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Atm's in Europe/ Credit Card Use

Just came back from Barcelona, Paris and Rome. All Three areas charged a high rate for Withdrawls. Can't remember the names in Paris and Rome of the ATM's but in Barcelona the Caixia ATM's and also BBVA charged about 10% withdrawl fee. There was not anything at the beginning to state how much it would charge for withdrawls so we assumed it was free. Our Credit Union charged us a 1% transaction fee. Definitely take an odd amount to get smaller denominations, we mostly got 50.00 Euros in denominatons. Yeah for Capital One for not charging for purchases made in all of those countries. Most restaurants used portable Credit Card Chargers so our card was never out of site.

Posted by
6208 posts

Were you using a credit card at the ATMs to get cash or debit cards?

Posted by
16826 posts

That's very strange, because during my trip to Spain last year, all ATMs that charged fees warned about that before the currency was dispensed, so I could cancel the transaction. That included Caixa Bank in Barcelona. I know I also visited at least one BBVA ATM in that city, but I don't remember whether it was fee-free in 2016 or was one of those I walked away from.

The card problems I had in Spain were the occasional imposition of dynamic currency conversion by hotels and restaurants without my permission. I definitely was not hit with any ATM fees. And I was in Spain for 89 days.

During my trip I observed some ATMs that were going to charge a flat fee (commonly 5€) and others that were seemingly operating on some sort of percentage system, because the proposed fee was an odd amount, like €3.12.

Posted by
169 posts

I have been researching all the info about credit cards and ATMs in Europe for our trip at the end of August. I know that Rick Steves mentions Travelex, Euronet, Moneybox, Cashzone, and Cardpoint as ATMs to AVOID but there are probably others as well. And he says to use ATMS at a specific bank, preferable during open hours. We just ordered a debit card from our bank and they charge no fees of any kind on their end but they said that we could get charged a fee from the ATM in Europe of $2-4. I like the tip about getting an odd amount of cash so you get a mix of bills. Since we will be in Budapest first, I need to figure out how many HUF we will need initially since the currency is so different than EU. We are also waiting on the Barclaycard that we applied for that has no Foreign Transaction fees. I have noticed that our hotel reservations have mentioned that there would be additional fees added due to Foreign Transactions. Since I wanted to book our hotels a while back, I used my Southwest Visa but when we get the Barclaycard, I am going to go into my reservations and edit the payment method and use the new card instead. I don't know if that will make any difference but it is worth a try.

Posted by
20624 posts

Need a much better description of what you actually encountered. How did you determine the 10% withdrawal fee? From my experience this would be extremely unusual and high. We were just in France and Italy (last Fall) and did not encounter any type of fees other than those imposed by our card issuers. I do not think the the situation would have change that rapidly in all three countries since last fall. Something else is going on here that needs a further explanation before I can accept it as a fact or anyone else should either.

Posted by
672 posts

We've been in France, including Paris, for five weeks and have not had any ATM charges for using our debit card. Were you using a credit card perhaps? We've also been consistently asked what denominations we'd prefer. I think the choice is €10-20 or €50. I can't remember if there were other choices.

Posted by
3277 posts

Did you use a Credit Card or a Debit/ATM Card at these ATMs???

Fees charged by the ATM are ALWAYS noted at some point in the transaction. Fees charged by your card issuer are not. This sounds like a Credit Card cash advance fee.

Posted by
6543 posts

My Wells Fargo bank ATM card comes with $5 and 5% discount on the currency conversion--unreasonable.
I load a credit union ATM with enough funds to cover any day to day walking around money. And I always go out of my way to withdraw cash only at bank ATMs--never Travelex or American Express ATM's.
Everything I can put on the Capital One Venture card goes on it as I get full credit on the currency conversion with Cap 1. And I'm getting paid back 3% on the next trip too.
You'd be surprised how little cash can be spent if you put your mind to it. In a recent 1 month trip, I probably got $250 out of ATM's.

Posted by
4499 posts

An ATM is not going to charge different fees for using a debit versus an credit card. It's all the same to the machine.

I'm not surprised that Caixia would charge a transaction fee; I believe I saw that a couple of years ago when last in Spain. I remember canceling a transaction because they were going to charge a fee. But I was warned of that, hence why I cancelled the transaction. I don't recall it being as high as 10%, that is highway robbery and not far off from what currency exchanges charge.

Posted by
2811 posts

I can't speak for Spain, but I've never been charged a fee or a "bad" rate when using a debit card at a bank ATM in France, including last month.

Posted by
5497 posts

If ATM charges are a flat rate, more frequent small withdrawals result in higher percentage markup.

https://www.euroweeklynews.com/3.0.15/finance/136241-new-spanish-atm-charges

IF you think that bureaucracy at Spanish banks is bad, it is about to
get worse as despite attempted intervention from the Bank of Spain,
there will be not insignificant charges if you use your bank card to
withdraw cash from a bank other than your own.

Just to add to the confusion every bank has a different charge with
the lowest being 50 cents charged by ING with a whopping €2 being
charged by Caixabank, and all the other banks are charging something
in between.

Posted by
17653 posts

Not hard to understand. Since the EU put a limit on what the banks can get (Interchange fee) when you use your card for a point-of-sale transaction, they are looking for other ways to fleece the public.

Posted by
20624 posts

Who says banking services, currency exchanges, credit cards should be free? The is a cost for doing business. No one is being fleeced.

Posted by
4820 posts

I hate to say it, but unless the OP responds and gives more info, this is just a useless speculation thread. Everyone here can give different experiences and talk about what they encounter, but that has nothing to do with what the OP encountered. Yes, they can be banking from one of the major banks that charges the $5 plus 3% for a withdrawal, Yes, they could have been charged about 5-10% for a cash advance, they could have been charged 10+% for Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) or they may have run into one of the few ATMs that charges a fee. Who knows, I even doubt the OP knows.

Posted by
20624 posts

That is very true Paul but we also do not want inexperienced travelers reading her posting and accepting it as fact when we know that it is mostly likely a big misunderstanding on what she did. And this was her first and only posting on this site.

Posted by
741 posts

FWIW (yeah, maybe not much unless the original poster gives more info), I made two ATM withdrawals at bank machines in Italy, one in Florence and one in Rome, each for 250 euros. The dollar amounts ended up slightly different because of fractional variations in the exchange rate five days apart. My bank at home charged me 50 cents for each transaction.

Posted by
2 posts

Used Credit Union Debit card to make withdrawls, no credit card withdrawls. All Atms were at Bank Locations. I checked the receipt and it shows 250.00 withdrawl but online with my own credit union after withdrawls. It showed 275.00 withdrawl plus international service fee from our credit union of 2.75.

Posted by
507 posts

250 euro withdrawn would be 275 USD at exchange rate of 1.10....isnt that about right? Or what am I missing?

Posted by
17653 posts

My Wells Fargo bank ATM card comes with $5 and 5% discount on the
currency conversion

David, according to the Wells Fargo website, the international ATM fees are $5 and 3%.

Everything I can put on the Capital One Venture card goes on it

Maybe it depends on the country, but in my experience in Germany, places that accept credit cards generally charge enough more that you end up behind by using the card.

Posted by
967 posts

Yes, Mona. The riddle is solved.
You were comparing apples to oranges, or, in this case, Dollars to Euros. (It's not a one to one equivalency.)

Posted by
16826 posts

Lee, I understand your point that the very least expensive places may not take credit cards because the fees cut into their (provably pretty meagre) profits. But I don't think that's of much significance to travelers. I don't think many of us think, "I need to buy X. I insist on paying with my credit card, so I've gotta find a place that sells X and takes plastic." (An exception would be the travelers who stay in private apartments and want to have the protection of making the required advance payment by credit card.)

Rather, l believe most of us think, "Oh, that looks like a good restaurant/hotel/ceramic bowl. I'll eat there/stay there/buy it." If the seller of the product or service takes credit cards, fine; if they don't, we go to an ATM. The only time I've ever looked for credit card logos on an establishment's door was when I knew I was very low on cash and trying to decide whether I needed to find an ATM before making the imminent purchase.

Posted by
5 posts

Your bank may have an agreement with a foreign bank to use their ATMs for no fee. For mine it was Deutschebank in Spain (go figure) and BNL in Italy. I did a little homework in advance to find where they were located.

Posted by
3277 posts

Frank,

I am one who has never said banking services must be free. In fact, I have been constantly amazed that, so far, I have never paid a penny in ATM fees in all of my 50+ trips to Europe. I know exactly what it costs to maintain ATMs from my days working at a bank and really don't see what the European banks get out of letting us get "free" money. I am OK with paying a couple Euro per transaction to the ATM operator if required.

But what I don't like is our banks here in the US charging as much as they do when we get cash with our debit cards at an ATM simply because they can. It seems the bigger the bank, the more they charge which is directly opposite of what business teaching tell us which is the larger the company the more its costs are absorbed through volume of business. So if a small town credit union can charge 50 cents and apparently cover its costs for international access, why then does Chase change $5 plus 5% (as do many of the top tier banks in the US) on an ATM withdrawal that costs them no more than the withdrawal across the street from your branch? This is being fleeced. So it is a good thing that we do have a forum like this to share where we get the best deal for withdrawals and purchases outside the country. If there is a bank that offers these services for no additional charge over what we pay for domestic transactions, then why shouldn't we choose them?

Posted by
20624 posts

Right, problem solved. Mona obviously did not understand the concept of currency exchange rates. In fact she may not realize what a good deal she got from her own credit union.

...There was not anything at the beginning to state how much it would charge for withdrawls so we assumed it was free... Absolutely correct there was no charge for the withdrawals so no notice was given since it was free for you. Common practice in Europe.

Posted by
17653 posts

I went to Europe three times in the eighties, and back then everything was travelers' checks and exchange counters. When I went back in 2000, I assumed nothing had changed and brought along traveler's checks. I found them difficult to cash. It was in Stuttgart that I noticed an ATM and wondered, "Will my card work over here". It worked, although it was a little unnerving not to get a receipt. When I got home, I compared the exchange rate I got from the ATM with the WSJ rate for that day and found I got the exact rate (no exchange rate discount). I didn't even get a charge from the ATM for using an out-of-system card!

How things have changed.

Posted by
17653 posts

I don't think many of us think, "I need to buy X. I insist on paying
with my credit card, so I've gotta find a place that sells X and takes
plastic."

I think David more or less implied that when he said,

You'd be surprised how little cash can be spent if you put your mind
to it.

And I don't go around looking for places that don't take credit cards, but the places where I like to go¹ usually don't.

I have probably used a credit card less than once, on average, for all of my trips to Europe, usually for Bahn tickets, like when Bahn automats only took cards and there was a long line at the counter. I did use a CC once to buy clothing at a department store in Munich when I didn't have enough cash on hand to cover the purchase.

  1. "Stay in the small inns, eat in family-style restaurants, visit out-of-the-way places, rub elbows with the locals. You'll spend less money and have a great time in the process."
Posted by
2811 posts

"Stay in the small inns, eat in family-style restaurants, visit out-of-the-way places, rub elbows with the locals.

That's how I travel in France (except for the "inns" part when we rent houses by the week, which is most of the time), and most such places take credit cards.