Euros

What is the cheapest way to buy Euros before heading to France? Also, is it better to use a credit card or debit card.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11280 posts

For buying Euro over here before heading to Europe, buy them from Wells Fargo. Their rate, at about 5%, is the best I have found. I always like to have a few hundred in Euro before I arrive in Europe, but no more. Get the rest from the ATM over there, just like you would here. Shop around for a small bank or credit union here without a foreign exchange operation. They should charge you just 1% over the Interbank exchange rate. Large banks, like Wells Fargo, Chase, USBank, will charge you about 3% over. Some banks (Bank of America?) have reciprocal agreements with a few banks in Europe so you might get the Interbank exchange rate. When using the ATMs in Europe, always use an ATM or debit card. Using a credit card is a cash advance and has large fees plus interest.

Posted by Lynn
Laguna Beach, CA, USA
8 posts

Thanks. I've been told by Discover that it doesn't charge any fee for using an ATM for cash. I'll be checking that out. Thoughts?

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4877 posts

Is that for a cash advance, or is it like taking your own money from your bank account?

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

If you don't pay a transaction charge for your cash advance on the Discover Card you will certainly be paying - through the nose - every day for the very high interest charges every day, from the moment you get the money.

Posted by Lynn
Laguna Beach, CA, USA
8 posts

Thanks. All. Re: the private car there are four of us travelling. The optional tours offered by Gate 1 the cruise company are $$$$ about 500 dollars for each of us for a tour of Lyon and Avigion. I've been to both in my old backbacking days and there is no way we need to pay 2K plus tips for a bus tour. It may be just as easy as taking a cab to the city center and off from there. I just thought we might be able to have a car and driver (no tour guide) for about 300$ pere day to take us to the various sites. Thoughts. Also thansk Midlands on Discover card. Anyone with any comments on the Gate 1 river cruise March 31 starting in Paris April 1st, a bit surprised to find out we have to find our own way to catch the train to Lyon on the third day seems pretty cheezy. We'r at the Paris Tour Eiffel Mecure Hotel. Anyone have any comments on it. Thanks again. PS If anyone needs advice on Laguna Beach CA let me know!

Posted by Lynn
Laguna Beach, CA, USA
8 posts

Any thoughts on cars or taxis to pick us up at ports: Lyon,
Arles, Avigion. Drop us off at major sites then wait to take us back to ship? As I mentioned there are four of us and Gate 1 wants 553 dollars each to put on on buses. Seems really outrageous. Or perhaps we should take a cab into town and rent a car. Regardless more than $2000 is insane. Thoughts.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

About getting Euros before leaving the US. I agree with Lee, it's best if you can use ATM's to get your Euros in cash in Europe, for the most part. However, I like landing in a foreign country with some of its currency in my pocket. For that purpose, check out the good old AAA. If you're an AAA member you can purchase a TipPak at some of their local offices, which contains $100 worth of your choice: Euros, GBP, Canadian dollars or Mexican pesos. You'd have to call your local office to get the exchange rate; I've done this before with GBP and it wasn't a bad deal. AAA also offers online ordering of currency, processed by Wells Fargo. The exchange rates look decent to me. If you're not an AAA member, perhaps a friend or relative who is, would be willing to get the Euros for you.

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
916 posts

Andrea: To answer your question while veering a bit of topic, using a credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM is indeed a cash advance, like a loan. Your bank starts charging you interest the instant you take the money from the machine. In my case, that's at 19 per cent per annum. If you wait until your monthly statement to pay it off, next month the bank will add interest for the time it takes to receive that payment. As well, some banks will consider all charges, not just the cash advance, to be part of the loan. This is a very very bad deal. The only way to beat this knee-capping interest rate is to deposit a surplus in your credit account and then don't exceed it for the total of the cash advance and all purchases charged in the month.
ATMs, on the other hand, give you money from your account. It's yours, not a loan, and subject only to service fees and currency exchange rates.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

AAA TipPaks are a bad deal, generally. The price of the package is a set amount, but the number of euros varies according to what they paid for them. I checked with my local office for a trip last May. At that time, the euro was about $1.32. The AAA package worked out to $1.58. I was told that until those particular packages were sold and they bought new ones, the rate would not change. I ended up getting a small quantity from Wells Fargo instead. But you can just as easily hit the ATM when you arrive. I would be cautious if you wanted to try the plan suggested by the previous poster of overpaying your credit card in order to build a spendable "cushion" that would be free of some fees. It has been reported here that in some cases, the credit card company, seeing the large surplus, cashed it out and sent the customer a check - which arrived after they had left for their trip. Be sure that you understand the credit card's terms and conditions if you want to try it.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

Check with your traveling friends. Maybe someone has excess euros from their trip. If asked, I would have sold some of my leftover euros to a friend at the current interbank rate. Now I'm planning another trip and will be glad to have a ready supply of money. I've bought euros through my bank. There is a "markup" of about 6% plus another fee if I order under a certain amount. I think it is $1000, but it pays to ask. If you just want enough for landing and getting to your hotel, you can get some euros at the airport. Probably Travelex. Probably a big markup, but you may feel more comfortable paying the fee rather than arriving in Europe with no local money.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

That's helpful info on the TipPaks, Nancy. I probably just lucked out with the exchange rate the time I got one for GBP. But I did check out the AAA online order (not TipPak) exchange rate today (that info is available online), and it's 1.3862 dollars per Euro. The "mid market" exchange rate on xe.com right now is 1.31801.

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

A lot of people feel more comfortable having 100 or so euros in their pocket when they land. Nothing wrong with that. But it might help you to know that every international airport in Europe has ATM's, and they'll all work with your Visa or Mastercard-branded debit card from home. You'll also have no trouble finding ATM's anywhere in France. One caution is to stick to bank-owned ATM's. Avoid the private ones that you'll find in some grocery stores and gas stations. You're more likely to get hit with extra fees with those. If you use bank-owned ATM's, the only fees you'll pay will be those imposed by your own bank. The general rule is that there is no cheaper way to obtain foreign currency than by using your own debit card at ATM's in the country you're visiting. As Lee said in the first post, NEVER use a credit card at an ATM. A cash advance will cost you a lot more than a cash withdrawal. Of course most Americans can't do this anyway, because we don't know our credit cards' PINs (because we never have to use them). Finally, be sure to tell your bank ahead of time that you're going to France. Otherwise they might block your card when they see a foreign transaction.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

The current AAA rate for online purchases of euros and the quote is $1.43968, while the Oanda website reveals the exchange rate of $1.316. That's a bad rate in my opinion. Oh, Travelex is shown at the top of the AAA website. While surely there's a first time, I have never had a problem gaining foreign currency through bank associated ATMs at arrival international airports (Europe and elsewhere).

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

Do not purchase Euros in the U.S. before you leave. Upon your arrival at any airport, look for a real bank's ATM machines in the airport terminal to use your ATM card in. Your card will require a 4 digit number PIN. Everytime you have to see a person to buy Euros, whether in a change booth or a bank, you'll pay dearly for their time. And don't think about using a credit card to buy Euros, as cash advances come with heafty discount fees of 3%plus most cards also rip you off on the exchange fees. And don't forget to call your bank to tell them where you're going and the dates you'll be gone. If not notified, most banks will lock up your card for overseas use to protect you from internet fraudsters.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3410 posts

Lynn, to address your other question about touring the 3 cities you mention, if you google "Tourism Avignon" ... "Tourism Lyons" etc, sites will come up with useful info, including guided tours (for Lyons, at least). It would be madness to pay Gate 1 the huge amount of money they are asking. If it were me I would take a taxi to the Tourist Office in each city and ask for help touring or seeing the city on your own.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

Earlier this morning - just before my second post above - I signed in to the Colorado AAA website as member, followed their links concerning foreign currency services, and the exchange rate I was given was 1.3862 dollars per Euro, as I stated above. This was on a page which said the service was provided via Wells Fargo. I entered (but of course didn't complete) a couple of transactions, one for about $25 worth of Euros, for which there would have been a $10 shipping/delivery fee, and one for $200 worth, for which there were no shipping or other fees. Interesting that Bruce found something by way of AAA which quoted a higher exchange rate.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

Lynn, you're probably not getting much response about your three city tour because your question was posted to the "General Europe" section of the Helpline and it is titled "Euros". If you posted a question to the "To the West" section which is for France and gave the post a title related to your question about the three cities you might be seen by more people who could help. It sound to me like you want to have one tour by train or bus or private car of the three cities and are balking at the proposed price. You do realize just how far apart the three cities are, right? And that somebody driving from Avignon to Lyon to Arles to Avignon will be driving for nearly 6 and a half hours and spend nearly €40 in tolls and €60 in fuel for a car?

Posted by Allen
Lafayette, LA
194 posts

What is the cheapest way to buy euro before heading to France? I will compare and contrast my own situaton. I understand every situation is different depending upon what kind of card you use, and how fee-maniacal your own bank may be. I am using today's quoted exchange rates: Ordering euro from Wells Fargo online (No bank branch nearby and I don't have an account, I assume the fee is waived for account holders) Rate 1.386 Shipping and Handling Fee $15.00 Total cost for 150 euro = $222.92 Total cost w/o fee = $207.92 (not bad) Buying euro from my own bank in person Rate 1.396 Fee $10 (for what?) Total cost for 150 euro = $219.42 Withdrawing euro from the Paris airport ATM Rate 1.322
Fee 0 (using a Schwab Visa Debit Card) Total cost for 150 euro = 198.30

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3410 posts

Lynn: I just checked the Gate 1 cruise you are taking and the way I understand it, the approx. $500 charge is not just for Lyon, Avignon and Arles, but for every cruise stop on the Rhone/Saone itinerary, includng a not-to-be-missed visit to Pont du Gard. This makes a lot more sense and explains the high charge. Still, for the 3 cities you mention you and your friends can certainly tour them on your own, as well as the much smaller ports on the rivers. As far as transferring in Paris to the Gare de Lyon for the train to Lyon, just take a taxi from your hotel, unless you really fancy taking your luggage on the metro. Get your hotel to order a taxi large enough for all of you and your luggage. The fare divided by 4 will be minimal.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11280 posts

The OP is from Laguna Beach, Calif, and the advice is for her. 1. There are branches of Wells Fargo all around her, including Laguna Beach; she will not have to pay the shipping charge. 2. Not everyone has a Schwab account, and Schwab only say "no fees". That doesn't say "no charge". Most banks give you an exchange rate that is not as favorable as the Interbank rate. 3. If you use a major bank (WF, Chase, etc) ATM card, they will charge as much as 4% (3% exch rate plus a fee that is 1% or more). Money at the WF exchange counter is only 1% more than that. 4. What is the cost if your ATM card doesn't work? I've had that happen, with two cards, at the same time. A phone call to my bank would have corrected the situation, but how do you make the phone call without money? How soon can the bank rectify the problem? Where do you stay that night? How do you eat? Someone told of landing in Rome when the ATM workers were on strike and all of the machines were out of cash. Twenty dollars extra to know you have money when you land is cheap insurance. BTW, I go often to Europe and always bring home enough cash to cover my return.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

There are no fees with a Schwab debit card when used for ATM withdrawals. To learn the current cost of say euros, Schwab directs customers to VISA.com. Search for currency conversion and ask for U.S. dollars and euros, placing a zero in the bank fee box. This produces a current rate of $1.324 as set by VISA not Schwab. The interbank bid/ask spread a few minutes ago was $1.32030 - $1.32035. Is there a cheaper way to purchase euros? My Schwab debit card has worked flawlessly for years.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

FTFs are kind of like pickpockets - - entertaining to talk about, but not of much consequence. Consider a hypothetical two-week vacation or twelve days really spending money. Figure an outrageous expenditure of four hundred bucks a day. Forty-eight hundred dollars is going down the tube. Stick half of it on a credit card - -twenty-four hundred to plastic. An ftf is usually around two percent, about double what an atm stiffs you in exchange rate. Effectively, you're paying one percent to put that twenty-four hundred dollars on a credit card. Simple math: $24. Not exactly a game-changer.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

Utilizing the figures above, simply switching to a low cost ATM card and avoiding the use of a credit card, saves over $58. OK, so I admit to being thrifty.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Actually, I was thinking of an atm card that charges nothing, the only loss was in the conversion rate vice the interbank rate. Plus, if you use a credit card, you've got an interest-free loan for x number of days. It's angels on a pin head. I have a foreign rental car somewhere close to half of the year. That goes on the credit card for about $4500. Figure half that for gas, minimally $2300. Those numbers go on the same cc, year in and year out. Figure maybe another $4000 goes on that credit card for hotels, beats me. I just fished the bill out of the trash - - it shows I paid $218 in ftf last year for that credit card. The others don't get as much use, so figure another $100. Mentally, it's less than a couple of bucks a day. Trying to figure the offset for use of somebody else's money makes my head hurt.