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Bringing Cash instead of using ATM or Credit Card ?

I read all the posts about ATM and Credit Card companies charging 3% or more when you use them in Europe. Why not just bring American Dollars with you and exchage them Euros when you get there? Is this a way to aviod the high fees? I am only going for a week, so won't need THAT much money that I could not just bring cash with me. Thanks for the advice.

Posted by
320 posts

Judy - If you bring US $$ with you and then seek to change then you need to know a few things:

1) You have to find a bank that will exchange $$ - not all do.

2) If you go to an exchange kiosk or shop prepare to get creamed. You'll get a lousy exchange rate AND they also charge a fee. If they post a great exchange rate you pay a higher fee. If they say "No Fee" then they have a terrible exchange rate.

3) With an ATM you generally get a good exchange rate - check with your bank to see what the fee is. Do like Rick says and just withdraw a large amount to minimize your fee.

4) The one thing you cannot get any more of on vacation is time - why waste time looking for a bank or exchange store when you can find an ATM almost everywhere. What is your lasting memory going to be of your trip - standing on line in a bank?

Have fun.

Posted by
769 posts

Number one reason why you shouldnt bring alot of US Dollars to change: BANK HOURS - you may well have to wait in line if one is even open. Sure you can schedule but its a lot more work for not much return. Stick to ATMs outside those big banks (but keep a $100US in our money belt just incase)...

Posted by
166 posts

Hi Judy,

Everyone has there own opinion on what and what not to do as far as exchanging dollars. Maybe I'm a little old fashioned but I am a beleiver if your going to bring cash then exchange your dollars here in America. Shop around for the best rates, there are some deals out there. Why pay the exchange rate plus a fee when using the ATM in Italy, besides taking a chance of not getting enough cash for what you need at that particular time. This is only my opinion, I'm no expert. I am leaving for Italy on the 27th of this month and I will be traveling for one month throughout Italy and I am bringing my euros from home. Just make sure whatever you decide wear a moneybelt or a neck pouch under your clothes.


Posted by
11805 posts

I get my cash from an ATM on arrival, it's the best exchange rate and the fees aren't horrible if you make occasional big transaction vs. lots of little ones.

I've never needed cash before I had a chance to stop at an airport ATM.

With the current high rates for Euros and no relief in sight, some people are buying Euros at their bank at today's rates in anticipation of their trip. I doubt I'll do that, but I'm an optimist.

Posted by
18297 posts

Look at my recent post under ATMs. The network (Plus, Cirrus, et al) pay the ATM owners in Europe in Euro and collect from you bank. For this they get a 6/10% commision for handling the transaction and 4/10% for charging your bank in US$. Large national banks that have foreign exchange operations (like Wells Fargo, USBank, Chase, plus others) pay the 6/10% transaction fee but pay in Euro to avoid the rest. Then they charge YOU 2-3% for the currency exchange (that should have cost you 4/10%). To avoid this rip-off, find a local bank without a currency exchange operation. They pay the network 1% (6/10% transaction fee + 4/10% currency exchange fee) and pass it on to you. That's 1% but at least it isn't 3%-4%.

Go to you bank and ask for what they charge. Ask several time, because they probably don't want to tell you the truth. Get it in writing. Most banks can print out their ATM fees from their Intranet.

Posted by
30 posts

taking cash is ok- not every business, shops restaurants and specially private b&bs dont take credit cards, also some forms of transport dont take them either here in denmark.

Theres loads of banks all over the country so thats no problem.

Posted by
8293 posts

Marilyn says, "there are loads of banks all over the country so that's no problem." This is true but not all banks have a foreign exchange department,and the ones that do will certainly charge you a hefty fee for their service. And as already noted, banks are not always open when you need them to be. I can see no benefit to carrying a wad of cash with you when you can leave it in your account at home and access it abroad. And then there's the security problem ! Do think this out carefully.

Posted by
258 posts

To avoid the high % banks may charge I switched banks. Try to find a credit union that you can join. My credit union doesn't charge any fees, except for the 1% that Visa passes along. I took my credit union debit card and credit card with me last fall and had no problems. It was very easy to just visit an ATM whenever I ran out of cash as ATMs are everywhere.