Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

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dodgy55
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Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by dodgy55 » Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:06 pm

Wife & I are planning a Fall trip to Portugal/Spain. Doing some planning and in reading Rick Steves travel guide he suggests buying the Euros with our debit card when we arrive at the airport in Portugal/Spain. This would avoid high exchange fees by our local bank. Normally I would exchange all our required currency at a local bank rather than deal with ATM's and European banks. Curious as to whether travel savvy Bogelheads would agree with this advice.
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7eight9
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by 7eight9 » Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:11 pm

Agree with Rick (love his show).

Use your Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking® Account debit card when you get to the airport overseas. If you don't have one - get one. No foreign transaction fee. Unlimited ATM rebate.

Link - https://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/ba ... ng_account
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livesoft
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by livesoft » Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:13 pm

Or don't use cash in Europe at all.

I try to go cashless, but if I need cash overseas, I just use my ATM card to get the minimal amount in-country. But my bank doesn't charge any extra and gives an excellent exchange rate last few times I've done that.
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neilpilot
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by neilpilot » Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:16 pm

Let your bank know you plan to use your ATM in Europe, and of course be sure you have a 4 digit pin.

When you get to the airport, be sure that the ATM you use is a bank ATM rather than a 3rd party machine.

Seasonal
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by Seasonal » Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:20 pm

livesoft wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:13 pm
Or don't use cash in Europe at all.

I try to go cashless, but if I need cash overseas, I just use my ATM card to get the minimal amount in-country. But my bank doesn't charge any extra and gives an excellent exchange rate last few times I've done that.
Which bank?

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Leif
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by Leif » Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:27 pm

For international I use my Fidelity Visa. They have a 1% foreign transaction fee, but I earn 2% on the purchase, so I net 1%. I use my Fidelity debit card at an ATM for some local cash. Fidelity debit reimburses any ATM transaction fee on a cash management account. Conversion rates are good.

Horsefly
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by Horsefly » Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:43 pm

Three points:

1) In Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, I've found that almost no one uses cash. Even the smallest street carts have a credit card PoS (Point of Sale) terminal.

2) Although I love the cash back on my Fidelity Visa card and the 1% foreign transaction fee (FTF) isn't bad, there are much better choices for your overseas travel. Capital One Quicksilver has no FTF and gives you 1.5% back. If you like Costco, the Citibank Costco Visa gives you 3% cash back on Travel and Restaurants worldwide, with now FTF. If you are into the points game (and you should be! :happy ) Chase Sapphire cards give you either 2 pts or 3 pts for travel and restaurants, with no FTF.

3) Carry an ATM card in case you *DO* need cash, but make sure the issuer will not charge you extra fees for using it overseas. Also make sure they know you are going overseas. We use our Fidelity CMA ATM, and for the few times I've decided to get some cash there were never any extra fees or denials.

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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by gtd98765 » Sat Jun 01, 2019 7:17 pm

neilpilot wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:16 pm
Let your bank know you plan to use your ATM in Europe, and of course be sure you have a 4 digit pin.

When you get to the airport, be sure that the ATM you use is a bank ATM rather than a 3rd party machine.
Travelex, which is not a bank, has an ATM monopoly at many European airports. It charges a much higher exchange rate than banks do. If you want a decent rate, only buy the amount of Euros you need to get downtown with your ATM card at the airport, then go to a bank once you are in a city (your hotel can direct you) to use their ATM for a better rate.

drk
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by drk » Sat Jun 01, 2019 7:21 pm

^ The moral hazard implication of Schwab's policy is that I don't really care about the exorbitant fees. That said, I stick to name-brand bank ATMs for security reasons.

student
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by student » Sat Jun 01, 2019 7:26 pm

As others have suggested, use an ATM. I use Fidelity and Schwab. I also bring along 100 euros or so just in case.

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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by patrick » Sat Jun 01, 2019 7:34 pm

If you get the option to charge in US dollars ("dynamic currency conversion") always refuse and have the withdrawal/purchase done in local currency. On a recent trip to Finland I saw the ATM in the airport would charge an extra 11% over the usual exchange rate if allowed to do the conversion itself.

Traveler
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by Traveler » Sat Jun 01, 2019 8:06 pm

Get Euros out at an airport ATM. And there are places in Europe that only take cash so it's good to have some. Last year I stayed at a hotel that only took cash so I had to get cash out on various days (daily limit) just for that.

UpperNwGuy
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by UpperNwGuy » Sat Jun 01, 2019 8:15 pm

I just got back from Europe a few days ago. Here are some thoughts:
— Never buy your Euros here in the US. Both the banks and the foreign exchange companies will give you a bad exchange rate.
— I go to Europe at least once a year, so I always bring home enough Euros to pay for the taxi from the airport (and a meal) on the following trip. This means I don't have to use the ATMs at the airport. Don't be one of those people who converts all their Euros back to dollars before boarding the plane back to the US.
— As has been pointed out above, the ATMs at European airports are now owned mostly by the same ripoff artists that run the foreign exchange windows in those airports. Find an ATM away from the airport, and make sure it is owned by a reputable bank. If you're going to country X, google "top five banks in country X" to get an idea of which banks are reputable.
— Open a Schwab investor checking account and get the debit card. Use that in Europe. They'll reimburse all your ATM fees. I think Fidelity has a similar product.
— Some reputable European banks impose a hefty ATM fee on foreign transactions. I was charged an extra 6 Euros at a BBVA ATM last week, but Schwab reimbursed me at the end of the month.
— You should have a chip on both your debit card and your credit card. Europeans don't swipe magnetic strips. Ideally you should also have a four digit PIN, but this isn't mandatory (except when you're using an unmanned terminal like a ticket machine, a toll booth, or a parking garage exit, and then the PIN usually becomes mandatory.)
— Whether you are using an ATM or paying your bill at a hotel or a restaurant, the screen will give you the choice of paying in dollars or Euros. Do not pay in dollars. Pay in Euros to get the best exchange rate.
— Make sure your credit card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.
— Do not believe those who have posted above saying that you can completely avoid cash in Europe. I was in an historic bar last week that displayed a sign that read, "Credit cards have not been accepted here since 1867." Even when you use a credit card to pay for your meal, in Europe the tip is never added to the charge. It is always paid separately in cash.

jello_nailer
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by jello_nailer » Sat Jun 01, 2019 8:26 pm

I travel internationally 10-12x a year and most of the time I leave the country with almost no cash. Numerous times with $0 of any currency in my wallet. Just as others have commented when I arrive I hit an ATM and withdraw 50-100 of whatever currency, just in case I need it. Many times I end up checking out of my hotel on the last morning and apply the same 50-100 to my bill and use a CC for the balance due (if I know its a card taxi or Uber). Much of the world is remarkably more card and phone pay than here in the U.S. No need to pay the enormous spread of your local bank.

livesoft
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by livesoft » Sat Jun 01, 2019 8:29 pm

Seasonal wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:20 pm
livesoft wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:13 pm
Or don't use cash in Europe at all.

I try to go cashless, but if I need cash overseas, I just use my ATM card to get the minimal amount in-country. But my bank doesn't charge any extra and gives an excellent exchange rate last few times I've done that.
Which bank?
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Watty
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by Watty » Sat Jun 01, 2019 8:30 pm

Here is the Rick Steves money tips page if you have not seen it.

https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money

Pickpockets and purse snatching are more of a problem in Europe so carying a lot of cash is not a good idea. Get a money belt and use it.

Be sure to have multiple ways of getting cash since it is possible that you will have a problem with your primary card.

You and your wife should split your cards so that you will each have some different cards that will still be valid if lose a wallet or purse and have to cancel all the cards that were in that wallet or purse.

Just a couple of things I have run into;

1) Outside the big cites ATM machines are not as common as in the US so get cash before you need it.

2) I have run into problems with ATMs where it gave a generic message like, "Unable to complete the transaction." and I assumed it was a problem with my card. Later on I found out that the problem was that the ATM machines there tend to run out of money on weekends and give that message.

3) On your last day there you can use up most of your Euros to pay your last nights hotel bill. That will eliminate the need to exchange them back to dollars when you are in the US.

4) Know what you daily ATM withdrawal limit is. Daily is a misnomer since you might there over a US there day weekend where Monday is a holiday so Friday through Monday would only be one business day.
UpperNwGuy wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 8:15 pm
Do not believe those who have posted above saying that you can completely avoid cash in Europe.
+1

Some Mom and Pop stores really prefer cash even if they will take a credit card so they do not have to pay the credit card fees. I would assume that with cash they can also avoid paying taxes.

In some countries they will add a surcharge to use a credit card.

Even if you are planning on paying by credit card I still like having enough cash to pay for things like a meal if I need to.

livesoft
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by livesoft » Sat Jun 01, 2019 8:32 pm

I recently stayed in a hotel in Palo Alto that would not accept cash which led to problems for a European who had only cash and no credit card.
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paramedic
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by paramedic » Sat Jun 01, 2019 8:36 pm

Two of my favorite tips for when traveling abroad:

1. Put as many of your purchases on a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card as you can. This will work at almost all restaurants (except the occasional one), most shops, and only some train/subway stations (for whatever reason, a lot of foreign ticket machines won't accept American cards that well).

2. Use a foreign ATM to get foreign currency; it keeps the fees to a very minimal and provides the best exchange rates.

-mike

criticalmass
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by criticalmass » Sat Jun 01, 2019 10:21 pm

dodgy55 wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:06 pm
Wife & I are planning a Fall trip to Portugal/Spain. Doing some planning and in reading Rick Steves travel guide he suggests buying the Euros with our debit card when we arrive at the airport in Portugal/Spain. This would avoid high exchange fees by our local bank. Normally I would exchange all our required currency at a local bank rather than deal with ATM's and European banks. Curious as to whether travel savvy Bogelheads would agree with this advice.
Did you search? There are many, many threads on this forum asking roughly the same question. The answers from savvy travelers are fairly consistent: Take multiple cards, use no FTF credit cards when you can, use no FTF debit cards to get cash in country, avoid DCC at merchants and cash machines. Consider how much cash you really need before withdrawing. Save leftover currency for your next trip. With Euros, that's even easier since there are plenty of countries for future travels that use Euros. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to come home with many Ugandan shillings unless I know I have more travels there in the near future.

PS. When using a Visa/Mastercard/Amex card, your bank doesn't choose the exchange rate. The network sets it for the (post) day based on current market conditions. Banks do choose what extra FTF they pass on or add on. Capital One is always a safe choice for avoiding FTF. The Fidelity debit card or Schwab debit card are both excellent choices as they have zero FTF for cash machine withdraws. (The 1% Fidelity debit fee only applies to purchases, not withdraws. Really.)

infotrader
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by infotrader » Sat Jun 01, 2019 11:33 pm

I wonder if anyone uses Costco citi visa for international travel, since it has no foreign transaction fees, and still earns 3% for restaurant, travel, and 1% everywhere else.

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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by FederalFIRE » Sun Jun 02, 2019 3:34 am

student wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 7:26 pm
As others have suggested, use an ATM. I use Fidelity and Schwab. I also bring along 100 euros or so just in case.
My in-laws are coming to visit the wife and I in London next month and this is exactly what I suggested to my FIL. Just to have enough cash in case your bank screws up and doesn’t unlock your ATM so you can get a taxi to where you’re staying and sort it out there instead of being stuck at an airport.

I live in London and travel internationally from here about twice a month. After once getting stuck in Croatia with a bank card that was locked out (apparently my bank didn’t like the ATM I tried) I have always traveled with a small amount of local currency. Major cities everywhere will take cards, but get out of central and Western Europe and it isn’t hard to find establishments or taxis that are cash only.

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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by Johnfmh » Sun Jun 02, 2019 4:23 am

I travel to Europe several times a year. I use no foreign transaction fee credit cards when possible for big ticket items (hotel, etc.), and in places where credit cards are widely used such as gas stations and grocery stores and most restaurants. Despite the fact that my credit cards have chips and pins, most card readers request a signature, which sometimes annoys clerks and frustrates people in line behind me. Some automated ticket machines in train stations also do not accept my cards, forcing me to use a machine that takes cash or have a European friend purchase the ticket with his or her card.

For cash, I use the Fidelity debit card at reputable banks. Fidelity has always reimbursed fees and given me a decent rate of exchange.

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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by jminv » Sun Jun 02, 2019 5:11 am

Use the ATM machines and a no foreign transaction fee debit card. Also have no foreign transaction fee credit cards to pay for as much as possible that way to earn rewards.

Some regular bank ATMs are now offering a very sneaky dynamic conversion option when you take cash out that you should be aware of. Previously, this was normally something you would see at a store or restaurant when paying where it offered you to pay in euros or dollars (right choice is euros otherwise it's a 5-7% fee) and at those scammy in terminal travelex 'atms'. Now at some regular ATMs in the city you'll tell it you want 300 euros and it will tell you what the exchange rate will be. It has 'accept' or 'deny conversion' or 'cancel' as the options. Accept is in nice colors in a good spot to try to get you to choose it. Unlike dynamic conversion on credit card machines, this one doesn't make what you're doing clear at all. It looks like if you don't click accept, you don't get your money. The correct option is deny conversion and take the conversion on your card. Just FYI to you and anyone else that might run into this.

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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by UpperNwGuy » Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:04 am

Johnfmh wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 4:23 am
I travel to Europe several times a year. I use no foreign transaction fee credit cards when possible for big ticket items (hotel, etc.), and in places where credit cards are widely used such as gas stations and grocery stores and most restaurants. Despite the fact that my credit cards have chips and pins, most card readers request a signature, which sometimes annoys clerks and frustrates people in line behind me. Some automated ticket machines in train stations also do not accept my cards, forcing me to use a machine that takes cash or have a European friend purchase the ticket with his or her card.

For cash, I use the Fidelity debit card at reputable banks. Fidelity has always reimbursed fees and given me a decent rate of exchange.
I had this problem, too, so I did some research and discovered that there are three US financial institutions that offer PIN-priority credit cards: First Tech Federal Credit Union, United Nations Federal Credit Union, and State Department Federal Credit Union. I got the UNFCU Visa card, and it functions exactly like the European cards. No more annoyed clerks. No more frustrated people in line behind me. No more ticket machines failing to work. I wish the big issuers like Chase, American Express, Citibank, and Bank of America would add this capability to their cards, even as an option.

Frugalbear
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by Frugalbear » Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:17 am

The fact of the matter is you will need euros , here is my suggestions:

1. Get 200 euros before you go and keep it on hand. Traveling internationally has its own stress... You don't want to be scrambling when you get there.
2. Go to AAA and get a preloaded debit card and load whatever you think you may use and use that to get cash from ATMs overseas... small fee, but no real risk using personal debit card.
3. Lastly, credit card with no international fees.

I'd also suggest a around the neck wallet... I use one when traveling overseas and I've had no problems from a theft perspective.

mslaw
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by mslaw » Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:56 am

Good to have a list of pin- priority credit cards, thank you. If anyone has found other issuers, please post them.

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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by Horsefly » Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:56 am

Johnfmh wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 4:23 am
I travel to Europe several times a year. I use no foreign transaction fee credit cards when possible for big ticket items (hotel, etc.), and in places where credit cards are widely used such as gas stations and grocery stores and most restaurants. Despite the fact that my credit cards have chips and pins, most card readers request a signature, which sometimes annoys clerks and frustrates people in line behind me. Some automated ticket machines in train stations also do not accept my cards, forcing me to use a machine that takes cash or have a European friend purchase the ticket with his or her card.

For cash, I use the Fidelity debit card at reputable banks. Fidelity has always reimbursed fees and given me a decent rate of exchange.
On our recent trip to Australia we found that almost all PoS terminals accepted contactless payment. The Citi Costco card and most Chase cards are contactless, so we paid mostly with my Chase Sapphire. When it is contactless, they don't think to ask you for a signature, so it goes quickly.

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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by FrugiWan » Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:06 am

I always like having local currency on me when traveling internationally. I use the first bank owned ATM I encounter and have no foreign transaction fee. Cash currency is good for bartering as well as tipping in the few countries were it is acceptable. I also ran out of euro in Rome and forgot to pay our city tax for the room we rented through AirBnB. The host asked us to leave it on the counter and we completely forgot. I’m not sure why it wasn’t charged through the App and baked into the cost.

We also have the CSR card for our travel whether it is domestic or international. The biggest thing to watch for is how you are charged at vendors. Always choose the local currency and not USD. We encountered this numerous times when traveling across Europe in multiple countries.

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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by dodecahedron » Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:07 am

My employer has a ¨social¨ email listserv where folks list used items for sale, look for teens to babysit or do yardwork, etc. A fair number of them travel overseas occasionally for work or vacation.

Often there are posts from people who have just returned home with extra currency leftover will offer to exchange at current market rate with anyone about to travel there or posts from people about to go looking for currency to buy. This can be a friendly low cost way to pick up a bit of currency, which can easily be ¨redeemed¨ if unneeded later on.

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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by Xrayman69 » Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:18 am

Recently got euros from BofA in prep for trip. They informed me there was no “charges” as a result of my account level. What does no “charges” mean?


My intent was just to take out 200 euros for walking around money upon arrival and first day. But if it really means no fees and bank exchange rate I would be inclined at taking out more for a 1 week of miscellaneous needs. Intending to be in eurozone countries for 3 weeks with a flexible travel itinerary

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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by jminv » Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:48 am

Xrayman69 wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:18 am
Recently got euros from BofA in prep for trip. They informed me there was no “charges” as a result of my account level. What does no “charges” mean?


My intent was just to take out 200 euros for walking around money upon arrival and first day. But if it really means no fees and bank exchange rate I would be inclined at taking out more for a 1 week of miscellaneous needs. Intending to be in eurozone countries for 3 weeks with a flexible travel itinerary
If you mean no charges for using an atm in Europe then I guess they waive they atm fee at any foreign atm for you. They probably still charge the 3% foreign transaction fee. Normally, though, they charge a combined fee of 3% for using one of their global atms or if you don’t use a global atm it’s $5 plus 3%z

If you mean charges for getting cash in the USA then It means they didn’t charge a commission fee such as 5 dollars An order or whatever. That doesn’t mean it’s cost nothing to you, bofa is still making out. You’ll get a bad deal on the spread, though, which is where they’re making their money. As of right now, if you’re ordering physical currency from them, bofa offers 200 euros at an exchange rate of 1.1755. The market exchange rate is 1.11928. At the b of a rate you get 170.14 euro. If you used an atm with a card without any fees you would have 178.69 euros. As I understand it, even if you use the bofa card (ie don’t get a Schwab card), you’d still come out somewhat ahead using one of BofA’s global atm partners since the fee is 3% or 6 euros on a 200 euro withdrawal.

Using a foreign atm is really the simpler option. Land and outside baggage claim get some cash. It keeps you from holding cash when you don’t need it and let’s you get what you need and not anymore (since you can just go back to the atm daily or twice weekly etc). If you’re more comfortable with ordering money ahead of time though I guess a fee of 8.69 euros to get 200 euros isn’t so bad. It’s aboidable, though.

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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by blackcat allie » Sun Jun 02, 2019 10:28 am

For those that suggest going "cashless", how do you tip people?

Also my notion (perhaps antiquated) is that it's often easier to negotiate/haggle with cash than electronic swipers.
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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by Hockey10 » Sun Jun 02, 2019 3:09 pm

I get Euros from a local bank in Europe.

On my way home, I try to have about 75 - 100 Euros with me when I get on the plane. That way on my next trip to Europe I won't have to worry about getting more Euros as soon as I get there. I pay for most things with a credit card, but I have encountered some shops that only take cash.

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Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by cherijoh » Sun Jun 02, 2019 4:24 pm

dodgy55 wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:06 pm
Wife & I are planning a Fall trip to Portugal/Spain. Doing some planning and in reading Rick Steves travel guide he suggests buying the Euros with our debit card when we arrive at the airport in Portugal/Spain. This would avoid high exchange fees by our local bank. Normally I would exchange all our required currency at a local bank rather than deal with ATM's and European banks. Curious as to whether travel savvy Bogelheads would agree with this advice.
I just came back from France a few weeks ago. I got some cash at home since I only had ~2 Euros left over from my last trip. I was flying in and immediately hopping on a bus to get to the central train station then taking a train to my first night's destination. There was a significant gap in afternoon train service to my destination, so I didn't want to run the risk of missing a connection because I was waiting in line at an ATM at the airport. (As others have noted, the ATM just outside the international arrival area is quite likely to be charging the same high fees as you paid at home, so to get a good fee at the airport you may have to hunt for a bank ATM dragging your luggage behind you).

Rather than focusing on the big difference in the exchange rate, do the math and figure out how much getting 50 - 100 Euros at home costs vs. what you pay when you get the same amount out of a bank ATM. Personally, I'm willing to pay a few dollars for the convenience.

While theoretically you could probably get by with no cash, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.

I ended up paying some stuff in cash:
  • Train ticket from the automat when it didn't like my either of my credit cards - not all stations are manned at all hours
  • subway tickets where ticket dispensing machine did not accept cards - there may have been a ticket office but I didn't see one at the entrance I used
  • tour fees (e.g. tourist tram) since the only other option was to wait in line at the tourist information office where they couldn't guarantee that there would be space on that hour's departure
  • walking tour (not booked through tourist office) where payment was made at the end of the tour on the street
  • vendors at the farmers market that didn't accept cards
  • vendor at farmer's market who couldn't get connected to her payment system
  • tips for tour guides and crew on barge (small family-run operation)
  • small purchases at mom & pop shops
I took two credit cards and 2 debit cards. Used both CC and one DC.

I ended up using my no FTF credit card for all but one purchase. When it got rejected for another train ticket (which I was trying to purchase online this time), I used my CU card that charges only 1% FTF. So I ended up with a fee of $0.10 :happy

EDITED to add: I did encounter an ATM that was out of cash (in Arles). One of the other people on the barge cruise had been unable to get cash from the ATM at two of the smaller towns we had previously stopped at. Fortunately, there was a second bank on the same main square that did have money, so we were both able to get cash.

Impromptu
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Joined: Mon Nov 03, 2014 10:09 pm

Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by Impromptu » Sun Jun 02, 2019 4:41 pm

I just got back from Berlin/northern Germany. I have visited Europe in 1998-2000, 2003, 2011, 2013, and 2018. There has been a steady increase in the ability to pay with credit cards, even since 2013. However, cash is still king, especially outside of the major cities, or when you want to pop into one of the many bakeries or get a Doner or Currywurst.

At an ATM at Berlin's Zoologischer Garten I took out 500 Euros. When I checked my USBank account online that night, I saw that I had the exact exchange rate. I was amazed. I then noticed a $15ish charge. Not terrible, but not the best.
I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

Shallowpockets
Posts: 1196
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:26 am

Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by Shallowpockets » Sun Jun 02, 2019 5:24 pm

This forum has seen this same same subject over and over. Same replies, over and over.
Sigh.
Use an ATM there, just like you would here. Use your credit car there, just like you would here.
Or get your cash at your bank in the US. Soon you will learn the tricks, either from the replies here or by experience.
This is not a big deal. OP says he usually gets cash at home bank before going. Keep it up if it works for you.

criticalmass
Posts: 1069
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:58 pm

Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by criticalmass » Sun Jun 02, 2019 5:40 pm

cherijoh wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 4:24 pm
I just came back from France a few weeks ago. I got some cash at home since I only had ~2 Euros left over from my last trip. I was flying in and immediately hopping on a bus to get to the central train station then taking a train to my first night's destination. There was a significant gap in afternoon train service to my destination, so I didn't want to run the risk of missing a connection because I was waiting in line at an ATM at the airport. (As others have noted, the ATM just outside the international arrival area is quite likely to be charging the same high fees as you paid at home, so to get a good fee at the airport you may have to hunt for a bank ATM dragging your luggage behind you).

Rather than focusing on the big difference in the exchange rate, do the math and figure out how much getting 50 - 100 Euros at home costs vs. what you pay when you get the same amount out of a bank ATM. Personally, I'm willing to pay a few dollars for the convenience.

While theoretically you could probably get by with no cash, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.

I ended up paying some stuff in cash:
  • Train ticket from the automat when it didn't like my either of my credit cards - not all stations are manned at all hours
  • subway tickets where ticket dispensing machine did not accept cards - there may have been a ticket office but I didn't see one at the entrance I used
  • tour fees (e.g. tourist tram) since the only other option was to wait in line at the tourist information office where they couldn't guarantee that there would be space on that hour's departure
  • walking tour (not booked through tourist office) where payment was made at the end of the tour on the street
  • vendors at the farmers market that didn't accept cards
  • vendor at farmer's market who couldn't get connected to her payment system
  • tips for tour guides and crew on barge (small family-run operation)
  • small purchases at mom & pop shops
I took two credit cards and 2 debit cards. Used both CC and one DC.

I ended up using my no FTF credit card for all but one purchase. When it got rejected for another train ticket (which I was trying to purchase online this time), I used my CU card that charges only 1% FTF. So I ended up with a fee of $0.10 :happy

EDITED to add: I did encounter an ATM that was out of cash (in Arles). One of the other people on the barge cruise had been unable to get cash from the ATM at two of the smaller towns we had previously stopped at. Fortunately, there was a second bank on the same main square that did have money, so we were both able to get cash.
I'd recommend using a debit/ATM card that rebates ATM fees, such as Fidelity Cash Management Account, Charles Schwab Bank. Then you won't have to worry about those ATM fees. I still try to avoid ATMs that charge them though, just on principle, even though Fidelity has me covered.

Also, when withdrawing at an ATM be sure to watch the screens very carefully to ensure you don't opt for Dynamic Currency Conversion. Then you can avoid any shenanigans with currency conversion rates at the ATM. Ditto for merchants, and double check for any DCC Opt In notices before signing credit card receipts when using a Chip & Signature card.

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GerryL
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Joined: Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:40 pm

Re: Should I buy Euros from local bank or use ATM in Europe

Post by GerryL » Sun Jun 02, 2019 5:43 pm

infotrader wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 11:33 pm
I wonder if anyone uses Costco citi visa for international travel, since it has no foreign transaction fees, and still earns 3% for restaurant, travel, and 1% everywhere else.
I used Costco Citi Visa for travel in France last year and will again in Europe this year. I use my Ally debit card to get cash at ATMs with a MasterCard logo. I have an app on my phone to locate the MC ATMs.

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