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Euros - before you go???

I was wondering if it would be worth paying the bank fees to order euros to have before I go to Europe. Should I just take my debit card and use the ATM's instead?


Posted by
80 posts

I always arrive with at least 100 euro (I get them at AAA) so that I don't worry about long lines, etc. at the airport. Once there, I use ATMs exclusively.

Posted by
55 posts

Do you know how long it takes to get the Euros from AAA? Do they send them to you or do you pick them up there at the AAA store? I'm leaving early July so I gues I should try to do that soon!

Posted by
1568 posts

No. Just go to ATM in airport and take out your limit.

Be sure to notify your bank your departure day, return date and the countries you will be visiting.

Check to make sure your PIN # will work in the countries you are visiting and your limit per day.

Posted by
84 posts

I have always had my bank pull between $100-200 in Euros for me before I leave -- just so I can buy quick things as needed upon landing. That way, if there is any issue with the ATM machines in the terminal I am covered. I actually try to pay with Credit Card as much as possible, for the stronger exchange rate, but use both an ATM Card and Credit Card at ATMs regularly in Europe.

Posted by
49 posts

I took 500 in euro with me to Italy this month, it was the first time I had ever arrived in Europe with euros in hand. Thank God I did as NONE of my bank cards worked in the ATMs for the first 3 days despite the fact that I had called each bank/credit card company to tell them I would be using the cards in Italy. I e-mailed my husband in a panic as my money was dwindling (I had to pay the landlord cash) and he went personally to the bank to try and straighten this out. It took 3 days until they un-froze my cards!

Posted by
705 posts

I too always take some Euros as then you don't have to worry about changing money or finding an ATM when you arrive. Once there I use ATM's. I do notify my bank that there will be overseas transactions and that there will be a change to the usage pattern. I have never had a problem thank goodness.

Posted by
18052 posts

I strongly recommend that you have some Euro with you when you get there. ATM problems are rare, but I have experienced them myself on two occasions.

Who would you fly to another city in the U.S. with an empty wallet and rely on the ATMs when you got there. I don't think anyone would be that risky. And, if you have a problem with an ATM in the U.S., it would be far easier to fix it than if you were in Europe.

Arriving in Europe without any local currency is like playing Russian roulette. No matter how small you think the odds are of getting caught, the consequences aren't worth it.

But I don't understand the person who says they "always" get Euro from their bank. I make it a point to always bring home a few hundred so I will have them in my pocket when I arrive the next time.

Posted by
479 posts

Jamie, I was left with an interesting situation on my last trip. You may glean a lesson. My wife and I decided not to get Euros State-side until we got to Frankfurt. We had a layover in Copenhagen which isn't on the Euro. Since we were going to Euro-only countries we didn't want to get Danish currency. We were ravagingly hungry in Copenhagen and couldn't eat anything on the layover because we had no cash.
In Frankfurt the first thing did was get cash for train tickets and food. It took several attempts to figure out that the ATM had a limit on how much we could take out at a time. We finally were able to buy a sandwich. We were so hungry!
I hope this helps. Trying to buy something immediately upon arrival is about the only reason to bring the cash with you. The "greenback" is still an ok fall-back but not like it used to be. If you can stand the wait, ATMs when you arrive are the way to go. Next time we will pack more carry-on food rather than pay extra to have Euros before we leave.

Posted by
360 posts

I always bring enough euros to get me to the hotel. To make it easy on myself, I always return from a trip with enough Euros for my next trip. If I haven't kept back enough, I get them at my airport before leaving the US. The rate is high, but I love being able to bypass the ATM lines when I arrive.

Posted by
40 posts

Just bought 550 Euros for my trip through Witte Travel and Travelex( There were no additional charges and my items were Fedexed free because of the amount of money I spent. I could find no one else offering such a cheap rate (I got them in two days). Because I used my debit card on the site, I was also not charged any fees by the bank).

Posted by
26 posts

I've never found it necessary to buy foreign currency prior to arrival.
If it is not possible to pay for the train trip into town with a credit card, then I either withdraw from the ATM, or failing that, exchange 40 or 50 dollars.

Credit cards are accepted on the Paris RER, Munich S-Bahn, Leonardo Express in Rome, CAT train in Vienna, London tube, and many other places. Also, many, but certainly not all, taxis and shuttles accept credit cards.

I have been on layovers in airports without currency. If I want to get something to eat, I just use a credit card.

Posted by
18052 posts

Kelly, you could be a poster boy for the "don't get Euro before you go" side.

First, other than exchange desks at airports, Travelex has the worst exchange rates I know of. According to Witte Travel's website, today they were charging $1.437/EUR. The interbank rate, per, was $1.345. That is a markup of 6.8%. 550 Euro today from Witte would have cost $790, $50 over the exchange rate.

I checked some other sites. Bank of America's was charging 6.2%, accounting for shipping on €550. Similarly, Wells Fargo wanted 6.0%.

Bank of America has branches around Arnold and the St. Louis area. Had you gone to one with foreign currency sales, you would have paid only 5.17%. I could have gotten Euro locally (CO) at Wells Fargo for 4.9%.

Your other mistake was getting so much. It's one thing to have some emergency Euro when you arrive, but that was several ATM withdrawals worth.

Posted by
18052 posts

Sorry, Kelly, I'm not trying to pick on you, but there are good lessons here for everyone. 1. Try to avoid Travelex. Shop around; there are better rates. 2. Only get what you will realistically need in an emergency. 3. Bring some home with you for next time.

Of course, if you really need that much on hand when you arrive, such as to prepay a hotel or tour, the amount can't be helped.

Posted by
57 posts

I always take several hundred Euros that I pick up in the airport before I leave. I used to only take enough for cabs and a couple of meals and use ATM's or Credit Cards. But now, banks are adding on large feels when you use baks outside the country and credit card companies also are tacking on fees. I've seen as much as 10 percent of the purchase tacked on - world class rip off. I now try to limit the amount of visists to the ATM's and use Credit cards only for major purchases or the hotel.

Posted by
1003 posts

what credit cards are you using?! Even the ones that charge fees do anywhere between 1-3% or so - which is not great but certainly better than what you've gotta be getting at the airport. Moreover, CapitalOne credit cards have NO fees. I called around to a bunch of big banks in LA (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Washington Mutual) and their ATM fees were the same (or so they said) - $5 per transaction and 1% of the withdrawal - again, far far cheaper than the highway robbery you pay at the airport... when you are overseas and charge something with a credit card you have to be careful of the DCC fee that merchants will try to charge sometimes I guess - but if you demand an itemized bill and to be charged in the local currency, you should be fine.

Posted by
1 posts

We ALWAYS get our money in the US. I know it means carrying cash, but, use your money belt. We have had too many bad things happen in ATM machines. We save the credit card purchases for larger meals, hotel bills, other purchases. Having cash on hand also means not needing to find a bank, or wonder which ATM is not going to take your card etc. I also thing it helps to prevent over spending.

Posted by
221 posts

I know this was posted awhile ago, but it is interesting to read what people's opinions are and different experiences. I have 2 ATM cards from two different credit unions that use international debit/ATM companies. In 3 trips to Europe in the last 5 years, one of them always worked and the other never did, even when I checked with my credit unions ahead of time. They also have smaller caps on how much you can withdraw each day, but can up that temporarily when you travel. Running out of money is a drag and in a small town you can spend a lot of time running around trying to find a cash machine that works. I change most of my money at the airport when I arrive and try not to think about the exchange rate or if I could have saved a percentage point at another place. I chalk it up to the expense of traveling and put it in my money belt and go have fun!

Posted by
9363 posts

Lee, you bring home a "few hundred" euro to keep for your next trip? Must be nice to have that kind of money left over after a European vacation! Why do you feel you need to tie up so much money that you can't earn interest on (because it's sitting in your house) for some future trip? I usually save 20 or so, but not a few hundred (even if I had that much I'd exchange most of it before returning).

Posted by
2000 posts

With the way the dollar is dropping against the euro, keeping euros you get now for another trip in the future might turn out to be a wise investment choice!

Posted by
1 posts

It is nice to have a few Euros in case you arrive and need extra money in the airport, or for a cab ride, etc.
Rather than use my debit/bank card that I normally use in the USA for personal banking -- I use a bank card that is Bank of America because BofA has partner banks throughout the world. In England it is Barclay's Bank and in France - BNP.
I don't know the partner bank in Germany.

However, when you use B of A bank card you avoid many of the added fees and terrible exchange rates because you are a member of that bank. It is just like in the US when you go to your own bank for withdrawals you avoid inter bank fees. I don't use my B of A card for anything other than travelling overseas.

I would not under any circumstances use a Master Card or Visa to get money from an ATM machine because the minute you receive the money you have essentially taken out a loan and anywhere from 12-24% interest begins to accure instantly!!

Posted by
1449 posts

In contrast to Emily's post, I ALWAYS use a credit card to get money from the ATM and I don't pay any cash advance interest charges.

How do I do this? I send a payment for the money I expect to need into my credit card before I go (a card in which I pay off in full every month so it has no balance). It's no different than making sure you have enough money in your checking account before you go if you were to use a debit card.

If the bank has not loaned you any money, there is no interest charge. I prefer using a credit card so I can dispute charges should there be some error, rather than a debit card in which the money is already gone from my checking count.

Posted by
44 posts

I like Mike's solution--will have to try that next time. I must have been nuts because I flew into Rome without a single euro (did have US dollars though). Bought a ticket to Termini with my credit card. Bought a ticket to Florence with my credit card. Arrived at my B&B still with no euros (and this my first trip out of the US!). Luckily I was meeting my daughter who had 50 euro so we could have lunch before finding an ATM! A lesson I learned is that I could not get as much per day from the ATM as my credit union had said. Also, once I arrived at an ATM I had used 2 days before and found that it was gone--literally! I had already thrown away my list of Rome ATMs I could use and had to get online and find another. One of those was gone also!