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Changing Cash into Euros

My fiance and I are having a disagreement. I think it is good to take some cash but then get more when we need it from ATMs. He wants to take mostly cash and get it changed into Euros. Where would we take our dollars in Italy to get Euros and would the exchange rate be better than the ATM?

Posted by
4125 posts

Answer: You would take your dollars to a bank or exchange bureau (private money changer) where the exchange rate would not be better than at an ATM, and where you might also be charged a commission.

Posted by
131 posts

When we were in Italy we relied mostly on ATMs, which are everywhere- when you find one in a safe location, take out up to the limit you are allowed and store it in your money belts. I made the mistake of getting euro travelers checks- not accepted anywhere- and that is when I found out that Italian banks are very different! In one I had to be buzzed in through a bullet proof door and all the bullet proof glass didn't help the translating and I had to give my passport and it took forever to change money. The other time there was less security but the line took forever, too! The exchanges charge too much. As a compromise :) you could get maybe 2-300 in euro denominations before leaving on your trip, to start with. Besides, even with a money belt I would worry carrying that much money around as he is suggesting. RS also suggests keeping about 200US in cash at all times in the money belt, and I think that's good advice. Congratulations, and have a wonderful honeymoon!

Posted by
5769 posts

Often discussed question. The answer usually comes out to: ATM is your best option....But have a back-up plan. For me, when an ATM doesn't work (Strike in Paris that prevented machines being filled, or a network outage in Italy) or I need more money than my daily limit allows, I have my credit card, including cash advance, and usually some US Dollars or Travelers Checks; both of which can be exchanged at any currency exchange in a pinch. You will pay some fee's in that case, but hey! it's an emergency!

Posted by
934 posts

I use ATMs and put 100.00 in cash in my moneybelt and my wifes moneybelt.I havnt used it but once when the ATMs were all down.

Posted by
1358 posts

Nearly all the experienced travelers who comment on this page agree that the ATM is the ONLY way to exchange currency in Europe.
Machines are easy to find and nearly all banks have them on the sidewalk in front of the bank.
I also take $50 in fives and tens to use for negotiating for small items, but seldom use them.
I use my credit card for accommodations and meals.

Posted by
36 posts

What is the best way to change back to US currency if you take out to much at the ATM and have extra Euro at the end of your trip ?

I just applied for a Capital One card as the Graffitti Board seemed to think that was the one with the least amount of fees. What is the ATM fee ?

Posted by
8700 posts

Sierra,

  1. Take the euros home with you so you can use them on your next trip to Europe!

  2. Take them home and sell them to someone who is planning a trip.

  3. Exchange them at an exchange bureau at the airport when you land in the US.

Posted by
26 posts

If you have lots of euros left over near the end of a trip, the best way to get rid of them is to pay your last one or two nights hotel charges with them instead of using a credit card. But don't forget to set aside enough euros to get back to the airport!
Avoid airport money exchange counters unless you like paying through the nose for currency exchange.

Posted by
112 posts

ATM's are great, but the fees can be awful depending on your bank. My bank - and I'm even employed by them in IT - charges $5 for non-bank transactions in foreign countries. So don't take small amounts from ATM's as the fees will add up each time. Take relatively larger amounts and stuff some away. The ATM rates are better than private exchanges but the fees offset that and can actually make the transaction worse. I use exchanges in the east because border crossings still mean changing currency, though Euro is often widely accepted in the EU but non-Euro countries.

Posted by
73 posts

Like a lot of the posters, we took some dollars and some euros.We never had to use our dollars.
We took 2 debit cards as a precaution but used the one that had cheaper fees almost exclusively.
We also took 2 credit cards and used the one that charged less for conversion. We found that credit unions seemed to have better deals than commercial banks but you would need an account there of course.

Posted by
421 posts

Last time we did a combo of travelers cheques, cash and then used our bank card. We put as much on visa as possible, as we get travel points.
We will not do travelers Cheques again...accept for the remainder of the apartment rental which asks for cash or Traveler cheque. We did find the best place to cash them if you use them was in post offices.

Posted by
582 posts

So much has been said about the Smart Chip that Europe has. My concern is that my credit cards would not work in ATM's in Europe. You really need cash for a back up if this should happen. But most of you here seem to have no problems with this. Is it only in parts of Europe that use only the Smart Chip? I will be in Berlin. Has anyone had any problems with ATM's there?

Posted by
8976 posts

You won't have any problems using ATM machines with either your credit card or debit card. The smart chip issue arises when you try to make point-of-sale purchases at places like supermarkets or gas stations. The hardware these type of businesses use to read your card will only accept plastic with smart chips. But, ATM machines in Europe still accept North American magnetic strip cards.

Posted by
112 posts

I have never encountered a merchant that only took cards with smart chips embedded in them. While they have the card scanner specifically for these, they've always gladly accepted mine without, and used the magnetic strip reader as usual.

Posted by
334 posts

Regarding using a credit card for cash withdrawal. This is never a good idea - even Capital One has large fees for that AND you pay interest immediately. Use an ATM or debit card for cash withdrawls except in an emergency. You can usually get more money per transaction with a credit card, but ours charge $10.00 fee then the interest - just not a good idea. Our credit union ATM has no fees for international use.

Posted by
97 posts

Only one time did I get about $100 in Euros that I bought state side. Only because I was arriving on a Sunday. From then on I have used ATM's and my credit card when needed. No problems even in the most remote area. Happy travels. Kim

Posted by
505 posts

I have never encountered a merchant that only took cards with smart chips embedded in them. While they have the card scanner specifically for these, they've always gladly accepted mine without, and used the magnetic strip reader as usual.<<
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That's for credit cards - almost all merchants will still swipe cards without chips. However, US DEBIT cards cannot generally be used for purchases in Europe, though they work just fine for getting money from an ATM etc.
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Kate

Posted by
505 posts

You won't get any better rate in the US than in Europe, and carrying large amounts of cash can be risky. Better to either just get it from cash machines in Europe (rate is just as good) or change a little before you leave the US and get the rest from cash machines.
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I would no longer depend on traveller's checks for emergencies - it is increasingly difficult to find anyone who will change them, including banks. And the rates are terrible. A bankcard to get cash from ATMs, a credit card and, if you want to be safe, a few Euros obtained from a bank in the US, are all you need in Europe.
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Kate

Posted by
1 posts

I am planning to go to Europe this summer and because the Euro seems to be getting stronger against the dollar, I am considering buying a good amount of Euros before leaving the US. Does anyone know if there is a limit on the amount of Euros taken out of the US or allowed into Europe?

Posted by
104 posts

We have a large bank in town that offers currency exchange and they do not charge like if you use your ccard which they charge the rate of a cash advance.

We take most of ours in cash for that reason. We always carry a $500 travelers check for emergency and a spare credit card.

I think it is a personal preference.

Check with your banks or American Express or AAA
I would not recommned taking US currency with expectations of changing it there.

Posted by
10 posts

Re: traveler's cheques in euros - I was told by one hotelier that the American Express office (near the Spanish Steps) would exchange AmEx euro cheques for cash, for free. Has anyone had any experience with this?

The hotelier did say that ATM is the best way to get cash, but if you can exchange for free wouldn't that be a good way to get around the ATM charges?

My bank offers AmEx euro traveler's cheques with no fees.

Would like to hear other people's opinions. I've never traveled to Europe so this is all new to me!

Posted by
204 posts

You are right. Use an ATM and an ATM or Check or Debit card (different names for same thing. Don't use AmEx. They may say they don't charge a fee but they do use a very bad exchange rate. Do not use American money and exchange it over there. Use an ATM card. I have been traveling to Europe since 1951 and I know what I am talking about. Do not use ATMs in airports or train stations, do not use Cambios. Use an ATM outside a recognized bank such as Banco de Roma or Livorno, etc. If you go inside TO A TELLER, you will pay an additional fee.

Posted by
104 posts

We don't carry all the money at 1 time and the Travelers check is in US currency - the American Express offices have always changed them with out question when we have needed to cash them.

Posted by
473 posts

Melissa - Charles is correct. AmEx invariably uses a bad exchange rate, so they can afford to not charge you an extra fee. ATMs offer the best way to go. We bring an ATM card from 2 different accounts, in case there is a problem with one card or account. And we bring about $200-300 in US currency as a backup. The ATM cards need to be tied to a checking account, as ATM systems in Europe almost always can withdraw only from a checking account, not a savings account. Make sure you notify your banks, with which you have your ATM and credit cards, which countries you are travelling to and the dates. Unexpected overseas activity raises a red flag at banks, possibly causing the bank to freeze your account. Also read the "Minimizing ATM fees" forum on the Graffiti Wall, for more tips.

Posted by
1630 posts

Double ditto to call your bank before you go! You do not need the additional hassle of trying to get your card re-started when the anti-fraud computer program picks up on your out-of-country charges. Just in case though, make sure to pack the non 1-800 number to call your bank (800 numbers don't work in Italy).

That said, I bought about $250 of euros through my AAA office (one time flat fee of $7.50 for any amount of foreign currency). Make sure to request some small bills, esp. if you plan to take a cab from the airport. Took $100 US as back up (only used it in the airport on the way home). Exclusively used a credit union ATM debit/Visa card for all purchases and cash withdrawls. ATM exchange rate was fine, only $1.50 per withdrawl and no extra charge for purchases. Saved euros upon return to sell to a friend headed to Europe after me.

Posted by
389 posts

Clearly this is a popular conversation. I think this is somewhat personal preference. I never take travelers checks anymore (1st trip in 88 that was the way to carry cash) but I like to have a little money when I hit the ground so go to my credit union which gives great rates and no charge for buying foreign currency. Then I use my CU atm card for cash for the rest of trip. My 2 CUs have different rates of charge; one charges $1 per ATM and no exchange fees; one charges $2.50 per withdrawl and 1% on all currency exchanges. Check around if you have time to get a new bank or Credit Union.

Posted by
6 posts

I have an account at an internet bank for just this purpose - most ATM charges are refunded (up to $8/month) and, after using them for 4 overseas trips (3 Europe - including Turkey & Rep. of Georgia - and one China/Japan) I found their exchange rates to be as good, or better, than published rates. Many overseas banks do not have ATM charges but I usually withdraw the maximum each time just to save time. Right now, ATMs are ubiquitous throughout Europe. As was previously stated, be sure to notify your bank of your intended itinerary so you don't get caught in a fraud check. I take another bank ATM card just in case but have never had to use it. Most hotels/hostels that take credit cards will take your debit card. One warning, do not let waiters, etc. take a debit card away from your table to swipe it.

Posted by
35 posts

Kathryn, I was in Europe in May and what I did was bring about $500 in cash and wore it my money belt just in case. I used ATM exclusively the entire time because you get a much better rate and that includes the fee from the banks. In fact I came home with the entire $500. I was amazed at the horrible rate the money exchange places were giving. Make sure to call your bank and credit card companies and alert them of where you will be and when.