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USD to Euro before leaving USA

Has anyone recently exchanged usd to euros Looking to get some Euros before we arrive in Paris. Need cash for taxi ,but looking for good exchange rate. I have a no foreign transaction debit card with Chase, so not worried about ATM fees once in Paris. Just want to have some cash before arrival ,in case card doesn't work in Paris. Anything can happen.

Posted by
4932 posts

Take 100 USD with you as an emergency backup. If your ATM card doesn't work at the airport, then you can change the 100 USD for Euros at a poor rate - but you probably won't need to do it. There should be a Travelex at CDG or something at worst.

Posted by
6871 posts

Always use a bank ATM if possible wherever you are obtaining cash. I carry two ATM cards in case there are problems. I arrive with no Euros and try to leave Europe with none.
American Express and Travelex are not banks.
I use a Visa card when traveling every time I am paying for something, including oh ok transportation tickets, hotels and restaurants. We use relatively little cash obtained from ATMs when traveling.

Posted by
7190 posts

best to get the money when you get there out of the atm since you say you have a non transaction fee this is the best exchange rate.

but of course convenience everything has a price; since you are worried about atms get some currency from your own local bank Chase before you go. don't over think it. I am a Chase customer get small denominations 20's 5's etc.

Posted by
2230 posts

Travelex works for us. Believe their minimum order is for the equivalent of US$50, so you can get enough to get you started without being taken to the cleaners. Here's their website: https://www.travelex.com/currency.
AAA also has a starter pack which includes low denomination bills so you don't have to try and break 50 or 100 Euro notes. Don't know about their exchange rates or commissions...it's been a while since we've used them.

Posted by
6483 posts

If you want to get some Euros before leaving the US, the best place to get them is at a bank, preferably one you have an account with. Large banks will give you the best exchange rate and some banks will waive the purchase fee or charge a minimum fee for their account holders.

EDIT: I don't know about Travelex, but AAA has really bad exchange rates when you purchase foreign currency. I got the best exchange rate at Wells Fargo and only had a $5.00 fee for €200. AAA was closer to $20.

Posted by
12886 posts

Hi,

Inquire at your bank before you leave. Bof A offers a "decent" rate if you request a min of 1,000 Euro plus no fee either. I've done that. When my trip is over, I always make sure that I have Euro remaining to take home, at least from 200 to 600.

Posted by
2466 posts

I like having cash on hand.
Go to your bank, it will take 24 hours to 5 days for them to make the transaction, if it's a small bank. There is a small transaction fee for the convenience. I suggest 200 EU to be safe.

Make sure that you notify your bank of your dates when you will be in Paris, because your purchases and ATM withdrawals will be denied as fraudulent.
If you need your daily limit raised temporarily, your bank will consider this.

FYI the EU to USD ratio is 1 EU = $1.18

Posted by
18302 posts

Robert, you live in Colorado Springs? There is a Wells Fargo bank there, and they have an international currency exchange desk (I know, my daughter used to work at the bank doing currency exchange). Wells Fargo charges 5% over the Interbank exchange rate for Euro. That's 5% average; they fix their exchange rate for the day at 5% over the Interbank rate sometime in the early morning, so it can be a little higher or lower if the Interbank rate changes during the day. Right now they are 5.2% over. Travelex is 10% over.

I would advise everyone to use Wells Fargo, if you can, vs Travelex.

Once when I checked with AAA, they were using Wells Fargo for foreign currency. The last time I checked they were using Travelex.

As for exchanging US dollars for Euro, don't count on it. I am currently in Germany, and, for some reason we won't know until we get back to Denver, my partner's ATM card isn't working over here (I know she called the bank. I sat right there next to her when she called and then talked to the same person to confirm that the had me noted as being in Europe, too.) She has some US dollars with her, and she has tried at several banks to exchange them for euro, but the banks say they don't do that anymore.

I've found that in Germany, for the most part, it is better to pay cash than to use a credit card. Small, family run pensions and guest houses don't usually take credit cards, and they are less expensive (by a lot) to stay in than large hotels that do accept cards. On the other hand, German Rail ticket machines do accept credit cards. I think German Rail charges a small few for card use.

Posted by
11613 posts

If I have no euro left from the last trip, I get $100 or so from my bank. It's s small bank, so it takes a few days to get the euro via FedEx (the only upfront charge from the bank, but I think the exchange rate is a little worse than if I got them from an ATM in Europe.

It's really important to tell your bank the dates and countries where you will use your ATM card.

Posted by
935 posts

I always go to my bank and get at least $500 worth or whatever currency I need for my travels and take that with me, I don't like flying all night and being tired, trying to get through customs/immigration and find my way to my hotel and oh yes look for a ATM machine! The beauty of packing light is to grab your carry on and breeze through the airport ASAP and grab transportation to your hotel.

Posted by
8293 posts

If you want only enough euros to pay for a taxi when you get to CDG don't bother looking for a good exchange rate. Just buy the euros and be done with it. It can't possibly be a lot of money compared to the overall cost of your trip.

Posted by
3681 posts

Norma talks sense. Especially after an overnight flight from North America, it's worth a little extra cost to minimize the fuss when you are tired. Contrary to the widespread nervousness expressed on this thread, I have always found an ATM in airports where I land. The original poster is lucky to have a no-fee debit/ATM card, but for most of us the best way to have back-up is not expensive euros bought in North America. Instead, carry a second card from another bank, preferably one that is on another ATM international network. And don't carry both of them in the same wallet.
I also prefer to use cash for everything except very large purchases, to minimize fees. All ATM and credit cards in the country where I (and Norma) live charge fees for foreign exchange, so far as I know. Those fees for using plastic abroad can add up to a tidy sum over a few weeks. Worth it at the airport, but rarely elsewhere.

Posted by
3026 posts

I like to arrive with a few euro in my pocket, too. I have a AAA membership. Exchange rates there historically have been better than what I can get at the bank. In fact, on my first trip to Europe, my bank told me that AAA's rate was much better than their rate.

Posted by
2230 posts

I agree completely with Norma. For the convenience involved it's worth it to me to spend the extra $5 or so for the comfort of having enough local currency in my pocket to get me started. We're not talking about a major transaction here. And I really don't need the added stressor of trying to find an ATM immediately upon arrival.

Posted by
2526 posts

Here are the numbers for obtaining euro where I live. Please note, Wells Fargo Bank requires a $200 minimum purchase and AAA (Travelex) demands $250. To equalize the calculations, I used 200€ throughout and did not consider possible shipping/handling fees. Wells Fargo $247.56, AAA (Travelex) $256.38 and my no foreign transaction fee ATM/debit card $235.88. So, at least for me, if wanting € in hand before departing, the best deal is with Wells Fargo. For €, I always have some from a prior trip, but for other currencies, I just use a bank ATM at the arriving airport...put the card into the machine, enter my PIN and punch in the requested amount of local currency. Easy. I have never experienced empty or non-functioning ATMs at arrival airports. But, if so, I'll take some USD and visit an exchange booth. For one less issue to manage upon arrival in Europe, just buy foreign currency in advance. I am too frugal (cheap) to do so.

Posted by
2914 posts

I totally agree with Norma. After spending or going to spend a relatively large amount on a trip, don't nickel and dime yourself about convenience or sense of security. I always go with the local money, pound, euro, krona, whatever so I have time, especially traveling solo, to find a safe ATM in the few days after settling into my first hotel.

And I agree with Dave as well > "I like to arrive with a few euro in my pocket, too. I have a AAA membership. Exchange rates there historically have been better than what I can get at the bank. In fact, on my first trip to Europe, my bank told me that AAA's rate was much better than their rate."

My local AAA has excellent rates, this might be a regional thing, and I am a member. As the use of no fee/no exchange rate Credit Cards are ubiquitous, I often find only one trip to the ATM is required. The last thing I want to do is wander around finding an ATM at the airport after arrival.

Posted by
2230 posts

For info, AAA allows a minimum order of US$200 thru Wells Fargo, and the Travelex website is showing a minimum order of US$50.

Posted by
2526 posts

AAA MountainWest (tied to Travelex) requires a minimum order of $250 while the Travelex website allows purchases starting at $50 with an exchange rate of $1.29 plus a shipping fee of $9.99 to $19.99. The exchange rate for my ATM/debit card today is $1.18.

Posted by
2230 posts

Not sure why this has become contentious all of a sudden. After all, there is no right or wrong way to do this - it's a matter of individual preference. Everyone here agrees that the preferred way to purchase foreign currency is at an ATM in whichever country you happen to be visiting - once you're there that is. If you don't mind paying a trifling amount for the convenience of having a little of the local currency with you upon arrival (as I do) that's fine too...which is what I believe the OP was asking in the first place.

Posted by
2914 posts

I think AAA is regional in it's rules. Ours does not use Travelex, has a minimum of $200.00. In the spring when I last used AAA, the exchange rate, if you had $1 million dollars to exchange, was 1.09, I paid 1.12. No other fee. So easy decision. I've had this discussion before and I think Massachusetts just has a much better rate than a lot of the country, reason unknown. However, I'd pay much more to avoid running around looking for an ATM upon landing or the first day. I'm into stress free travel, particularly when traveling solo, not running around to save $5.00 or $10.00 dollars. And my triple AAA office is about 1/4 mile away from my home... ;)

Posted by
3620 posts

It's always a good idea, in my opinion, to have some local currency in hand when you land. Getting a hundred or two hundred Euros from your local bank will cost you a little more, but it eliminates the hassle of trying to find a machine, the stress of hoping it works (they do occasionally malfunction), and doing it all while somewhat jet lagged. To me the small amount extra it cost to have money in hand when arriving is money well spent, and the extra cost relative to the overall cost of the trip is not, in my opinion, that much. Just one point of view

Posted by
7205 posts

Agnes, I totally agree. OR just use your credit card to pay for the taxi.

Posted by
3491 posts

You have an account with Chase. Try there. Every Chase branch can get foreign currency for you within 48 hours if they don't have it already. Not the best rate, not the worst, but hopefully convenient.

My local Wells Fargos won't sell me any foreign currency unless I have an account with them. The other banks around me have the same restriction.

The exchange booth at the airport leaving the US will give you the worst rate. My local AAA no longer deals in foreign currency and simply gives you a web site to go buy it from which has a similarly bad rate when you add in all of their delivery and processing fees.

Once you get to Europe, the only place to exchange actual paper money is at the exchange booths at airports and train stations (getting the worst rate there as well). Banks only deal with their own customers, leaving tourists to the ATMs.

Posted by
2466 posts

Some taxis claim that their machines are "out of juice", so best to have some euros handy.

Posted by
5784 posts

RE: Some taxis claim that their machines are "out of juice", so best to have some euros handy.
Ask/advise the driver before you start about paying with a credit card, letting them know that you do not have Euros. That said, it would be unusual to not find a working ATM at the airport.

Posted by
64 posts

I'm surprised no one has mentioned exchanging money at the u.s. airport before you leave. This is what some of my friends have told me to do that recently traveled to Europe. We fly out of Orlando Florida and they have an exchange desk at the airport. I don't know what the rates are though

Posted by
6483 posts

Stacyl, If you read the response 3 up from yours you'll see that at least one poster on here feels that the exchange rate at the US airport booths is the WORST. Not sure how factual that is, but I don't doubt it.

Posted by
5784 posts

RE: I'm surprised no one has mentioned exchanging money at the u.s. airport before you leave.

Rick's FAQ tips on cash: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money/cash-tips

Avoid (or at least minimize) cash exchange.... When you use currency
exchange booths such as Forex or Travelex at the airport, you lose
around 15 percent. (Rick's advice applies to both US and foreign
airports).

Don’t buy foreign currency in advance.... Wait until you arrive at
your destination; I’ve never been to an airport in Europe that didn’t
have plenty of ATMs.

Bring along some US dollars.... American cash in your money belt
comes in handy for emergencies, such as when banks go on strike or
your ATM card stops working. I carry several hundred US dollars as a
backup (in denominations of easy-to-exchange 20s).

Great thing about carrying emergency USDs (that I have not had to convert) is that you can spend the USD at full value when you return to the States

Posted by
4932 posts

I agree, Edgar. I don't see any point in buying Euros ahead of time. In the unlikely event that your ATM card doesn't work at the airport, it seems unlikely that there would also be NOWHERE open (especially at CDG) to exchange some USD for Euros in an emergency. And if you have a credit card (as surely most would), you have other options to pay for a cab into Paris.

Posted by
2319 posts

I travel solo and arriving in a foreign country without some local currency on hand is just not an option--if my debit card didn't work (or is lost or stolen), I'd be in a panic. Not worth it. I bring about 300 euro with me, ordered from Chase and usually takes a couple of days.

Posted by
505 posts

Regarding Chase: Don't purchase more than the minimum you think you'll need on arrival. As others advise, hit the ATM when you arrive. (We recently made the mistake of ordering E1000, pre-trip, at our local Chase branch, due to our first few hotels/B&Bs not accepting credit cards. Chase applied an excessive exchange rate; 10% above the current exchange rate. Once in-country, we experienced fair market rates using our Chase debit card at local ATMs.)

Posted by
362 posts

I always arrive in Europe with Euros in hand. I make a point of ordering some from my local bank. Having been caught out with taxis that do not accept credit cards, it's just a comfort measure for me after getting off the overnight flight.

Your bank can handle this for you. If you fly through a major airport with a long connection time, you can also see if they have a Travelex desk.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks everyone for your advice. Went by Chase today just to get an estimate on what they were charging. For $250 I would get roughly 193 Euros, so I will take my chance at the ATMs in Paris.

Posted by
6483 posts

Exchange rate is running approximately $250 to €214, so it looks like you'll save about $20 by waiting to get your € from an ATM in Europe, but remember that depending on your bank you may have ATM fees (usually around $5 or so) which puts your savings at about $15. So, in the long run, if just depends on whether you are comfortable with landing in Europe without any €. Personally, I agree with christa and aquamarinesteph, that I feel more comfortable with a few € in hand - just in case - so it's worth a few $$ extra for that.

Posted by
11 posts

@Nancy, Im going to get a few Euros before leaving the US just tp feel safe. then get the rest in Paris. I have a no foreign fee debit card.

Posted by
2230 posts

Edwin, just curious but was the $250 figure the minimum amount that Chase would exchange?

Posted by
2466 posts

Edgar, that would entail going back into the airport, then getting euros, then getting back in line at the taxi stand - too much trouble for me!

Posted by
5784 posts

C: I have yet to have an airport ATM failure. But that said, if I was relying on a credit card for taxi service, I would be hopeful that at least one of the taxi drivers would want my business enough to accept a credit card payment. But then perhaps Paris drivers are more stubborn than others.

Another alternative is having the taxi driver stop at a working ATM. A number of years ago, we were on a ski tour skiing from Finland to Norway. After reaching Norway the long story short is we took a taxi and only had Euros, no Norwegian Krone. The taxi stopped at a bank in a small Norwegian village to let us withdraw Krone from the ATM.

Posted by
745 posts

I suspect my contribution to this otherwise very informative discussion will add little. I thank the many travelers who responded and advanced the conversation. I learned quite a lot.
I like to land with local currency in my money belt. Foolish, perhaps, even risky, but I just travel that way.
As an AAA member in Washington, I have received surprisingly excellent exchange rates - recently $1.20/euro with a minimum of $200 purchased. No transaction fees. AAA partners with Wells Fargo in Washington, and they round up to the smallest denomination of currency - in the case of euros, that would be a five euro note - no coins.
Next spring, I'll be in several central European countries for an extended visit. When I presented my list for the purpose of checking with AAA, I learned they could provide all currencies required for that trip - Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary. And, that $200 minimum 'no transaction' requirement is for any mix of currencies from any of those countries.
Of course there is the issue of 'what do I do with these remaining Serbian dinar - we're leaving for Croatia in an hour?' but I find a few items in local shops to use up the cash, and bring the remaining coins back home as a souvenir.

Posted by
362 posts

I have had the experience of landing - no immediately available/working ATM - and the cab will only take cash.

I always travel with enough foreign currency to get me to my first hotel. My local bank has to request it from Atlanta, but the currency is usually here within 2-3 business days. The transaction fee is more than reasonable, and it is always computed at the current exchange rate.

Your milage may vary, of course.

Have a great trip!!!

Posted by
2267 posts

If people are concerned that landing at CDG in Paris you will find no working ATMs, this could happen if there was a major terrorist incident or France is attacked by a nuclear bomb. Short of that, your major problem will be finding a machine on your network. CDG probably has many many bankomats. In Bucharest, we had no problem finding a bankomat at the airport, and it had 4 gates.

There are more important problems: 1) forgetting your pin 2) not notifying your bank of your trip 3) notifying your bank of your trip, but not realizing that the notifications expire, often after 30 days 4) not finding your bank network on a bankomat.

We put our pin in our phone.

Posted by
21720 posts

....We put our pin in our phone. ..... We just convert our pin to an alpha code and put it on the card so there is no question about pin and card being together.

Posted by
2267 posts

Frank: Putting the pin on the card in an alpha code - aren't you a little nervous about that? If you lost the card, and someone found it, they might have naughty ideas and the cleverness to penetrate your alpha code. After all, the alpha code is on the keypad. I'm not sure that you approach is a good idea.

I remember my PIN, and putting it in my phone is just a stop-gap. I have no trouble remembering 4 numbers. I can remember phone numbers easily, although that is fading from me, as no one needs to do that anymore. We are all becoming stupider than our smart phones.

Or is your comment a snark? If so, you need to signal your snarkiness. Some people might believe your idea and copy it, which I think could lead to bad outcomes.

Posted by
12886 posts

I use 4 digit pin numbers too, as long as they begin with number one, such as 1515, 1875, 1706, 1748, etc ..easy to remember since these are all based on history dates.

Posted by
4932 posts

Paul:

There are more important problems: 1) forgetting your pin 2) not notifying your bank of your trip 3) notifying your bank of your trip, but not realizing that the notifications expire, often after 30 days 4) not finding your bank network on a bankomat.

My ATM card is not a debit card, and my credit union has no way even to put a travel alert on it. If it was a debit card with a Visa logo, they'd probably notify Visa.

With Visa/MC/Amex, in my experience, they ask for specific travel dates (arrival and departure as well as specific countries), so I'm not sure how they would expire in 30 days. I've never placed a travel alert that wasn't for specific dates.

Posted by
21720 posts

NBUD -- Break it, Paul or anyone else -- $100 gift certificate to the Rick Steves store if you can. Or easier - RALS - same number, different key. Have fun!

I wasn't suggesting using the alpha on the key pad as the code. Do a true alpha/numeric substitution code. The code is nearly impossible to break since you have no clues with just four digits - something like 9000+ combinations. And if you want to make it more complicated add a fake letter or two at the beginning or end or both -- TNBUDAC. It is safe to put the number on the card. And it wasn't a snarky comment.

Posted by
3336 posts

I didn't read EVERY post in the very long thread so it may have been mentioned but AAA, at least in southern California, no longer offers currency exchange. I just tried to get some euros there in September and they said they don't do this any more since few people ask for it. Told me that everyone just uses ATMs now which is true!

Posted by
6635 posts

Each state AAA is an independent operation with different services and policies. At my local office, they told me they would have to order euro from the AAA in a neighboring state (Kansas), with add'l fees and a minimum quantity. They couldn't quote a rate either, and were not really sure how to do this.

Posted by
3304 posts

I'm surprised no one has mentioned exchanging money at the u.s.
airport before you leave.

I'm certainly not; it's a rip off and akin to burning money. The easiest, quickest and cheapest way (talk about an ideal combination) to get euros is when you ARRIVE at CDG or ORY. Use a bank ATM -- not Travelex. Travelex bilks tourists. Ordering cash in advance in the US is not only expensive but slow. That you have to "order" cash is so backward. Follow Rick Steves' advice as was provided above and get your cash IN REAL TIME when you arrive so you can pay for your taxi.

Posted by
11 posts

Yes very exspensive to order before you leave, went to Chase last week just to see what they were charging, and it was 1.287 per a Euro

Posted by
2466 posts

The smartphone is probably connected to a personal code, if it is stolen.
That obviates the need for the 9,000 permutations of the bank code.

Posted by
2230 posts

"Yes very expensive to order before you leave"
That depends. For a pre-order US$1000 the price would indeed be exorbitant, but for an order of $100 (ie a starter pack) then we're talking about a fee of only about $10.
Not to sound like an old curmudgeon about this (full disclosure: I am an old curmudgeon) but I consider the 10 bucks to be a convenience fee, and it's worth it to me to have one less detail to worry about upon arrival after a long transatlantic flight.

Posted by
2267 posts

I had previously questioned Frank's choice to put his PIN on his card. He explained his system to me, and baring an absolute miracle by the thief, it would be unbreakable. Very clever too. I invite him to explain it to us. I won't steal his thunder, but do remove my concern expressed earlier.