train. I'd DEFINITELY do this by train - buy the Bayern-Ticket from the Deutsche Bahn (German railways), 31 euros for 2 people. Valid for a day (starting at 9 am) on all regional trains in Bavaria, including frequent M trains (but not the IC/EC/RJ) on the Munich-Salzburg route. No need to pre-book, but I think there's a small surcharge if you buy the ticket at a counter instead of online (www.bahn.de).
But the drive is very beautiful with several nice places to stop, especially if you don't use the autobahn and instead use the smaller roads. Increases travel time of course.

dsmclone
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by dsmclone » Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:51 pm

I've been all over Europe a lot and going back to France in a few months. Here are some tips/stories.

I've always been a little bit scared of what we would do if we got robbed even though I know I'm less likely to be robbed there than about anywhere else. With that said, I've always had one my wife carry one CC and I carried another brand. I carry one debit card and she carries another brand. I was about ready to give up on this process and then....we wake up in Bruges Belgium ready to drive to Munich. Wife can't find her wallet...f me. I really don't think we were pick pocketed, I think we were both pretty drunk and she just left it somewhere. I went back trying to find it but it was gone. We freaked a little but then we called our bank, which I didn't know gives you debit cards with different numbers, which made life very easy. Called the CC company and they canceled our CC. It all worked out fine in the end and we were happy that we didn't do the dumb thing and carry our passport with us. On a side note, I also make copies of things like our license, passport, TSA pre check and put them on google drive.

We have two credit cards. The Barclay one I have actually has chip and pin so I plan on using that most of the time. I'll have my wife carry the other one.

We normally use the ATM at the airport and get a few hundred Euro, which we split between the two of us. One thing to consider is your maximum daily limit. Our limit was $400 which I knew but wasn't thinking when I tried to pull out 350 euro. It kept failing and I couldn't figure out why(350 euro was more than $400). I lowered it down to 200 and everything worked fine.

I keep my wallet in my front pocket.

I one time got an international drivers license. Once that expired, I never renewed and never had an issue throughout western Europe.

Maybe it's just me but I like to spend about 1/2 my time in larger cities and 1/2 the time in smaller town/villages. Last time we were in Germany we spent 4 days in Munich and 2 days in Ehrwald checking out Zugspitze and the surrounding area. If I had to do it again, I would have spent one less day in Munich, 6 beer gardens was probably enough:)

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HomerJ
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by HomerJ » Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:57 pm

dsmclone wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:51 pm
I keep my wallet in my front pocket.
And in any crowds, I have my hand in my pocket on top of my wallet most of the time.
The J stands for Jay

jminv
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by jminv » Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:07 pm

alpine_boglehead wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:22 pm
1) take real care in Paris, my wallet was stolen there, and I witnessed another theft (fraudsters asking for donations, and on top of that making a run for it instead of giving people their change if they get a high-denomination note).
This is a very unfortunate downside to Paris. There are all kinds of scams including the petition scam, charity donation scam (which includes the faux Syrian refugees on the metro that are actually gypsies), the gold/brass ring scam, taxi scammers at the airport, the string scam on the way up to the Sacre Coeur, etc etc. There are a large number of pickpockets especially on the metro, around metro stops (provides quick getaway), and at the main attractions. They usually work in groups so they can pass off whatever they take so if one is caught they have nothing on them. They target tourists heavily and they're not french. Your wife needs to bring a zipper purse, not a button one. The Parisian thieves are very adept at getting phones/cards/etc in the open gap (and also opening zippers, but if you're aware it won't be an issue). Be very careful with your wallet, never in the back pocket and better to leave most of your cards in the hotel. Better to not even bring a wallet, just card some cash and your metro pass. Leave the passports in the hotel since credit cards are easy to replace but passports take some time. If you are on the metro, be particularly cautious as you approach the next station as this is when thieves tend to strike. They grab and exit before you realize what is happening. If one of you are asian, take extra precautions as they are a target due to perceptions of having large amounts of cash on them.
Last edited by jminv on Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

livesoft
Posts: 62960
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by livesoft » Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:08 pm

I don't bother carrying money or a wallet anymore. I have a zippered pocket for one credit card, one ID card. If I am camping, I add a micro pocket knife and a BIC lighter.
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new2bogle
Posts: 1359
Joined: Fri Sep 11, 2009 2:05 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by new2bogle » Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:20 pm

livesoft wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:08 pm
I don't bother carrying money or a wallet anymore. I have a zippered pocket for one credit card, one ID card. If I am camping, I add a micro pocket knife and a BIC lighter.
In Europe or in general?

billfromct
Posts: 808
Joined: Tue Dec 03, 2013 9:05 am

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by billfromct » Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:22 pm

You may want to get a money belt.

I was pick pocketed twice (Spain & Italy) but was wearing my money belt. The pick pockets got a few hundred pesetas & a few thousand lira (both times before the Euro was in place) which was $10-$15 as well as a beat up old wallet.

Also you should clean out your wallet before you go & keep all the non-essential stuff at home.

bill

livesoft
Posts: 62960
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by livesoft » Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:33 pm

new2bogle wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:20 pm
livesoft wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:08 pm
I don't bother carrying money or a wallet anymore. I have a zippered pocket for one credit card, one ID card. If I am camping, I add a micro pocket knife and a BIC lighter.
In Europe or in general?
In general. Europe, US, wherever. I sometimes add a health insurance card. If I go to the library, I add my library card.
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theplayer11
Posts: 538
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2014 8:55 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by theplayer11 » Wed Jul 18, 2018 4:02 pm

in Munich we used cc for everything. i’m sure paris would be the same. We withdraw very little from ATM, just not needed.

theplayer11
Posts: 538
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2014 8:55 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by theplayer11 » Wed Jul 18, 2018 4:06 pm

jminv wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:07 pm
alpine_boglehead wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:22 pm
1) take real care in Paris, my wallet was stolen there, and I witnessed another theft (fraudsters asking for donations, and on top of that making a run for it instead of giving people their change if they get a high-denomination note).
This is a very unfortunate downside to Paris. There are all kinds of scams including the petition scam, charity donation scam (which includes the faux Syrian refugees on the metro that are actually gypsies), the gold/brass ring scam, taxi scammers at the airport, the string scam on the way up to the Sacre Coeur, etc etc. There are a large number of pickpockets especially on the metro, around metro stops (provides quick getaway), and at the main attractions. They usually work in groups so they can pass off whatever they take so if one is caught they have nothing on them. They target tourists heavily and they're not french. Your wife needs to bring a zipper purse, not a button one. The Parisian thieves are very adept at getting phones/cards/etc in the open gap (and also opening zippers, but if you're aware it won't be an issue). Be very careful with your wallet, never in the back pocket and better to leave most of your cards in the hotel. Better to not even bring a wallet, just card some cash and your metro pass. Leave the passports in the hotel since credit cards are easy to replace but passports take some time. If you are on the metro, be particularly cautious as you approach the next station as this is when thieves tend to strike. They grab and exit before you realize what is happening. If one of you are asian, take extra precautions as they are a target due to perceptions of having large amounts of cash on them.
that’s unfortunate and one of the reasons I have little interest in vacationing there

Exterous
Posts: 221
Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:34 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by Exterous » Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:44 pm

psteinx wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:56 am
Going shortly on a leisure trip with our family of 5, to France (Paris and Strasbourg) and Germany (Munich), with possible side-trip to Salzburg, Austria.

First time to Europe for me in many years.

Qs:

1) Cash - Will probably take at least 2 different Visa credit cards. I figure we'll want some paper Euros too. Rick Steves says get them from an ATM in Europe, with a debit card. I've got my USBank ATM (logos on the back for "MoneyPass" and "Plus", but not Visa or Mastercard). Will this work? Or should I use one of the CCs? I don't know the PIN for the CCs, or even if I have a PIN for them. Alternatively, I could get cash from my local bank - the markup & fees on 400 Euros seems to amount to about 9%. If I get Euros from an ATM, will I likely be able to tell from the ATM screen what the relevant conversion rate and fees will be?
We travel to Europe 2-4 times a year and always get money from an ATM as opposed to the Currency Exchange locations or local banks. The exchange rate will almost certainly be better and the fees should be low - we typically see $2-7 dollars per transaction with most being just $3 or $4. There is a good chance you will need Euros at smaller vendors or automated payment kiosks (metro, parking etc). Very few American credit cards offer PINs although there are a few like the Barclays Arrival that do. That said most places will accept Chip and Signature. We encounter the most acceptance issues at the automated kiosks so a backup option is a good idea (Debit card or cash).
2) International Drivers' Permit (from AAA). Getting slightly mixed messages on this. Seems not required in France, maybe required in Germany, probably required in Austria. Will be renting car in France, dropping off in Germany (in/near Paris and Munich, respectively).
Not needed in Germany (I've rented cars there a couple of times over the past few years). It is required in Austria along with an Autobahn sticker (Vignette) and reflective vest. The vest may or may not be included in a car rental. The sticker almost certainly not. Very easy to get at a gas station or rest area before entering Austria however. (Have also done this a couple of times).
3) CC usage. Probably will use CapOne Visa as primary, State Farm Visa as backup. I think they're both chipped. I've called both to notify (though CapOne's robo system said, I think, notification not needed for theirs). Should be good? Any way to know in advance or at the time of transaction what the fees and conversion rates will be? CapOne claimed, I think, no foreign transaction fee.
You may be able to call to double check which may be worthwhile. I believe Capital One has cards that waive the fee but also some that charge a foreign transaction fee.
4) In Paris, there is a cross-museum pass that seems economical for us. Should be available at most of the major museums, I hope? At the same price(s) at all of these museums? I think I could get this in advance via internet if really needed (i.e. if alternative was standing in a 1.5 hour line at the Louvre, say), but seems simpler to wait and get it there.
We've not ever gotten a cross museum pass for our Paris trips because those didn't give us value for what we wanted to do. YMMV.

I'm a big fan of driving around Southern Bavaria if you get the chance. There are some absolutely stunning views, small towns and castles out there. We've tended to drive to Salzburg because it allows us to stop by places like Herrenchiemsee and Hallstatt. (If you go to Hallstatt I highly recommend staying overnight so you can experience the small town without the crowd of the day-trippers)

Have a great trip!

mageedge
Posts: 77
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:39 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by mageedge » Wed Jul 18, 2018 6:21 pm

psteinx wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:56 am
Going shortly on a leisure trip with our family of 5, to France (Paris and Strasbourg) and Germany (Munich), with possible side-trip to Salzburg, Austria.

First time to Europe for me in many years.

Qs:

1) Cash - Will probably take at least 2 different Visa credit cards. I figure we'll want some paper Euros too. Rick Steves says get them from an ATM in Europe, with a debit card. I've got my USBank ATM (logos on the back for "MoneyPass" and "Plus", but not Visa or Mastercard). Will this work? Or should I use one of the CCs? I don't know the PIN for the CCs, or even if I have a PIN for them. Alternatively, I could get cash from my local bank - the markup & fees on 400 Euros seems to amount to about 9%. If I get Euros from an ATM, will I likely be able to tell from the ATM screen what the relevant conversion rate and fees will be?

1b) Or should I even bother with many Euros at all? In the US, at non-tourist businesses, I'd guess ~90% of the time CCs and cash are basically equally useful, but there are a few situations where cash is better (and a few where CCs may be better). Also with certain individuals (i.e. tips or the like)...

2) International Drivers' Permit (from AAA). Getting slightly mixed messages on this. Seems not required in France, maybe required in Germany, probably required in Austria. Will be renting car in France, dropping off in Germany (in/near Paris and Munich, respectively).

3) CC usage. Probably will use CapOne Visa as primary, State Farm Visa as backup. I think they're both chipped. I've called both to notify (though CapOne's robo system said, I think, notification not needed for theirs). Should be good? Any way to know in advance or at the time of transaction what the fees and conversion rates will be? CapOne claimed, I think, no foreign transaction fee.

4) In Paris, there is a cross-museum pass that seems economical for us. Should be available at most of the major museums, I hope? At the same price(s) at all of these museums? I think I could get this in advance via internet if really needed (i.e. if alternative was standing in a 1.5 hour line at the Louvre, say), but seems simpler to wait and get it there.
ATM for cash at arrival airport is the simplest way. US Bank debit card will charge ATM fee AND a foreign transaction fee ($2.50 + 2 or 3%) - not huge but not necessary with other convenient alternatives. If you have time before departure set up a Capital One checking account as you already have their credit card. No foreign transaction fees with that. (Schwab and Fidelity are both good alternatives.) Having some cash in your pocket is a good idea particularly as you won't have a 'chip and PIN" credit card. "Chip and signature" will be fine most everywhere except for some unattended kiosks or gas pumps but, as others noted, cc is less widely accepted at smaller establishments.
Driving - Austria requires IDP, your other countries do not. Austria also uses the vignette system (you can google it) and requires a safety vest in the car. Heavy "on the spot" fiens if you are stopped and don't have one of these items. Renting in France you may not get the vest and you will not get the vignette. I agree with the suggestion to take the train - pretty quick, frequent, no worries about parking once you get to Salzburg and avoids the hassles of vignette etc.
Paris museum pass - we used it on our first trip, good value if you have time to visit several of the sites but the big advantage was avoiding long lines during tourist season - notably at the Louvre.

vveat
Posts: 276
Joined: Sat Dec 24, 2011 3:24 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by vveat » Wed Jul 18, 2018 6:34 pm

The comments about pickpocketing reminded me of another unpleasant situation I had in Paris. We used the subway a lot, and on one trip as we came out and headed up the stairs I mindlessly threw my ticket in a garbage bin. Just a floor up next to the exit we encountered 2 uniformed officers checking tickets. I hadn't realized I was supposed to keep it until exiting. Regretfully I couldn't convince them that a somewhat overweight middle age lady is unlikely to jump over the turnstiles while her husband pays for his ride (he was still holding his ticket). The fee was pretty large, I think around $100 (they did take credit cards).

Lesson well learned, I am sure there was fine print somewhere informing us of this rule, of course in French :annoyed .

seawolf21
Posts: 259
Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:33 am

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by seawolf21 » Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:04 pm

ResearchMed wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:25 pm
When you charge something, do NOT allow them to convert to dollars "for your convenience".
Charge in the local currency.

Let the card company (e.g., VISA/bank) do that at official rates, rather than unknown rates and also unknown fees.

RM
It’s actually the other way around. If you allow DCC, the rate/fee is well known at point of sale.

Having the credit card do the conversion is where the rate is “relatively” unknown.

If using a card with no fx fee, then say no to DCC. If using a card with a fee, it depends on what DCC rate is to determine which fee is better. Chances are saying no to DCC is still the correct choice.

buckstar
Posts: 231
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:38 am

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by buckstar » Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:16 pm

https://www.salzburgerfestspiele.at/summer

If you go to Salzburg sometime over the next 6 weeks, make it a day trip. The festival is great, but it is very crowded and the Hotels are either all booked or very expensive.

ResearchMed
Posts: 7672
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by ResearchMed » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:10 pm

seawolf21 wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:04 pm
ResearchMed wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:25 pm
When you charge something, do NOT allow them to convert to dollars "for your convenience".
Charge in the local currency.

Let the card company (e.g., VISA/bank) do that at official rates, rather than unknown rates and also unknown fees.

RM
It’s actually the other way around. If you allow DCC, the rate/fee is well known at point of sale.

Having the credit card do the conversion is where the rate is “relatively” unknown.

If using a card with no fx fee, then say no to DCC. If using a card with a fee, it depends on what DCC rate is to determine which fee is better. Chances are saying no to DCC is still the correct choice.
[Note to seawolf21: You have stated at the bottom that "Chances are saying no to DCC is still the correct choice" - which was my point. I'm not sure why you wrote the first 2 lines of your post.]

Here is a discussion of why Dynamic Currency Conversion is NOT recommended:

https://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/dynami ... onversion/

We'll stick with allowing the bank to use the "official" conversion rate, rather than "whatever the vendor decides is the 'right' rate" which is invariably going to benefit the vendor, with little recourse to the cardholder...

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

OneWorld111
Posts: 152
Joined: Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:59 am

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by OneWorld111 » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:32 pm

Hello:

Just returned from Paris and SWZ. Paris is amazing place so much to do!

1) ATM from airport for best rates.. most places will accept card in Paris.used capital one with no foreign transaction fees.. always select ‘localcurrency’ Option not USD.

2) do not talk to anyone on the streets or they may distract your attention.. we were interrupted numerous times for donations, etc..streets will be crowded, so pay attention at all times.

3) museum pass is agile idea. We also did 2-day hop n hop tour and frequency should be considered. If visiting museums bus may not be best as you will spend time not on the bus.

4) advance booking can be made for Eiffel Tower tour, Louvre museum, etc.. which saves time.

5) locating restrooms is a struggle in Paris.. restaurants only allow to use if we are patrons.

6) rental car at Paris airport is cumbersome.. wait in lines, etc..no need for international driver license in Paris.

7) use google translate as everything on Paris is in French!

Best trip,
One World

gold99xx
Posts: 28
Joined: Sat Sep 02, 2017 9:58 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by gold99xx » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:34 pm

Watch out for IPHONE thieves in Paris. Be very careful in all areas of Paris not to be a phone zombie.

ellvizzle
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2017 9:18 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by ellvizzle » Wed Jul 18, 2018 10:05 pm

We travel in Europe about once a year. Definite second that on phone thieves in Paris--even just setting it on your table at a cafe is a huge risk. I've been a near victim myself. Just be aware of your surroundings and belongings, that's all.

I also recommend bringing at minimum 2 credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. I typically use cards wherever I can (though have some euros on hand just in case) because I think it's worth it for point accrual and last year when in Munich someone got hold of my card info and started making fraudulent charges, etc. There was no problem calling the credit card company to remove the charges and cancel the card, but if I had not had back up cards I would not have been a happy camper for the next 10 days of the trip, as we were traveling and it would have logistically been difficult to get a replacement.

If you end up driving in France (outside of Paris), in my experience it is pretty straightforward. Just google a bit on general driving guidelines to be familiar with standard speed limits in towns, highways, etc., where toll roads are on your routes, etc. and you should be fine. Whether in US or Europe, I always use a credit card with primary car rental insurance (such as Chase Sapphire Preferred) so as to avoid having to purchase additional insurance from the rental agency.

ResearchMed
Posts: 7672
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by ResearchMed » Wed Jul 18, 2018 10:15 pm

ellvizzle wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 10:05 pm
We travel in Europe about once a year. Definite second that on phone thieves in Paris--even just setting it on your table at a cafe is a huge risk. I've been a near victim myself. Just be aware of your surroundings and belongings, that's all.

I also recommend bringing at minimum 2 credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. I typically use cards wherever I can (though have some euros on hand just in case) because I think it's worth it for point accrual and last year when in Munich someone got hold of my card info and started making fraudulent charges, etc. There was no problem calling the credit card company to remove the charges and cancel the card, but if I had not had back up cards I would not have been a happy camper for the next 10 days of the trip, as we were traveling and it would have logistically been difficult to get a replacement.

If you end up driving in France (outside of Paris), in my experience it is pretty straightforward. Just google a bit on general driving guidelines to be familiar with standard speed limits in towns, highways, etc., where toll roads are on your routes, etc. and you should be fine. Whether in US or Europe, I always use a credit card with primary car rental insurance (such as Chase Sapphire Preferred) so as to avoid having to purchase additional insurance from the rental agency.
About having a card compromised while traveling... in case there is no backup card (or all are stolen, or such):

I don't know about other card issuers, but at least with American Express (Platinum in this case), what they did was overnight the replacement card (with new numbers of course) to the next hotel in the next town, but to the Hotel Manager with instructions to check certain ID of mine in person, before handing the card to me).
I wasn't sure that was going to work, but the next day, at the next town/hotel, I soon got a message from the manager to see him about a "delivery".... and after showing my passport and other ID and answering some questions, he handed me my new Amex card.
I was pleased, and impressed.

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

seawolf21
Posts: 259
Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:33 am

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by seawolf21 » Thu Jul 19, 2018 7:09 am

ResearchMed wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:10 pm
seawolf21 wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:04 pm
ResearchMed wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:25 pm
When you charge something, do NOT allow them to convert to dollars "for your convenience".
Charge in the local currency.

Let the card company (e.g., VISA/bank) do that at official rates, rather than unknown rates and also unknown fees.

RM
It’s actually the other way around. If you allow DCC, the rate/fee is well known at point of sale.

Having the credit card do the conversion is where the rate is “relatively” unknown.

If using a card with no fx fee, then say no to DCC. If using a card with a fee, it depends on what DCC rate is to determine which fee is better. Chances are saying no to DCC is still the correct choice.
[Note to seawolf21: You have stated at the bottom that "Chances are saying no to DCC is still the correct choice" - which was my point. I'm not sure why you wrote the first 2 lines of your post.]

Here is a discussion of why Dynamic Currency Conversion is NOT recommended:

https://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/dynami ... onversion/

We'll stick with allowing the bank to use the "official" conversion rate, rather than "whatever the vendor decides is the 'right' rate" which is invariably going to benefit the vendor, with little recourse to the cardholder...

RM
I’m confused at your original post “Let the card company (e.g., VISA/bank) do that at official rates, rather than unknown rates and also unknown fees” especially the word rather and everything after that word.

Please clarify which method is involves an unknown rate and fee? Being DCC or not being DCC?

If you accept local merchant currency (no DCC) then you don’t know the actual rate until it gets authorized. You can look it up beforehand and get an idea of what to expect but it’s rarely going to be exact.

Whereas if merchant offers DCC, often times (not 100%), it shows customer the actual amount being billed in card member currency before prompting card member pick local or card member currency.

Back to my original point, I’m confused by what you mean by “rather unknown rate” if allowing DCC because the actual card member amount is displayed as part of transaction before you choose DCC or no DCC.

riverguy
Posts: 447
Joined: Sun May 23, 2010 10:33 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by riverguy » Thu Jul 19, 2018 8:26 am

seawolf21 wrote:
Thu Jul 19, 2018 7:09 am
ResearchMed wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:10 pm
seawolf21 wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:04 pm
ResearchMed wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:25 pm
When you charge something, do NOT allow them to convert to dollars "for your convenience".
Charge in the local currency.

Let the card company (e.g., VISA/bank) do that at official rates, rather than unknown rates and also unknown fees.

RM
It’s actually the other way around. If you allow DCC, the rate/fee is well known at point of sale.

Having the credit card do the conversion is where the rate is “relatively” unknown.

If using a card with no fx fee, then say no to DCC. If using a card with a fee, it depends on what DCC rate is to determine which fee is better. Chances are saying no to DCC is still the correct choice.
[Note to seawolf21: You have stated at the bottom that "Chances are saying no to DCC is still the correct choice" - which was my point. I'm not sure why you wrote the first 2 lines of your post.]

Here is a discussion of why Dynamic Currency Conversion is NOT recommended:

https://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/dynami ... onversion/

We'll stick with allowing the bank to use the "official" conversion rate, rather than "whatever the vendor decides is the 'right' rate" which is invariably going to benefit the vendor, with little recourse to the cardholder...

RM
I’m confused at your original post “Let the card company (e.g., VISA/bank) do that at official rates, rather than unknown rates and also unknown fees” especially the word rather and everything after that word.

Please clarify which method is involves an unknown rate and fee? Being DCC or not being DCC?

If you accept local merchant currency (no DCC) then you don’t know the actual rate until it gets authorized. You can look it up beforehand and get an idea of what to expect but it’s rarely going to be exact.

Whereas if merchant offers DCC, often times (not 100%), it shows customer the actual amount being billed in card member currency before prompting card member pick local or card member currency.

Back to my original point, I’m confused by what you mean by “rather unknown rate” if allowing DCC because the actual card member amount is displayed as part of transaction before you choose DCC or no DCC.
Always more beneficial to let the bank convert it than to do it than to be charged in dollars at the transaction point. Rates are much favorable.

ResearchMed
Posts: 7672
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by ResearchMed » Thu Jul 19, 2018 8:49 am

seawolf21 wrote:
Thu Jul 19, 2018 7:09 am
ResearchMed wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:10 pm
seawolf21 wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:04 pm
ResearchMed wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:25 pm
When you charge something, do NOT allow them to convert to dollars "for your convenience".
Charge in the local currency.

Let the card company (e.g., VISA/bank) do that at official rates, rather than unknown rates and also unknown fees.

RM
It’s actually the other way around. If you allow DCC, the rate/fee is well known at point of sale.

Having the credit card do the conversion is where the rate is “relatively” unknown.

If using a card with no fx fee, then say no to DCC. If using a card with a fee, it depends on what DCC rate is to determine which fee is better. Chances are saying no to DCC is still the correct choice.
[Note to seawolf21: You have stated at the bottom that "Chances are saying no to DCC is still the correct choice" - which was my point. I'm not sure why you wrote the first 2 lines of your post.]

Here is a discussion of why Dynamic Currency Conversion is NOT recommended:

https://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/dynami ... onversion/

We'll stick with allowing the bank to use the "official" conversion rate, rather than "whatever the vendor decides is the 'right' rate" which is invariably going to benefit the vendor, with little recourse to the cardholder...

RM
I’m confused at your original post “Let the card company (e.g., VISA/bank) do that at official rates, rather than unknown rates and also unknown fees” especially the word rather and everything after that word.

Please clarify which method is involves an unknown rate and fee? Being DCC or not being DCC?

If you accept local merchant currency (no DCC) then you don’t know the actual rate until it gets authorized. You can look it up beforehand and get an idea of what to expect but it’s rarely going to be exact.

Whereas if merchant offers DCC, often times (not 100%), it shows customer the actual amount being billed in card member currency before prompting card member pick local or card member currency.

Back to my original point, I’m confused by what you mean by “rather unknown rate” if allowing DCC because the actual card member amount is displayed as part of transaction before you choose DCC or no DCC.
You are correct about the process, but not about which is the better process.

Yes, if you let the merchant convert, you "know right away" how many "dollars" are being charged.
But I'll take the bet almost any time that the merchant just gave you a "special rate" that is very favorable to the merchant, and *not* to you. That's the precise problem.

Letting the banking system make the currency conversion at the official foreign exchange rate is the best thing.
That means NOT having the DCC offered by the merchant.
(I'm assuming a charge card without fees for foreign charges, but even IF there is a fee, at least it is based upon the official exchange rate. But that's moot for us; we use cards with no foreign transaction fees.)

If someone is at a little restaurant in some nice foreign countryside, are they really going to take the time to tell the merchant to wait while they go online (assuming a signal, and if not, THEN what?) look up the official foreign exchange rates, then go to the calculator function of the cell phone, and then compare the prices?

Just let the vendor charge in local currency that price that you see and agreed to.
The official conversion will work behind the scenes, without any funny business.

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

criticalmass
Posts: 730
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:58 pm

Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by criticalmass » Thu Jul 19, 2018 9:30 am

seawolf21 wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:04 pm
ResearchMed wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:25 pm
When you charge something, do NOT allow them to convert to dollars "for your convenience".
Charge in the local currency.

Let the card company (e.g., VISA/bank) do that at official rates, rather than unknown rates and also unknown fees.

RM
It’s actually the other way around. If you allow DCC, the rate/fee is well known at point of sale.

Having the credit card do the conversion is where the rate is “relatively” unknown.

If using a card with no fx fee, then say no to DCC. If using a card with a fee, it depends on what DCC rate is to determine which fee is better. Chances are saying no to DCC is still the correct choice.
Incorrect. Even if DCC were to give you a competitive rate (in a fantasy land, because in real world DCC gives you bad rate since that is why DCC exists), you would still loose.

Any card FTF Still Applies Even If DCC converts to dollars. Credit cards changed terms from the old foreign currency conversion fee to FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE so they get a cut even if you use DCC or any foreign transaction made in United States Dollars. Always use a 0 FTT card and always decline DCC.

criticalmass
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by criticalmass » Thu Jul 19, 2018 9:38 am

seawolf21 wrote:
Thu Jul 19, 2018 7:09 am
ResearchMed wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:10 pm
seawolf21 wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:04 pm
ResearchMed wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:25 pm
When you charge something, do NOT allow them to convert to dollars "for your convenience".
Charge in the local currency.

Let the card company (e.g., VISA/bank) do that at official rates, rather than unknown rates and also unknown fees.

RM
It’s actually the other way around. If you allow DCC, the rate/fee is well known at point of sale.

Having the credit card do the conversion is where the rate is “relatively” unknown.

If using a card with no fx fee, then say no to DCC. If using a card with a fee, it depends on what DCC rate is to determine which fee is better. Chances are saying no to DCC is still the correct choice.
[Note to seawolf21: You have stated at the bottom that "Chances are saying no to DCC is still the correct choice" - which was my point. I'm not sure why you wrote the first 2 lines of your post.]

Here is a discussion of why Dynamic Currency Conversion is NOT recommended:

https://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/dynami ... onversion/

We'll stick with allowing the bank to use the "official" conversion rate, rather than "whatever the vendor decides is the 'right' rate" which is invariably going to benefit the vendor, with little recourse to the cardholder...

RM
I’m confused at your original post “Let the card company (e.g., VISA/bank) do that at official rates, rather than unknown rates and also unknown fees” especially the word rather and everything after that word.

Please clarify which method is involves an unknown rate and fee? Being DCC or not being DCC?

If you accept local merchant currency (no DCC) then you don’t know the actual rate until it gets authorized. You can look it up beforehand and get an idea of what to expect but it’s rarely going to be exact.

Whereas if merchant offers DCC, often times (not 100%), it shows customer the actual amount being billed in card member currency before prompting card member pick local or card member currency.

Back to my original point, I’m confused by what you mean by “rather unknown rate” if allowing DCC because the actual card member amount is displayed as part of transaction before you choose DCC or no DCC.
Allow me to simplify for you.

With DCC you know right away that you are getting a bad rate. They mark up the interbank rate significantly. Part of the rate gouging goes to the bank. Part of it is shared with the merchant. This is why merchants and ATM operators try their best to influence you to use DCC. They make a lot of money on transaction mark ups. If your card has a FTF, you pay FTF AND the bad exchange rate.

With a 0% card, you know you are getting the best interbank rate possible. And you also know it will not be marked up.

Although less common, DCC can also have a fixed charge too. Then it’s triple loss.

criticalmass
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by criticalmass » Thu Jul 19, 2018 9:42 am

ellvizzle wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 10:05 pm
We travel in Europe about once a year. Definite second that on phone thieves in Paris--even just setting it on your table at a cafe is a huge risk. I've been a near victim myself. Just be aware of your surroundings and belongings, that's all.

I also recommend bringing at minimum 2 credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. I typically use cards wherever I can (though have some euros on hand just in case) because I think it's worth it for point accrual and last year when in Munich someone got hold of my card info and started making fraudulent charges, etc. There was no problem calling the credit card company to remove the charges and cancel the card, but if I had not had back up cards I would not have been a happy camper for the next 10 days of the trip, as we were traveling and it would have logistically been difficult to get a replacement.

If you end up driving in France (outside of Paris), in my experience it is pretty straightforward. Just google a bit on general driving guidelines to be familiar with standard speed limits in towns, highways, etc., where toll roads are on your routes, etc. and you should be fine. Whether in US or Europe, I always use a credit card with primary car rental insurance (such as Chase Sapphire Preferred) so as to avoid having to purchase additional insurance from the rental agency.
Unless you have European insurance, ANY card with secondary collision damage waiver becomes primary in Europe. That’s because you don’t have any insurance to be secondary to. Note liability to other property or humans is not covered by a credit card waiver.

criticalmass
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by criticalmass » Thu Jul 19, 2018 9:46 am

theplayer11 wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 4:06 pm
jminv wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:07 pm
alpine_boglehead wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:22 pm
1) take real care in Paris, my wallet was stolen there, and I witnessed another theft (fraudsters asking for donations, and on top of that making a run for it instead of giving people their change if they get a high-denomination note).
This is a very unfortunate downside to Paris. There are all kinds of scams including the petition scam, charity donation scam (which includes the faux Syrian refugees on the metro that are actually gypsies), the gold/brass ring scam, taxi scammers at the airport, the string scam on the way up to the Sacre Coeur, etc etc. There are a large number of pickpockets especially on the metro, around metro stops (provides quick getaway), and at the main attractions. They usually work in groups so they can pass off whatever they take so if one is caught they have nothing on them. They target tourists heavily and they're not french. Your wife needs to bring a zipper purse, not a button one. The Parisian thieves are very adept at getting phones/cards/etc in the open gap (and also opening zippers, but if you're aware it won't be an issue). Be very careful with your wallet, never in the back pocket and better to leave most of your cards in the hotel. Better to not even bring a wallet, just card some cash and your metro pass. Leave the passports in the hotel since credit cards are easy to replace but passports take some time. If you are on the metro, be particularly cautious as you approach the next station as this is when thieves tend to strike. They grab and exit before you realize what is happening. If one of you are asian, take extra precautions as they are a target due to perceptions of having large amounts of cash on them.
that’s unfortunate and one of the reasons I have little interest in vacationing there
Paris is much safer than Washington, DC. In all cases be street smart, use common sense, know your surroundings, and enjoy!

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Pajamas
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Re: Europe travel Qs

Post by Pajamas » Thu Jul 19, 2018 11:17 am

Most large museums and other public buildings have secondary entrances that are no secret and are recommended in all the tourist guides but which are still underutilized. Same is true for bathrooms and sometimes even food service.

Don't ignore the smaller specialty museums and sights, especially if they appeal to a favorite interest. They are often relaxing compared to the crowded major attractions and make a good break. Since you are traveling with children, that might be especially beneficial.

Many thefts or scams could be prevented by keeping in mind that when you are a tourist, no one has any legitimate reason for initiating any physical contact or communication with you. Even with a waiter or salesperson or hotel clerk who is performing their job, you are really the one initiating the interaction.

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