Please sign in to post.

ATM use in Europe.....

I'm currently travelling in Europe and have noticed a change in ATM use since my visit last year. So far I've accessed ATM's in Germany, Poland and probably soon in the Balkans. In every case so far the machine has asked whether I want the withdrawal charged in my "home currency", which I've declined each time.

The "home currency" they've specified each time has been U.S. dollars, which is absolutely not my home currency. When I noticed that, there were a few mumbled "@#$% stupid machine" comments, but since I declined the conversion, it didn't matter.

On a related matter, the hotel I used in Poland slipped the DCC by me when I paid for the room. It wasn't a huge difference so I wasn't going to make a huge fuss, but I'll be watching for that in future.

Posted by
11613 posts

Thanks, Ken. I've noticed the same thing. At a store the DCC was done without asking me, I had the receipt voided and done over.

Posted by
4468 posts

The plague of DCC spreads.

It is also a problem in North America for European travellers - especially with hotels who offer just to charge the card given at check in and then do it in the home currency.

American Express does not run DCC, so on some purchases at least you can eliminate DCC using it - good if you have a card which itself has no or low fees.

Posted by
682 posts

So I'm guessing on our trip next spring we should ask for the charge to be run through using euro as the currency, right? I may just ask this upfront although I'm sure I won't remember all the time....or better yet i'll try to avoid using cc with the exception of large purchases.

Posted by
2347 posts

Even the machine assumes you want to be an American?!

Posted by
1054 posts

Interesting and thanks for the heads up Ken. It hasn't gotten to Italy yet. I just came back from Tuscany and didn't have any bank atm ask me for local currency or Euro. Maybe cause they were small banks, but I did withdraw money in Milan and that didn't ask me for local currency just gave me Euro. Most of the time I used a banca di Siena atm.

I did have store ask me (not restaurants since I pay cash) on ny purchases if I wanted to be charged in USD or Euro. I went with Euro but they never did it without asking.

Posted by
17653 posts

Normally this wouldn't have been a problem because I pay cash for everything, and they have yet to figure out how to DCC that (but I'll bet they are trying). But now to hear that they are trying to DCC ATM withdrawals? In Germany, were these bank ATMs? What bank? I will certainly be on the lookout.

Posted by
4499 posts

DCC at bank machines are not uncommon and will likely be more common. It is standard in Spain and has been that way for awhile. And it's easy to decline the DCC offer. There is no point in trying to avoid the banks doing it now as most will be doing it soon.

What is more troubling are merchants/restaurants that do it automatically. I believe that is against the rules and if it does happen, you are well within your rights to decline to sign/approve the statement. They then have to cancel the transaction and redo it with local currency. If you already signed/authorized, then you are likely out of luck. They can void and redo it, but changes are they won't want the hassle.

And an FYI for those not familiar with Dynamic Currency Conversion: it is an offer to convert your transaction into your (supposedly) home currency. Seems like a nice convenience but it allows the bank/merchant to set the conversion rate, which will always be in their favor. Always stick with local currency. And in Ken's case, you would've gotten a double whammy since it would convert into US dollars and then that would have to be converted into Canadian dollars.

Posted by
1511 posts

Thanks for the post. We typically rely on ATM's for everything including hotels. But since our Chase United Explorer card has zero transaction fees now, and hotels in the UK are not offering any discount for cash, we'll be charging our hotels. We'll watch to make sure transaction are in GBP, not USD

Posted by
11738 posts

I've noticed it too.

As I understand it, always answer no to this question. If you answer yes, the bank will spit out euros but send the charge to your bank in dollars (apparently U.S. even if you're Canadian) - and charge you a fee for the conversion. Your bank ignores the conversion, and charges you the foreign ATM fee too. Essentially you pay more if you answer yes, for zero added convenience.

Posted by
507 posts

Thx for the "heads up." My family & I are traveling to Europe next year. Will pass this info on to the others. Knowing hubby, he will automatically hit USD. (I think I will hold onto the debit card.)

Posted by
4354 posts

Colette, sometimes we have to save them from themselves ;-)

Ken, thanks for the good news LOL! And Welcome to America!!!

Posted by
11738 posts

Yes Ken,

Welcome to the U.S. where we're celebrating the 200th anniversary of repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) trying to invade Canada. We refer to it as the War of 1812 but we didn't have much to celebrate before 1814.

Our new immigration policy is that everyone is automatically a resident of the U.S., whether they want to be or not. :)

Posted by
1511 posts

Ken,

Again thanks for the heads up. We came across an ATM in York with a big blue sign that said "FREE CASH WITHDRAWALS" and nothing to really indicate it wasn't a bank ATM. It did not ask if we wanted USD or GBP, but asked us to accept the exchange rate of 1.745. I wasn't sure that the exchange rate had done in the 12 days we'd been gone, but thought it highly unlikely that it would have gone from 1.64 to 1.75 in that short of time. So we cancelled the transaction and found a "real" bank ATM. Sure enough the exchange rate on the transaction that day was 1.625 so my instinct was right. Next ATM we used was at Paddington Station in London. The Hilton told us exactly where the "real" bank atms were. 20 fee away were the same "FREE CASH WITHDRAWALS" machines. I'm sure they are titled the way they are to entice unsuspecting foreign travelers to think they are avoiding their bank fees, when in fact people are getting hosed on the DCC.

All credit card charges for hotels or purchases were in GBP, so no other sneaky DCC attempts..

Posted by
1217 posts

We usually ended up using a 'no fee' cashpoint at a grocery store, and never saw a DCC offer there. Guess they set up the menus with the needs of locals and not currency-converting tourists in mind.

Posted by
8 posts

In Germany, many small town establishments do not accept credit or debit cards (except maybe the EC card), so cash is almost always the way to go.

Posted by
13958 posts

I got dinged with the DCC for the first (and so far only) time in Cordoba last year buying small souvenirs. The clerks were unaware of the effects and said that there had been no other option. I believe that either that was true or that they had no clue how to decline it. Either way, after that I just paid cash for everything except hotels and trains, with no problems.

Posted by
9110 posts

I've only seen it a couple of times. I suspect it's tied to selecting a language other than the one of the country in which the machine is located rather than the country the card is from.

Posted by
8889 posts

@Ed. ATM's only offer a choice of language if they detect you have inserted a foreign card. It would annoy the regular customers if they were asked what language they wanted every time they got out money from their local branch.
If I put a Swiss card into an ATM in the UK it asks me which language I want, If I put a British card in it does not ask me.

Since it can spot foreign cards, and which country they are from (from the first 4 digits of the card number), this is what I suspect triggers DCC in both Point-of-Sale terminals and ATM's.
IMHO DCC is a 'con' to catch the unwarry, which includes a number of first-time tourists.

P.S. Swiss cards have the language stored in the card, in my case it is German. If I put my card into a machine in (French speaking) Geneva, it automatically switches to German. But this only works within Switzerland, it would be nice if this system was used Europe-wide.

Posted by
30955 posts

A short follow up.....

I haven't had time to go through my records and count how many of the ATM's offered DCC. However, my impression is that the majority of them offered a DCC option. I just received my credit card statement, and one other interesting point is that the DCC conversion done at the hotel in Poland converted directly to Canadian funds. OTOH, the ATM's only seemed to offer only conversion to U.S. funds.

I'm going to be watching this closely on my next trip!

Posted by
9361 posts

On my most recent trip I used ATMs in London, Scotland, and Spain. On no occasion was I offered DCC. The amounts I selected were in euro or pounds and that was reflected on my bank statement at the going rate on those days. (My credit union does not charge any foreign currency conversion fee.)

Posted by
843 posts

Thanks for the heads up. I have experienced this issue just twice, and in small touristy shops. It's good to keep an eye out for it, and it should probably start being a sentence or two in travel guidebooks if it isn't already.

Posted by
60 posts

We just got home from a 3+ week trip and came across 1 ATM with DCC in the entire time. We used a number of ATMs from different banks in several cities.

I did like the machines that offered a choice in denominations. We were able to limit the 50s.

There was a change machine in the post offices in France which allowed us to break 10s and 20s into coins.

Posted by
3580 posts

I used an ATM just once in Paris. Didn't see DCC anywhere. I did find out that my bank, B of A, is charging for withdrawals now. For years I've made withdrawals from BNP Paribas with no fee from B of A. I prefer to pay in cash whenever possible. It's simpler that way. I load up the money belt and travel.

Posted by
507 posts

@Swan . . . May I ask which BoA card you used? I am a BoA customer, also. Feel free to PM me rather than put the answer on the boards since the answer is off topic.

Good day!

{Addition: Swan, is this about the travel card? If so, consider taking back to https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/budget-tips/bank-of-america-travel-credit-card
I am interested in what BoA is doing, and is it with the Travel VISA Card. I will wait for your answer here or there. :-) }

Posted by
2002 posts

@ Colette, but that's info that many of us might be interested in! Please share, Swan!

Posted by
21 posts

I recently spent 2 weeks in Ireland and was offered the currency conversion at every ATM. I don't recall if I was offered the option at ATM's in Northern Ireland, but I suspect that I was.

I declined each time.

Also, if my bank tried to sell me travelers checks, I would switch banks.

Posted by
3262 posts

So far this trip I've been offered DCC at bank cash machines in Fiumicino and Fira (Santorini), but not in Istanbul. We got DCC'd by a hotel in Munich in 2009. I've been vigilant ever since.

Posted by
1803 posts

We just got back from a month in Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany & Amsterdam. We never got the DCC option unless I didn't notice. I think (hope!) I would have noticed.

Posted by
222 posts

I was in Spain last March and used multiple bank ATMs. None involved DCC. I confirmed this when checking my bank app via phone while there. While using a credit card for payment, though, I did encounter DCC at a souvenir shop. The merchant claimed to not understand what my problem was as "everyone likes this". Yeah.

Posted by
1 posts

I always try and say "I would like to pay in Euro" when I hand my card to any merchant, hotel, etc. Once, in Spain, I asked the hotel clerk if I could watch as she processed the transaction. At one point the credit card machine asked if the customer wanted to be billed in their own currency (or something like that), the default was to bill in the customer's currency so if the clerk just pressed Enter, the transaction was in Dollars.

If someone wants to see what the ATM screens look like in DCC, I have some screen shots on my website. I declined the conversion to Dollars and show how much I saved. Look at www.vittoe.com/2011/index.html

Posted by
117 posts

Encountered this once in four countries at the airport in Copenhagen -- my first ATM visit no less, haha. But thanks to this thread that I read through before our trip, I was looking for it.

Thank you Ken.

Posted by
30955 posts

Rick M,

You're very welcome! I'm glad that that information was useful.

Posted by
329 posts

Brad, you may not have succeeded on the surface, but you are succeeding via a policy of assimilation. This is evident through the change in language I've seen in my lifetime: from "chips" to "fries," from "chesterfield" to "sofa," from "Hallowe'en Apples" to "Trick or Treat," and so on.

Resistance is futile.