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exchanging dollars to euros

We are getting mixed opinion on where is the best place to exchange. Should we wait until we get to Madrid, buy them at a U.S. bank, or the airport exchange?

Posted by
9361 posts

None of the above. The best way to obtain euro is to just make a withdrawal from an ATM when you get there. If you want to have a little bit of money in hand before you go, you could exchange maybe $100 at your departure airport. The rate won't be the best, but you won't notice it much. Be sure you notify your bank that you will be traveling, so that they don't lock your card. Getting money from an ATM gives you the best possible rate. And if you do business with a bank that has little or no fees, so much the better. My credit union charges nothing, my online bank charges 1%. European bank ATMs do not charge you for using them - any charges will be from your own bank.

Posted by
813 posts

I agree-use the ATM when you get there. I do like to arrive with 50-100 Euro. You can also probably go to your local bank to get that much before you go. After that, I get cash from ATMs in Europe. Make sure your bank is aware you will be using your card there.

Posted by
187 posts

ATMs are easy to use most have an option for English. If the ATM you use at home has a language option choose Spanish next time you use it so you can get an idea of what "fast cash" is so you can look for those words in case the ATM you are using is Spanish only.

Most ATMs in Europe don't have an option to transfer money from savings to checking or get money from savings so make sure your spending money has all been transferred to your checking account before you go.

When you are using the ATM you are getting the best rate of exchange. If your bank charges a flat fee for foreign transactions it's best to get out the most you can when you go rather than just €100. I found that the daily limit per card was €250 at the ATMs we went to, that is per card so between my husband and me we could get €500 a day.

Personally I liked to have some Euros with me so I wasn't in a situation where I had to find an ATM as soon as I landed at the airport.

Posted by
9110 posts

make sure your spending money has all been transferred to your checking account before you go

Not quite correct. You can't move between accounts, but the card will work on whichever account it's tied to as primary. One of mine sucks out of savings like crazy since that's the way it's set up.

Posted by
507 posts

{Edit}
{To answer your question, a bank or a post office will give you the better exchange rate from dollars to euros than the currency exchange booths.

The BEST rate will come, as others have said, from ATM's. One needs to know what rates are charged by the company {{financial institution}} who issued the debit card.

Bank of America (BoA) where I bank says they charge a flat $5 fee on EVERY international transaction, even if you are just checking your account balance. BoA will assess a 3% fee in US dollars for any withdrawal. If you are using a BoA debit card, take the maximum you can each time you use the ATM.

On the other hand my credit union charges only one fee & that is 1% on international transactions.}

Check out this thread about European ATMs.
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/atm-use-in-europe-2edbe9d6-abd2-4539-8dc3-8e957d7bf3ac

Should you be given the option of dollars or Euros, opt for the local currency.

{You may want to read Rick Steve's money Travel Tips @
http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money/bank-card-precautions.

I wish you an enjoyable trip!}

Posted by
20600 posts

One needs to know what rates are charged by the company who issued the debit card.

That needs a little clarification. At the time of the transaction the exchange rate via the network (Plus, Cirrus, etc.) will be the same regardless of who issues the debit card . However, once the exchange rate is set then the card issuer MAY add additional "service fee" from a one time withdrawn fee to a currency conversion fee. Some card issuers, especially credit union, do not add additional fees but you always need to check with your card issuer.

Absolutely the cheapest and most convenient way to obtain foreign currency is via a debit card at a bank owned ATM in the local country. Even with fees a debit card is cheaper than money exchanges, foreign banks, travels checks, etc.

Posted by
6543 posts

My checking account is with Wells Fargo, and their international ATM comes with a $5 charge and 3% discount. That's unreasonable.

I opened an ATM account at my credit union, and had plenty of money for our trip there. It doesn't come with all the charges. I also left plenty of $ in Wells Fargo as a backup in case we had card problems with the credit union account.

When you exchange your money in an European ATM, make sure it belongs to a bank. They also have ATM's that don't belong to banks that rip you off on the exchange rate and add high transaction fees.

I always avoid airport exchanges and any place I have to deal with a person. You'll pay dearly for their time and efforts.

Posted by
9361 posts

"When you exchange your money in an European ATM....."

Just to clarify, you don't exchange money there, you just make a regular withdrawal like you would at home. And every ATM I have used in Spain does offer an English option, so they are easy to use. If you might need to transfer money between accounts, you will need to do it online, not at the ATM.

Posted by
2081 posts

coevan,

before you go, check your financial institutions fees/charges schedule and know what you will be charged for traveling and using ATMS outside the USA.

also, be aware of "cash advances" too.

good luck and happy trails.