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buy euros here or there?

Is there any difference (rate exchange) in buying euros here at a bank or there at a bank? I know there are ATMs everywhere, that is not the issue. It is about the exchange rate- any better there?

Posted by
8700 posts

Buying currency in a country that uses that currency gives a better rate than buying it in a country that doesn't.

Posted by
1455 posts

Alberto, in addition to what Tim said, you'll get dinged with fees. There is actually a difference with the rate here, and it is not in our favor.

If you are considering getting money in advance, get a $100 just to have pocket money for your destination. Some people prefer to have some money ... "just in case" they can't find an ATM or a machine that has money.

Below are previous posts about the same thing. Have a great trip!

click here for getting euros before going

click here for ATM question

click here for ATM usage

click here getting euros

Posted by
103 posts

Something else to keep in mind is that you will probably have availability issues here. Many bank branches don't carry foreign currency, except by special order.

Posted by
15 posts

Best advice is to get a BoA account and take advantage of the Global ATM Alliance. NO transactions or ATM fees. You get the interbank rate. Yes, the actual interbank rate.

I recently got a BoA account solely for the purpose of having a "travel account". When I returned from my last trip, cross-checked the exchange rate I was given with and I was given a rate that was almost exactly (.0001 off) the interbank rate.

I know this is a shocking claim (well I was shocked when I got home and found out my bank didn't screw me) so here are my ACTUAL numbers from that day.

On 3/10/08, I withdrew 150E from a BNP Paribas ATM in Paris. My bank account was debited -$230.32 for that transaction. So I paid $1.5355 per Euro or .6513E per Dollar.

If you go to and click on FXHistory on the left-hand column, you can search for the various historical rates.

Searching for the appropriate day, you will find:

Conversion Table: USD to EUR (Interbank rate)
Time period: 3/10/08 to 3/10/08.
Daily averages:
03/10/2008 0.65140
Average (1 days): 0.65140
High: 0.65120
Low: 0.65090

So I paid 0.6513E/$ whereas the daily average was 0.65140E/$. Not bad.

I "stocked up" before going home so that when I return next year, I won't have to pay exorbitant fees to my local bank (up to several percent of the transaction) just to get a few Euros.

While its important to land on a country with at least a little bit of its currency in your pocket, many banks have ATMs at the airports themselves so you could potentially get the money before leaving the airport.

Posted by
15 posts

Tom, I don't believe there is any exchange fee (e.g. 3%) for BoA transactions. So in addition to NO ATM FEE there is also NO EXCHANGE FEE.

This is why I put up my own actual numbers from my trip just three months ago. There isn't any room for a 3% fee in there.

Remember, I withdrew 150E and had 230.32USD deducted from my account. That's a rate of 0.6513 on the ATM exchange, whereas OANDA reports the interbank rate on the very same day as .6514. XE reports the days average as 0.6507.

There is nowhere in these numbers you can stick in a 3% fee. In fact, according to XE, I received a better rate than the average interbank rate for the day on which the transaction occurred.

Posted by
769 posts

I have the BofA debit as well - and love their no fee for partners - but its only the $5 ATM fee you will save - not the 3% transaction/currency exchange fee. Still a good savings. So far they partner with: Barclays (United Kingdom)
BNP Paribas (France)
China Construction Bank (China)
Deutsche Bank: (Germany)
Satander Serfin (Mexico)
Scotiabank (Canada)
Westpac (Australia and New Zealand)

Also - its nothing you have to ask for special as it may have sounded from another poster - anyone with an ATM account can get it. Just call before you travel to let their security dept know where you will be using it outside USA. I hope they add more countries soon - but its always a good idea to use the big bank ATMs in any country if you can!

Posted by
22977 posts

BofA makes a big deal about charging no terminal usage fee. But it is fairly common among banks and credit unions. WaMu's debit card, for example, only charges a 1% currency exchange fee. It is reported that the Schwab card does not even charge the one percent. Remember, the fees being charged are established by YOUR card issuer. To address the original questions -- you will pay between 5 and 10% to purchase foreign currency in the US. The exchange booths in European airports, cities, etc., will charge a similar fee. Don't know what an actually bank would charge but I would assume it would be similar.

Posted by
643 posts


I called Bank of America last week, and there is indeed a 3% fee per transaction, just no $5 fee. If I withdraw $500 worth of local currency, they charge $15. Now that I know Washington Mutual only charges 1% I may use that card instead of BofA.

Posted by
1455 posts

That's good to know about BofA. Their advertisement sounded fee free, and too good to be true for them. BofA is known to nickel and dime their customers, and it looks like they did it there too.

Posted by
15 posts

Frustrating people. You can believe what you'd like to, I'm reporting my ACTUAL transaction that was three months ago. I think I've clearly demonstrated that there is neither an ATM fee nor an exchange fee. And notably, nobody else has provided actual numbers or documentation to substantiate their claims. Unless BoA has changed their policy (which they could have), you forgo this opportunity to stretch your weak dollars further as your own decision.

Also, I spoke with the local bank rep when I opened my account to make sure I would have her as a contact in case I had a fraud freeze and the corporate bureaucracy was unavailing, she had no clue what the Global ATM Alliance was and I had to explain it to her. It is possible, as I have encountered, that the CSR was uninformed or misinformed as to the program. Just FYI.

Also to be clear (as if anybody paid attention to my first few posts in detail anyway), this is just for ATM withdrawals with your debit card. If you use the BoA credit card, there will be a fee (most likely 3%). Also, it has to be at one of the Global ATM partner banks (e.g. Deutsche Bank, Barclays, BNP Paribas) AND it must be in that foreign banks home country (e.g. a Deutsche Bank ATM withdrawal in Spain would not qualify).

This is there interactive website for explaining fees.

Here is BoA's list of fees:

Neither of which say anything about a 3% fee. And the Disclosure Agreement also does not have any language describing a currency exchange fee of 3%.

Would anyone here like to mathematically demonstrate how I paid a 3% fee?

Posted by
4555 posts

Brian....possibly you may have an account that allows you to escape such charges, or possibly the rate was calculated at a specific time of day that seems to balance it in your favour. The interbank rate changes by the second throughout the day, and to get a completely accurate exchange rate on your withdrawal, you'd have to know the exact time your transaction was posted, and what the interbank rate was at that second. In any event, B of A makes it clear that using one of their Alliance partners only saves the non-B of A ATM charge. As the B of A website explains (at, "Who sets the exchange rates for withdrawals I make overseas using my Bank of America ATM card? The actual rate for an ATM withdrawal transaction is set by the VISA® or MasterCard® international network. The currency conversion rate on the processing date has an International Transaction Fee added. Contact Customer Service for information on international ATM transaction fees. The conversion rate on the processing date may differ from the rate on the date of the transaction." We've had dozens of people tell us over the past couple of years that B of A, like most others, will pass that fee onto could be minor, but, according to the B of A website, it's definitely there somewhere.

Posted by
1358 posts

You have certainly received enough advice. When I read it I am confused. I hope you can sort it out. About 10 years ago I quit buying currency in the US including Travelers Checks.

In every major airport I land in I have found an ATM; so I have currency to start my trip. I hear all the horror stories about not finding a machine or finding one out of order.

I have traveled in 20 countries including Asia and Russia and NEVER had a problem. Once in Frankfurt airport I had to look for a second machine because the first one did not take my card. But that can happen while traveling the US too.

I would go and expect to find a machine when you need one. Don't worry about the exchange rate or the service fee.

Posted by
588 posts

I bought currency at BoA prior to my last two trips. Not only did I pay a fee for ordering foreign currency I also paid a conversion fee. At the ATMS in Europe, I used the partner banks and there was no transaction fee (about $5.00) with BoA but there was the conversion fee which I hate. BoA also adds this conversion fee if you use your BOA Visa for purchases. Conversion fees add up. Take as much $$$ as you can from the ATM when you get to your destination airport to avoid conversion fees.

I understand Capital One has a card that has NO conversion fees. It is part of their advertisement and Rick has mentioned this in his books. I have thought about having a Capital One card just for travels in Europe.

Posted by
800 posts

In Brian's defense - I too did not believe what he wrote as I have a BofA card and have used it to travel with to Europe for the past several years. The problem, near as I can figure out, is that their policies have indeed changed over the years and also you can get different information depending on who you talk to. Yes, in the past I was charged 3% for BofA transactions. However, on my last trip (summer 2007) I was charged only 1% (plus the $5.00 flat fee) and this was a separate fee which occured when I used the card to withdraw from a non-Global Alliance (i.e. BofA partner) bank.

I called BofA this past week after reading Brian's post and the rep I spoke with did tell me that if I HAD used a partner bank that there would be NO $5.00 fee and NO 1% conversion. She said the 3% was only charged when using the card as a Visa.

Bottom line for me: I find it too difficult to keep up with BofA's changes. I switched this year to Schwab and can report no flat fees & no conversion fees (also based on historical currency listings found online) in March.

But Alberto - it is still a better deal to get money from any ATM (even with a conversion fee) in Europe than it is to buy it here. The banks, AAA, etc. who say there is "no fee" to purchase Euros are misleading in that their exchange rate is absolutely 5-6%, or more, above the rate you would get at an ATM in Europe.