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Common question...different spin

I know (and follow) Rick's advice about getting local currency from ATMs when traveling with my wife. But I find myself in the position of coordinating 8 excursions (one with >20 people) in Europe on an upcoming cruise and will be collecting deposits (in $USD) from folks from all over ahead of time to secure their spots on these tours. As a result, I will need to convert these funds into euros to pay the tour operators. Problem is, most ATMs I've encountered in Europe have fairly low upper limits for withdrawals (around 500 euros). Each excursion/tour will cost more than this...and I have 8 of them so I don't want to get hit with ATM fees (my Chase Preferred Client debit card reimburses me for just 3 ATM fees, I believe) from having to make multiple withdrawals. Complicating the matter is that 3 of our excursions are in Croatia which is still not on the Euro so withdrawing funds from ATMs there may be problematic. Suggestions? PLEASE!

Posted by
3789 posts

You are a braver soul than I for organizing all these people and expecting all of them to pay whether they back out or not....but that isn't your question.

Can you pay via credit card and charge extra from each person to cover your costs? I think however you do it, you need to charge them the transaction fees. You are offering them a service of organizing their shore trips, the least they can do is absorb the conversion and transaction fees.

The other question is how would you feel carrying that much cash into Euro from home? Is it under the usual amount you would be required to claim on the entry forms?
Otherwise, pay them in USD and ensure you get a firm quote in USD so you can feed that back to your peeps. It undoubtedly would be a poorer rate than getting from the ATM, but one needs to be realistic about financial conversions and transactions for large numbers.
At least, that is how I would try to solve the problem.

Posted by
2715 posts

My first thought would be to see if any of the tour operators accept funds through paypal, venmo, or plain old credit card. If so pay them that way then collect USD from your group. I would bet some operators would do this, but some won't. It would at least reduce the amount of cash needed!

If it's still prohibitive I would look into finding a no-fee ATM card and opening an account with them, depositing the anticipated trip funds into it and withdrawing in Europe. Multiple withdrawls on multiple days would be necessary.

Beyond this I'm not sure...

Posted by
2526 posts

You have a much greater tolerance for organizing group travel than myself. Bless you. Why not perform rough calculations of all costs, allow for exchange rate variations and add a bit...then collect all monies in advance from your group and rebate leftover funds? Why would paying for excursions in Croatia be an issue? While the quoted rate for excursions there may be in euro, surely the tour operators accept the national currency.

Posted by
401 posts

You've signed up for a pretty complicated matter. I hope you're getting well compensated for the trouble (and risk).

You might want to look into using a service such as Transferwise to move funds from the U.S. to the accounts of the various vendors with which you'll be dealing. That might be more convenient.

Posted by
5697 posts

No-fee debit card (I use Schwab, with $1,000 daily limit. Have not tried getting that increased.) -- you would still need to visit multiple bank ATM's to fit within their daily limits but might be able to do that in one day each time.

Posted by
14 posts

Reply to Maria: Thank you so much for your suggestions. You suggested, "Can you pay via credit card...?" Oh, I wish! Of course, the local operators (including 2 Rick Steves guides) wish to avoid credit card fees, so they are asking to be paid in euros.

Posted by
14 posts

Reply to Mira: Thank you for your suggestions. My reply to Maria's post addresses the credit card question. I already have a fee-free debit card as a Chase Preferred Client but it only refunds a limited number of ATM withdrawals and the problem I have encountered before in Venice (which is where our cruise originates) is that the withdrawal limit from many of the ATMs is fairly low (500 euros, if I remember correctly), thus necessitating a fairly high number of withdrawals...thus, fees.

Posted by
14 posts

Reply to Bruce: Thank you for your suggestions. You wrote, "Why not...collect all monies in advance from your group and rebate leftover funds? Why would paying for excursions in Croatia be an issue? While the quoted rate for excursions there may be in euro, surely the tour operators accept the national currency." If I collect 100% of the monies in advance, I will still have the problem of converting USD$ to euros and then carrying an even larger number of euros into Europe. The Croatian operators with whom I am working will accept euros; the problem is that Croatian ATMs (I've been told) will dispense only kuna so withdrawals there would be problematic.

Posted by
14 posts

Reply to Laura B: Thanks for your suggestion. I had a Schwab account at one time but moved my funds over to Chase because it was more convenient at the time (I could walk to a branch) and their debit card is fee-free, too, but only for a limited number of ATM withdrawals. One of the problems, as you correctly observed, is that my situation would necessitate numerous ATM visits, exceeding the number for which Chase will reimburse the ATM fees.

Posted by
14 posts

Reply to Bob: Thanks for your suggestion. Do you have any experience with Transferwise you could share?

Posted by
3491 posts

IF you have a fee-free Chase debit card, what is to be reimbursed? Chase will not be charging you a fee for using the card. The refunds are for ATM fees charged at the ATM.

Most ATMs in Europe that are operated by banks still don't charge the usage fees so common to ATMs in the US. Even if you run into one ATM that charges fees, probably the one next door operated by a different bank will not charge a fee.

As far as limits go, you can get your daily card withdrawal limit raised (temporarily or permanently) by talking to your Chase banker. Since you are not being charged fees by Chase, you can make as many separate withdrawals as you like. If one ATM stops allowing withdrawals, the one next door will let you until you hit your card limit. And in Croatia, just make sure the people you are dealing with are willing to accept either Euros or the local currency and you should be OK. I can't think of any reason why the Croatians wouldn't accept local currency. The Euro prices they quote are probably just so potential customers don't have to bother with converting the price as Euros are more common and understandable to most people.

Just make very very sure Chase is on board with your plans. Discuss in detail your withdrawal plans as well as when and where you will be at each location in Europe so your card does not get cut off for possible fraud concerns.

Posted by
14 posts

Reply to Mark: Thanks for your response. A few points I guess I need to clarify:

  1. You wrote, "If you have a fee-free Chase debit card, what is to be reimbursed?" Yes, it is fee-free...but only for a limited number of withdrawals.
  2. You wrote, "...you can get your daily card withdrawal limit raised." Yes, I can do that but it doesn't solve the problem which is with the European ATMs. My experience is that they often impose withdrawal limits of 500 euros which, in my situation, would end up requiring withdrawals beyond my fee-free limit.
  3. You wrote, "...in Croatia, just make sure the people you are dealing with are willing to accept either Euros or the local currency...." The (anticipated) problem in Croatia is that ATM withdrawals will be in Croatian kuna rather than euros. And while the operators would probably accept kuna, I don't want to be stuck with excess kuna since they're relatively useless outside the country and I don't have any plans for returning. And, even if I did hit ATMs in Croatia, withdraw kuna and pay tour operators in kuna, it still would end up requiring more ATM visits/withdrawals than are fee-free using my Chase debit card.
Posted by
401 posts

Do you have any experience with Transferwise you could share?

Well, I don't want this to sound like an advertisement, but we're living off of various bank accounts in the U.S. that receive money from our retirement accounts and my U.S.-based consulting business. All of that money arrives in our French bank accounts using Transferwise. All of it.

In other words, I've used them several times. Their costs are very competitive, if not the best in the industry.

Don't get me wrong -- there are several companies that provide this service. But when one considers fees and the exchange rate offered, Transferwise tends to come off pretty well.

Posted by
3491 posts

OK, once more.

You stated that Chase "reimburses" you for 3 ATM fee per month with the account you have. I have a similar account with a similar fee structure (or lack of one since they don't charge a fee). What they reimburse is the fees charged by the ATM you use if it charges a fee. Chase does NOT charge you a fee when you use your ATM card at any ATM with this account. Never. No where. So you can use your ATM card 10 times a day every day and never see any type of ATM fee on your statement as long as the ATM you use does not charge you a fee. I know this is a different concept from what has been pounded in our head here in the US since every ATM in the US is going to charge you a fee when you use it, unless it is a Chase owned and operated ATM where you use your Chase ATM card. European ATMs in general do not charge fees when you get money. Therefore, nothing to reimburse. And nothing to prevent multiple withdrawals fee free.

Posted by
14 posts

Follow-up reply to Bob: Thanks for the additional information. It doesn't sound like an advertisement at all; I appreciate the suggestion. Since you are very experienced with Transferwise, do you have any idea how it might work in my situation?

Specifically, how would a tour operator (let's say it's a Rick Steves' guide in Dubrovnik), actually receive payment from funds (in USD) I've deposited into a Transferwise account? How would they verify payment on the day of our excursion (since most are requesting to be paid in euros at the conclusion of our tour)?

Alternatively, how would I go about withdrawing (in euros) funds I've deposited (in dollars) in the U.S. once I'm in a variety of locations in Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Greece?

Posted by
14 posts

Follow-up reply to Mark: Thank you for your patience. The key take-away points from your follow-up post, if I'm understanding you correctly, are that (1) the limited number of ATM fee reimbursements are those levied by non-Chase banks; Chase itself doesn't charge to use an ATM -- whether it's their own or another bank's and (2) many European ATMs do not charge usage fees like U.S. banks do. So, as long as I let my Chase Preferred Client banker what I'm going to be doing and where, I should not run into any problems withdrawing currency (euros, kuna, whatever) when and where I need it. Do I have it right?

Posted by
3491 posts

Yes, that is correct.

As long as you do not exceed your daily withdrawal limit and Chase is aware of where you are and how many withdrawals you will be making, there should be no issues.

Good luck on your adventure!

Posted by
14 posts

Additional follow-up to Mark: Thanks again; I'll be calling my Chase Private Client banker today to get this all set up. And thanks again to everyone who "weighed in" with suggestions, questions, etc. This is a great travel community. I hope to have an opportunity to return the favors someday.

Posted by
401 posts

effsolns,

Sorry for the late reply -- I had not checked this posting for quite awhile (obviously).

How Transferwise works is that you go through an identity verification process (this can take a few days) and then you identify a "sending" account (such as your home bank or credit union account). After that is verified, you then identify a recipient account. In my case, that's our French bank account. In your case, it might be the tour operator's account (you'll need their IBAN [international bank account number], which is a 28-value alphanumeric code that identifies the country, bank, branch, account number, and security code). You can specify as many recipients as you want. For example, if I were to buy a house in France, I would probably specify the notaire or some other party managing the transaction as the recipient.

After the recipient's IBAN is verified as a legitimate account, you then specify how much and when you want to make the transfer and the nature of the exchange (for example, from USD to EUR). You can either transfer when you want or set up a rule (for example, if the exchange rate gets to some specified point you consider favorable enough, the transfer will automatically occur to take advantage of that rate).

Once initiated, the transfer takes a day or two to complete and Transferwise keeps you informed of each step by email as they occur.

As for your second question, I would guess you could just use an ATM if you're withdrawing money in cash from your own account.

Posted by
16883 posts

In Venice and other Italian locations, the DeutscheBank ATM will usually give you at least 1,000 euros in one transaction or maybe even 2,000, as long as your home bank also allows that. Discuss the daily transaction limit with Chase before you go. This Venice location is on a busy pedestrian street, so be careful with your cash. After business hours, it can also be a place where unlicensed street vendors hang out.

Of course you should pass along all operating costs to the group travelers.

Posted by
14 posts

Reply to Laura:
This is helpful information; thanks! There appears to be one Deutsche Bank ATM location in Venice, near the Rialto Bridge at Calle del Teatro, 4602/A, 30124 San Marco. Is this the bank/location to which you were referring?
Jim

Posted by
267 posts

I think this situation could be a HUGE red flag.

If you are dealing with companies who don't accept credit cards, then you have no recourse if they rip you off.
If you are taking deposits from people and giving them to a company that doesn't accept credit cards, you're putting yourself in a high-risk situation if they rip you off, and possibly alienating all of your friends.

I would say to trash the idea of dealing with these tour companies and find a reputable one who plans to definitely provide services, and prices their services reasonably with the credit card fees included. Find a grown-up tour company. This is immature and unreasonable to ask of you.

I would change plans completely. And then have lots of fun. Worry-free fun.

But if all your friends are insisting on this tour, then they need to all do their own payments in that currency. You need to get out of the middle of this, so they can do their own transaction fees, and take their own chances with the services being delivered, without you being blamed for it.
-Alison

Posted by
1767 posts

I used Transferwise to pay for apartments I rented in 2016. It works great with very low fees. I had wondered about it but my fears were eased when there was a favorable article on it in Forbes magazine.