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Money handling in Europe...So let me get this straight...

I know this is a popular topic, but I just want to make sure I get this clarifed after doing research... (3 part question)

1) So do most of you agree that one shouldn't worry about exchanging dollars for pounds prior to travel (thru commercial bank or AAA) and instead just use your ATM card to withdrawal cash from legitimate machines at banks in the UK? My credit union said they charge a 1% fee for foreign use.

2) Also, I plan on getting a true chip and PIN card through this same credit union to use. Besides using cash to get the hotel discount and using cash for small vendors/other odds n ends...is there any other reason to use cash vs. the chip/pin card? My only other expenses will likely be gifts, restaurants, and public transportation costs and thought of using the CC for those.

3) I know one should carry their passport (if not kept at hotel), ATM card, copy of passport if needed in the money belt, but can everything else, such as, small amounts of cash, driver's license, and credit card go into a front pocket wallet? Should the DL go into the money belt as well? How often does a vendor ask for proof of ID with a credit card?

Posted by
16769 posts

1) Yes, use ATMs. A 1% fee is a low as it gets.

2) Really depends on the vendor, restaurant, etc. In general, plan to use cash much more often than you probably do in the USA.

3) I carry what I expect to need for the day or half day in my accessible wallet - that might be €50 or 100 cash, plus one credit card. Nobody asks me for ID with a credit card, either with or without the chip-and-pin security system. Some places might request ID for other reasons, such as to rent a museum audio guide.

Posted by
5817 posts

Where exactly are you going in Europe! The answers might vary depending on your location.

Yes , use ATMs rather than bringing huge amounts of cash. There are Atms (or " cash machines" or " cash points" as they are often called over here) everywhere. Remember to let your bank know you are coming so they dont put a stop on your card because of suspicious activity. Personally I like to have a small amount of local currency with me when I arrive. Say £50-100, enough to get a cab, coffee etc in an emergency.

The decision to use cash or card will basically be the same as it is at home. It's up to you. I don't rely on my card for everything and, again, like to have a small amount of cash on me at all times. Just in case money.....

A whole other discussion point, but don't use cash for public transport in London. Get an Oyster card or travel card. It will save you a fortune. You can't actually pay by cash on the buses anyway.

In the UK there is no requirement to carry an ID such as a passport. Leave it in your hotel. You are also unlikely to need to provide ID when using a credit card, unless it is for a particularly big purchase. If your driving licence has a photo that should be a enough.

I think it would be very inconvenient to use a money belt for your daily spending money, A small wallet will fine as long as it is discrete and can be well tucked into a front, or Internal coat pocket. A pocket with a button or zip is a good idea if you aren't going to carry a bag.
For walking around London a money belt really is overkill as there will be very little need to carry a huge amount of "valuables" around with you

Posted by
8906 posts

Nobody asks me for ID with a credit card, either with or without the chip-and-pin security system

Happen to me all the time. Off the top of my head I have had to show ID to use my credit card at various Marks & Spensors in London and Fauchon in Paris.

Posted by
20632 posts
  1. Personally I prefer to have a hundred pounds, Euro, local currency in my pocket when I land so that finding a functioning ATM is not critical. It is either money left over from previous trip and obtained locally from a bank or money exchange. You pay a premium for that convenience. We carry two debit card tied to two different accounts in the event something happens to the primary. In 15+ years, never had a problems. Both debit cards are used within the first couple of days just to be sure both are functioning. Not handy to have a back up card that doesn't work. My primary card is from a credit union.

  2. If it is a true chip and pin card, then it will be useful. However, we use cash about 98% of the time simply because it is easier. And you don't have to worry about your card being compromised.

  3. A copy of the passport is only good to prove to the Am embassy that you once had a passport should your passport go missing. Leave the copy buried in a suitcase in the hotel. Always carry the passport under the theory -- Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. In 20+ years of travel we have had to show the passport twice in unexpected situations. Glad we had it. In the money belt is the passport, other id, credit cards, back up debit card and primary debit card unless we plan to use it that day, and majority of our cash. All of our travel clothing, especially shirts, have secure pockets so my daily cash will go into one secure post, debit card (if using it) in another secure pocket, and perhaps the passport if needed in another. While we seldom use credit cards, when we do we are often asked for id - half maybe?

Posted by
4500 posts

Agree with the others on point 1. Bringing a small amount of local currency with you makes many people feel more comfortable and removes one hassle or stress of finding the airport ATM machines.

Whether you use cash or credit is up to you and the merchant. Since you'll have minimal fees either way, do whatever you prefer. Many places do not take credit cards, or only for larger purchases so always have cash available.

If using a waist moneybelt that isn't very accessible to you, I'd only carry enough cash for normal daytime activities in a wallet. Perhaps a credit card too but only if you have another as a backup. Wallets in front pockets are no more secure than those in rear pockets.

Odd - I almost never get asked for an ID using my credit card in Europe. But apparently it happens fairly often.

Posted by
11970 posts
  1. Just purchase $200 in foreign equivalent Before you leave. That way you don't have to look for an ATM at the airport upon arrival. After that, use the ATMs, they are ubiquitousm and they work like in the US (just memorize your pin in numbers not words as keypads there may not have letters).
  2. Chip and PIN are useful for self service kiosks or payment machines (like for train tickets, gas stations, parking lots, freeway tolls). Otherwise mag strip and signature will work for in person transactions. There are very few institutions in the US that issue Chip and pin. Most issue chip and signature, which is not much better than mag strip and signature since you can't use it in self service pay machines. Cash is always good to have in Europe. People there are not as credit card dependent as Americans.
  3. I don't wear money belts anymore because I'm terrorized at the thought of accidentally flushing it down the toilet. Also I noticed merchants look at my money with disgust when I stick my hands down the front of my pants to pay and I hand them bills that are totally soaked in bodily fluids which They are not sure it's sweat or something else. I generally leave my passport at the hotel (or my mom's house) but during transfers I carry it, but not in a belt, rather in a neck wallet for passports which I keep under my shirt. I also have to carry two passports and Italian passports are twice as thick, therefore the necklace wallet works better than a money belt under my pants. When I pay with a credit card I'm very rarely asked for ID, but so far my California Drivers License has been sufficient when I was asked.
Posted by
78 posts

Good info everyone, i appreciate it!

I should have stated I would be going to London. The Chip & PIN card is from my credit union. It is a true C&P card. It's being advertised as an "Explorer" card. The chip cards still have the magnetic strip so that they can be used in the USA. These cards can be swiped, inserted, waved over a card reader as either a signature or a pin transaction.

So I'm thinking of staying at a B&B and was told that they will give a discount if paying in cash. Do you just pay the lump sum once you arrive or at the end of the trip?

Posted by
1069 posts

we achieved cash discount on most of our lodging in Italy/Slovenia this summer.....some places wanted it up front.......others were gracious that they already had a credit card number on file for our reservation...and were fine w that until we checked out and had the cash. most lodging wanted all FOUR of our passports to log....or to check on us??? this seemed to be a lengthy process that always meant retrieving passports from the front desk about an hour later. passports were frequently laying in some unsecured bin on desk.....whole thing made me anxious.

however, never had anyone ask for ID to go with credit card on this trip...... I got cash before left the states.....my bank had what seemed to be a good deal, if I changed $300 or more USD, it was a flat fee of $5

Posted by
20632 posts

Doric8, the fee is not that important question. The big question is what was the exchange rate. My guess it probably was about 10% over market which means that you could have paid about $35 in fees.

Some countries, especially Italy, have a requirement that all visitors must be registered with the local police so taking everyone's passport is standard. In years past the passports were kept overnight so the night clerk could record the passports during the slow hours. Now with cheap copy machines, the passports are often copied and quickly returned.

Posted by
1094 posts

Just spent 30 days in Italy and used a credit card every day. Never had a single request for ID.

One activity that always asked for a passport was checking luggage at a train station.

Posted by
13967 posts

Use your US driver's license for ID and security deposits for audio guides. That has always worked for me. If it does go astray, it's not going to ruin your trip and it's easily replaced when you get home.

There are ATM's in the baggage arrival hall at Heathrow. If you don't see one, just ask an employee for a cash machine. Caveat: especially in the UK the ATM will offer you a conversion rate. Refuse it It is always a rip-off and the transaction will continue with your card issuer being charged in sterling. If you can't use the ATM (this has never happened to me in any airport), you can change $50-$100 (enough to get you started) at a foreign exchange counter in the arrival hall - or even in the general airport area. While the exchange rate won't be as good as through an ATM, it will almost invariably be better than you';ll get in the U.S. and there's always an exchange open.

I usually carry my credit cards in my money belt unless I am pretty sure I'm going to use a card during the day. Then I keep it handy. I would not keep it in a wallet.

If the B&B gives a cash discount, it is probably to avoid the credit card fees. As long as they have your card to guarantee payment, they should be accommodating in waiting until you can pull enough cash out of the machines.

Since Emma brought it up, the Oyster Card is great. Note that if you want an immediate refund, the balance left must be under £10 and you must have used only cash or only a single credit card to buy it and to top it up. If cash, you'll get cash back on the spot. If card, they'll immediately credit it back with the refund. If you have too big a balance on the card, or if you've mixed cash/card, then they'll mail you a check in sterling.

Posted by
78 posts

Regarding the oyster cards...

This is for the Underground only? or is this for the tube and buses?

Posted by
6543 posts
  1. When going overseas, I leave with $100 U.S. cash, and I try to come home with no foreign cash. Airports and train stations always have ATM's, and I'm always looking for a better conversion rate through a bank ATM than a private owned one. If you obtain Euros at home before leaving, your U.S. bank is going to rip you off on both service charges and the conversion rate.

  2. I use a credit card every time I get the chance to use it--hotels and restaurants mainly. It minimizes having to go back to the ATM to get more cash. And not carrying any substantial amount cash is so much safer. When traveling Europe, most cash is on local transport, snacks and entry fees to tourist sites--not substantial amounts. U.S. banks are in the process of switching over to pin/chip credit cards, but I've had no problems in Europe with my credit cards. If rejected, stores and gas stations can key in the account numbers manually.

  3. After being pickpocketed in the Paris subway system, any ID, passport and anything of any worth is kept under my clothes. I keep just a few $ in my front pocket. I cannot remember a vendor asking for an ID.

Posted by
5817 posts

All the details you will need regarding public transport in London and the Oyster card can be found on the Transport for London (TFL) website
https://www.tfl.gov.uk/

MANY questions have been asked about this on this forum so it might also be worth doing a quick search if you get stuck. For most visitors the system is pretty straightforward but at first look can appear as clear as mud.

Posted by
4468 posts

If your chip and pin card is also set up for contactless there is a chance that you will be able to use it directly and not need to buy an Oyster card at all. It may work if Visa, but probably won't if Mastercard. See http://www.tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/contactless/what-is-contactless?intcmp=8610

There are a number of specialist forex bureaux in London that offer rates that are only 1-1.5% below interbank mid rate for $ cash, if your ATM card has a problem. No need for ID either.

The UK in general has always been further on in the ready acceptance of cards than some other countries in Europe although some businesses may charge less for cash.

IDs should not be asked for at all for card purchases.

Posted by
8889 posts

To Mike in VT
The Oyster card is valid on tubes, buses AND All other rail services within Greater London EXCEPT the Heathrow shuttle.
It's big advantages are:

  • Tickets are about 2/3 of the price of buying them from a ticket machine.
  • You can forget about buying individual tickets, just touch in and (on tubes and trains) touch out.
  • Once it reaches the price of a daily pass it 'caps' and all trips after that are free. So no need to work out at the start of a day if it is worth getting a daily pass.

AFAIK using contactless bank cards in place of an Oyster card is currently only available for UK-issued cards.

Posted by
23577 posts

Marco is right about overseas contactless cards.

His link is good, and a related link for the overseas cards is http://www.tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/contactless/what-is-contactless?intcmp=8610#on-this-page-1

There is a better than even chance that the card will work, and if you give yourself a few minutes if it doesn't it will still buy an Oyster at the window. Either way, you're in. I have traded in all my old Oysters and now exclusively use contactless. It is soooo easy.

I hope yours works.

Posted by
78 posts

So if my Chip & PIN card is contactless, I just simply 'swipe' it at the tube stations and it simply just charges the credit card?

Posted by
78 posts

Nevermind, i just watched the handy info video on the website they have. I doubt my card in contactless, but nice to know that Visa will soon get there for any future trips I take.

Posted by
1191 posts

I have a recent anecdote regarding 1) :
A flight into Lyon airport arrived later than scheduled, and I decided to take a taxi into town instead of the express tram,
but had almost no cash, so I spent a few minutes finding a cash machine and thumbing through
the guide brochures in the rack at the now-closed TI desk. (I had planned on picking up a city card and talking with an agent, but the flight was late...)
At the taxi stand, the driver said it would cost about E65 to get to my address;
I said the estimate I got was E40, and he said that was the day rate, but the time
was 1856h and evening rates take effect at 1900h.
So, if I had had some euro in my pocket and given up on the TI, I would have gotten to the taxi stand a little sooner,
and would have tried to argue for the day rate.
Lesson: have enough euro on you to get to your hotel using Plan B, not just Plan A.
OTOH, I tend to keep small amounts of cash on me and make more-frequent withdrawals from cash machines because my ATM account includes being credited for service fees from other banks, and my credit card does not charge foreign transaction fees.
I only use a money belt if some specific situation requires it, like a rental that insists on full payment in cash up front and a deposit.

Posted by
396 posts

Some phone kiosks at Heathrow and railway stations in France accept only cards or coins and not notes. And sometimes not all overseas cards. Once at a French railway station card-only phone I found I couldn't use my Mastercard, only Visa - which I had with me intending to use it only at the airport in my home city for departure and return expenses, so I hadn't notified the bank that issued that card that I was going overseas. When I got back I found it had been blocked, as the small value I put through to pay for the phone call in France was exactly the way a stolen card might have been tested and they hadn't been able to contact me.

Posted by
145 posts

Boy, I wish you (or I) had asked this question a month ago!

We survived a week in Europe (Paris/Berlin) without using cash except twice. Push comes to shove, I guess I could've scrounged up some Euros one way or the other. I had this misguided notion that folks would accept the USD. You folks will never appreciate how wrong I was. My cash was unwelcome in almost all places - without fail - that I asked, both in Paris and in Berlin. We had oodles of $$ that we took with us and brought back. My wife used some $$ at Oslo airport at an exorbitant exchange rate to get some coffee; and I did the same in Paris to get some bus tickets, for an even more atrocious exchange rate. But we do have a few Norwegian Kroners and a couple of Euros to show for our effort - and the bus ride definitely saved us more money!

We were at the mercy of local restaurants and supermarkets that accepted our credit cards - we had five different ones between us - don't you try to tell me we were not well prepared! ;-) And Pizza Hut - yes, Pizza Hut - ripped us off by sneaking in a disclaimer that they had sought our permission to charge us in USD in spite of a nearly 4% commission on top of their exchange rate. I had first thoughts of complaining to Pizza Hut then decided against it - what if they revoke credit card acceptance for future customers based on my complaint?

Places that accepted credit cards:

  • most places in the train stations and airports
  • Indian restaurants (we had dinner both days in Paris in the Gare du Nord/La Chapelle area)
  • Subway (Paris)
  • Pizza Hut (Berlin)
  • a restaurant where we got coffee and chocolate milk with a minimum of 10 Euros (Paris)
  • a trinket shop near Sacre Coeur with a minimum of 15 Euros (Paris)
  • Kaiser supermarket (Berlin)
  • KaDeWe (Berlin)
  • maybe most other restaurants would but we did not inquire
  • pantry car in the train

Places that did not accept credit cards (though we thought they would):

  • Dunkin Donuts (Berlin): this was surprising. They didn't accept credit cards even in the train station mall(s). We tried at a couple of different places.

I realized too late that I didn't answer any of your questions, did I?!! :-(

Re: 1: If you know the percentage that we lost in our cash exchanges, you will take the 1% fee and run with it :-) Here is a sample - I got just over 12 Euros in return for $20 in my sole cash exchange.

Re: 2 and 3. We were not asked for proof of ID anywhere that I can recall. The Capital One visa card that I used most often does not have a smart chip - it was not an issue. But we made all of purchases through a human.

FYI, I scanned passports of all members of the family, and copied them into flash drives. Also, ticket PDFs and airbnb host info went into each flash drive. Gave the kids a flash drive apiece hanging from lanyards and kept one for ourselves. We used those only in Paris. In Berlin, we were not out that long anyway.

Porcupyn

Posted by
5817 posts

Why in earth did you think they would accept dollars?!
Do stores in the USA accept the pound or euro??

Posted by
145 posts

Emma:

I don't think you replied to me though it could well be directed to me.

In my defense, it was my first relatively long stay in Europe, I had - nearly 25 years ago - spent a day on transit in London. I had used the underground, I had traveled on the double-decker buses, etc. I distinctly remember having used my dollars back then no questions asked!

I am thinking that maybe it is only since the Euro's resurgence that the dollar is being rejected more in Europe. Correct me if I am wrong. I will definitely be better prepared next time :-)

Porcupyn

Posted by
5817 posts

Sorry yes Porcupyn the question was aimed at you:-)
I really doubt you used dollars on London Tranport eg buses even 20 years ago.
It isn't the local currency so why would it be accepted?

Dollars might be accepted in large department stores etc as a service to international customers but it really isnt a common occurrence. The exchange rate is also usually dreadful.

To accept dollars would be a huge inconvenience to a store or restaurant besides it not actually being the local currency. How do you work out the exchange rate? You can't give it as change to another customer. You have to pay to convert it to the local currency.

Well at least you now know for your next trip!

Posted by
8889 posts

To Porcupyn
I agree with Emma, no way London buses or the tube would have accepted US dollars 20 years ago. Back then (and until last year) you paid the driver, who gave you change from his cash box. He would not have had the faintest idea what your USD note was worth; and the short answer was nothing because when he took it back to the bus depot, somebody would have to have made a special journey to the bank to change it (up to 1 hour on company time), and the bank would have charged say £10 for changing it. So it would have cost London Transport about £50 just to change your USD note. Not worth it.

The ticket office at Heathrow might accept USD and a few other currencies at a bad rate, but I wouldn't guarantee it.

I also agree with Emma that you should not have been surprised that businesses would not take credit cards for small transactions. Credit card companies charge businesses a fee for card transactions. Even if a shop accepts cards, you often see signs like "no credit cards for transactions under £20" / "Kein Kreditkarten unter €20", for smaller transactions the fee would mean they make a loss on the sale.

Re "Pizza Hut - ripped us off by sneaking in a disclaimer that they had sought our permission to charge us in USD" - That's called "Dynamic Currency Conversion (or DCC for short). Lots of posts about it. I always check the amount on credit card terminal anyway to make sure it is correct. If they try this on you just refuse to pay anything but the amount on the bill, in the same currency. If the bill is €xx.xx, that is all they can legally charge you, just threaten to walk out unless they accept the correct amount it says on the bill.

Posted by
8889 posts

Phil,
For credit card transactions the business is often charged a flat rate fee (and possibly an percentage). This is why you often see "No credit cards under £/€xx" signs, and shops only handling small transactions (street food) do not accept cards.

I think it is a cutural difference that cash is normal for small and medium size transactions in most of Europe. Why would you use a credit card for a coffee?

When changing money there are two ways they charge you
1) A percentage, this is often hidden in the exchange rate. So for cash transactions (physical banknotes, not an ATM) the quoted exchange rate can be 5-10% worse than the so-called mid-rate you see in newspapers.
2) A flat rate charge. This is basically paying for the cashiers time. In a bank this might be £5-£10 (or € or $). They sometimes try to hide this by giving a minimum amount they will change, so it is also hidden in the exchange rate.

And, as previously stated, it takes time (and therefore money) for somebody to separate a foreign note from the rest of the cash take, and take it to a bank with an exchange facility.

Posted by
8293 posts

Porcupyn, I am bemused by the fact that you asked so many questions before your trip about how much time it would take to walk from here to there, how many and what denomination of metro tickets to buy, etc., but it never occurred to you that in France they do not use or accept the American dollar. Had you asked one single question about money, someone here would have informed you. Ah, well, now you know.

Posted by
3263 posts

I wondered about that "using USD 20 years ago" comment, too. My first trip to Europe in 1977 I used travelers' checks -- no cash cards back then. I did have a credit card which I left at home. No USD cash accepted anywhere I went (UK, Scandinavia, Low Countries, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, Greece). I cashed those checks and got the local currency which was as varied as the countries. And I lost money every time I changed countries when I exchanged any leftover cash from one currency to the next.

I lived in Germany 1982-1985. No USD accepted on the economy that I knew of. My credit card of the time was accepted, but I rarely used it. I got cash at the AmEx bank on post and operated in marks on the economy and dollars at US military facilities. ATM cards were just starting to come into use, but travelers' checks were still more common in my travels while I lived there.

I can't imagine anywhere USD would be used today, or even 20 years ago, unless they were being exchanged for something else.

On my recent trip, I saw an American thoughtlessly put a US dollar in the tip jar at one of the hotels where we stayed. It just made me cringe and wonder how many other "foreigners" use their home currency for tips instead of the local currency, not realizing how hard it might be for the receiver of that tip to exchange the money. It was early in the trip and that tipper could have walked about a block away and gotten some local currency to use while there and for the tip jar. I can't imagine that he came on the trip without an ATM card, but who knows, maybe he did.

With ATMs and today's credit cards, things are so much easier. So long as the institutions providing the cards know where you will be and when, I find getting cash like the Europeans do is actually easier and often cheaper than is it here.

Posted by
4500 posts

I am thinking that maybe it is only since the Euro's resurgence that the dollar is being rejected more in Europe. Correct me if I am wrong. I will definitely be better prepared next time :-)

This is just unequivocally wrong.

Posted by
7647 posts

The dollar was low compared to the DM & GBP 20 years ago too. It was not the creme de la creme of currencies in 1994. Yes, you can get away with using dollars at the airport, a few McDonalds in tourist locations, or big dept. stores, but you will pay heavily for this convenience.

Credit cards cost small businesses money, so why should they accept them when there are ATM's all over Europe that make it easy for anyone to withdraw cash?

Posted by
13967 posts

Porcupyn, if you had read through more of the threads here, you'd have known. Frankly, I don't know why you didn't go into a bank or currency exchange (they are everywhere in airports and city streets) and change a wad of your dollars to euros at a decent rate. It's also been discussed here several times that credit cards are not widely accepted in Germany.

Maybe back in the 1950s and 1960s, dollars were widely accepted in Europe . . . when they were struggling to recover from the ravages of the war. It never occurred to me that dollars would be accepted back in the 1970s when I started traveling abroad.

I can only think of two places I've been to where dollars are commonplace currency - St. Petersburg (5 years ago) and Cambodia (4 years ago). Maybe in Russia it's because of a thriving black market or stringent foreign currency regulations. Even so, there were many places that didn't take dollars and a few that didn't take dollars or credit cards. In Cambodia, my guess is simply the economy. Having done the research, I was forewarned and brought lots of small bills with me. I think the only Cambodian currency I ever saw was small change I got from vendors.

Posted by
145 posts

Porcupyn, I am bemused by the fact that you asked so many questions
before your trip about how much time it would take to walk from here
to there, how many and what denomination of metro tickets to buy,
etc., but it never occurred to you that in France they do not use or
accept the American dollar. Had you asked one single question about
money, someone here would have informed you. Ah, well, now you know

.

Me too Norma, me too!! Like I said in the first sentence of my response ... I wish. Anyway, I am glad we managed to get ourselves out of that predicament without too many hassles by adjusting to the situation. Now I can write the book on "How to Survive in Europe With Only a Few Credit Cards" ;-)

I hear all the other comments as well. Obviously, I did not really spend a lot of time on the forums other than on specific sight-seeing and phone related ones, i.e., did not read any of the packing, survival-guide, money, etc threads.

Chani:

We were there for too short a time to hunt out a bank to exchange our stash. That said, we did inquire at a bank in Versailles as we were walking there from the Versailles Chantiers station. They said that they would not do that, but directed us to the Post Office which, based on what I read here, might have been a decent place to get the job done. However, by then, we were too excited looking at the Palace looming in front of us and abandoned that task. Later, the last day we were there, I asked at a bank in Frankfurter Allee mall but was directed to their branch in Alexander Platz (they did not handle money in the Frankfurter Allee mall location). Bottom line - a lesson well and truly learned :-)

Porcupyn

Posted by
223 posts

Man, Porcupyn, you are good natured.

There is no facet of international travel so large that it cannot be overlooked.

I'm just saying, sometimes the criticism on this site is so much more brutal than the same mistake played out in real life abroad.

Posted by
145 posts

Sarah:

Good natured I am (for the most part), thank you very much :-) - but in this case, pile it on. It was my mistake and I should take any and all well-deserved brickbats!

Thankfully, I did not get into too much trouble with the family, as the major item that was, or could have been affected, was food purchases and/or Christmas Market purchases. No moolah, no can buy! :-(

Porcupyn

Posted by
11613 posts

Porcupyn, I think you may have managed to use $$ 20 years ago for a small item because the vendor wanted to have a few US$s. Just a personal preference on the part of the vendor, and probably only for a small charge, like a bus ticket.

You are good-natured, and apparently get a lot out of your travel experiences. Like a previous poster said, there is no segment of travel so large that it can't be overlooked.

Many more happy travels.

Posted by
145 posts

Zoe:

Thanks :-)

I am pretty sure I bought my subway/metro all-day pass with cash at the Heathrow (I believe) station back then. Try as I might, I cannot recall what I did for lunch that day. And really, those two might have been the only expenditures because I don't think I actually went in and did anything else other than ride around and walk about.

The few photos I have include a view of the Hyde Park, climbing into the stands of the Oval and watching a cricket game for a few minutes (there were hardly any spectators), one of the road from the top and front of a double decker bus (my favorite position), one of Trafalgar Square and one of Big Ben.

My friends sometimes make fun of my inclination to take lots of photos, but after a decade or two, those are all you have (or all you need) to jog your memory (unless you write a trip report or a blog post, which I am yet to do).

Porcupyn

Posted by
8889 posts

Porcupyn,
Looks like you lucked out that time in London. Heathrow station is probably the one exception to the rule, they probably would accept "funny foreign money". And probably St. Pancras tube station, and many of the shops in the station, accept Euros.
I note you say you are from "USA (previously India)", do they accept US dollars in India?

Posted by
4468 posts

Heathrow Express takes payment in cash in US dollars, Euro, and Yen at the manned office.

The coaches from Heathrow to Oxford for that matter take euro and US dollar cash as well.

Posted by
17657 posts
  1. Knowing what I know now, if I were going over there for the first time, I would get a few hundred euro to start the trip, just in case my card gets declined or the ATMs aren't working (both have happened to me). But now, since I go over regularly, I just bring back a few hundred from my previous trip to start out with. At most, I pay 1% from ATMs over there; in Denver, I can buy euro for 5% over the Interbank rate from Wells Fargo.

One bank account gives me two completely free (no fees or exch rate discount) ATM withdrawal per calendar month (four if my trip spans two months).

"is there any other reason to use cash"

  1. Yes, in Germany, at least, the smaller, more intimate and more economical place where I like to go rarely take plastic, so I save money by paying in cash. You'll pay more by staying and eating at places that take your card. One of my credit cards (not an ATM card) does not charge an exch. rate discount so I used it for some clothing purchases at a major dept store.

  2. I've had to let them hold some ID (DL or passport) several times to use an audio guide. I keep my DL in my wallet so I don't have to go digging in my money belt (neck wallet, actually) in public.

Posted by
10831 posts

1) So do most of you agree that one shouldn't worry about exchanging
dollars for pounds prior to travel (thru commercial bank or AAA) and
instead just use your ATM card to withdrawal cash from legitimate
machines at banks in the UK? My credit union said they charge a 1% fee
for foreign use.

If you will be more comfortable with UK100 in your pocket when you land in the UK then exchange UK100 at your bank. So what if it cost you $5 extra. You can get more with your ATM when you get there.

2) Also, I plan on getting a true chip and PIN card through this same
credit union to use. Besides using cash to get the hotel discount and
using cash for small vendors/other odds n ends...is there any other
reason to use cash vs. the chip/pin card? My only other expenses will
likely be gifts, restaurants, and public transportation costs and
thought of using the CC for those.

Understand that your good old fashioned US Mag Strip card will work everywhere you go except for a few self service kiosks. I spend a month a year in Europe in places as remote as Bulgaria and I have never had an issue. You will get the best exchange rates using your credit card and your ATM.

3) I know one should carry their passport (if not kept at hotel), ATM
card, copy of passport if needed in the money belt, but can everything
else, such as, small amounts of cash, driver's license, and credit
card go into a front pocket wallet? Should the DL go into the money
belt as well? How often does a vendor ask for proof of ID with a
credit card?

People get sensitive on this one. Some countries require you by law to carry your passport. If you choose not to do so that is your business. Should you carry it regardless? Probably. Do I always carry mine? No. Is that always wise? No. Is it safer locked in your hotel room? Not necessarily.

Posted by
507 posts

To Lo,

I can't imagine anywhere USD would be used today, or even 20 years ago, unless they were being exchanged for something else.

As soon as we boarded our bus in Israel in March 2014 for a pilgrimage, our guide happily informed us that USD would be accepted everywhere we went!
And everyone on the bus never touched an ATM. Sheep being led down the road to slaughter . . .

I was not a part of this forum at that time. Will be going on another pilgrimage this year. Plan to use the ATM's.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me

Posted by
193 posts

Old thread - but boy was I glad I started doing my research early for our trip because I was of the mind set that the U.S. $$ was good anywhere!!! We've mostly travelled to Mexico and the Caribbean so our U.S. Money has always been very welcome - I have learned a lot from this site and will hopefully be as prepared as possible next month :)

Posted by
8889 posts

advocatecare, Porcupyn can be happy that posting his embarrassing story saved at least one person the same embarrassment.
And, as Sarah said "There is no facet of international travel so large that it cannot be overlooked."