How to get Euros before I leave?

I had my debit card skimmed on my last trip and I'd like to bring Euro's with me in big bills this trip for my hotels. I called AAA but their rate is high--anyone have other ideas on how I can obtain at the lowest cost in the U.S.?
Thanks!

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2373 posts

As you are finding, most currency exchange has a "cost" associated with it of at least 10% or more. That can be either in fees or poor exchange rate. As noted above, Wells Fargo Bank has offered exchange for as little as 5%, which is pretty good relatively speaking. Despite your bad experience before, I do think using an ATM with your debit card is the best way. It's not only cheaper but offers you protection if your card is skimmed or used fraudulently. I assume now you are aware of what a skimmer looks like and can avoid it happening again.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17725 posts

Jill, I would highly recommend taking along a "backup" debit/ATM card, in case of any problems with the primary card. I've had that happen on past trips and without an alternate way to obtain cash, I would have had a real problem.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

I'm curious, how did your debit card get skimmed? If you are a member of one of the big banks they can get euros for you if they don't have them on hand. I know Wells Fargo will. We have gotten foreign currency twice through AAA. If you buy a thousand dollars worth you don't pay any shipping and handling. I think you should consider continuing using your debit card in ATMs to get your cash.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7819 posts

Jill sorry I had my card skimmed here at home,, so it has little to do with location.. I would never bring all my money in cash.. I would and do still use my debit card for cash withdrawals in Europe. The thing is,, if you have your card skimmed you are protected ( at least with our banks, maybe its different in States?) but if you have your cash stolen or lost.. well you are hooped. Also, taking a bunch of big bills can be a problem, many small places ( cafes, crepe stands etc) do not want to take the 100s, and some don't even like the 50s.. and banks there will not break them for you( most banks there will simply not deal with a non customer period) .

Posted by JILL
Federal Way, WA, USA
107 posts

I belong to a credit union and they did catch the skimmer (happened in Venice and they tried to use my info in Bulgaria). When I went to Turkey, I brought cash and loved it. Big bills are for my hotels only and the rest will be smaller denominations for shops, etc. I'm gone for 2 weeks and my hotels only take cash so I need some big bucks...will keep it in my money belt! :) THanks for the responses, appreciate it.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

Have you tried Wells Fargo Bank? It appears they charge about 5%.

Posted by Becca Volosko
Kansas CIty
8 posts

I was able to do a Euro exchange at the airport for about a $10 fee. That could be something to look into.

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

Airport currency exchanges may offer a seemingly low fee, but they'll totally gouge you with their exchange rate. The least expensive way to obtain foreign currency, always, is to use ATM's in the host country.

Posted by JILL
Federal Way, WA, USA
107 posts

Thanks all, I think I will just use my debit. AAA wants 10 cents on the dollar to exchange--too pricey.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11256 posts

You didn't say where you are going in Europe. Germany is a predominately cash society. Don't use your debit card at all in Germany, except at ATMs, and use credit cards only when absolutely necessary. Use cash as much as possible and get the cash from bank ATMs. In addition to the security aspect of using cash, you'll pay less. Most economical establishments - accommodations and restaurants - take only cash. If you go to places in Germany that take plastic, you'll be spending more to get the same thing with cash.

Posted by George
Canada
815 posts

I have to disagree with Lee. Other than Berlin, which still loves cash BUT is becoming more and more CC accepted, the rest of Germany is pretty CC friendly. "If you go to places in Germany that take plastic, you'll be spending more to get the same thing with cash." How can that be. The price is the price, cash or CC. Now if the posted price is cash, and you want to use a CC, they will tell you that they are adding on a surcharge for the use (which, on this side of the pond, is illegal!)

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7954 posts

...a surcharge for the use (which, on this side of the pond, is illegal! Then whycome some gas stations have a price for cash and another for credit? I'd side with Lee, but we both travel on the cheap end of the stick. Maybe if you sleep in the GrandSupremoDelux things are different. In any case, it's experience based on anecdotal information.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11256 posts

@George, I suggest you get out of your tourist bubble and become acquainted with the real Germany. I've spent over 140 days (over 4 months) traveling in Germany since 2000 (I'm currently in Germany) and have stayed in a lot of places (40-50). I think only three or four places have accepted credit cards. If you stay in a hotel with more than 1 star, by DEHOGA rules, they must accept credit cards, but DEHOGA hotels are the exception, and more expensive. Yes, big chain hotel and hotels in resort areas are more likely to take plastic, but get out into the country and you'd better have cash. And, like I said, the places that take cards are the ones that already include enough "fat" in their prices to pay the CC commision (one Gasthof owner told me he would have to take a 10% recuction for credit cards).

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2855 posts

Some hotels give a discount for paying with cash. The result is the same as a surcharge for using the cc. Legally there may be a difference.

Posted by George
Canada
815 posts

@Lee - since you're playing THAT game - I'll stack up my 200+ days, over a similar period. I stand by my cash / CC experience, in Germany. @Ed - "...but we both travel on the cheap end of the stick..." Geez, no fun travelling on the cheap, on holidays! @Ed - "Then whycome some gas stations have a price for cash and another for credit?" Don't know what your point is on this - both prices are posted - pick your poison. @Swan - but you know that going in. Further, on CCs, AMEX is the most hated due to their high POS fees. Generally, CCs charge POS fees in the 1.5 - 5% range, depending on monthly sales.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11256 posts

"which, on this side of the pond, is illegal!" Actually, in most states it is not illegal. The credit card companies make the merchant sign a contract not to charge for using the card (they are still allowed to give a discount for cash). I think the Feds recently made that agreement (not to charge extra for cards) illegal unless state law prohibited it. Unfortunately, Colorado is one of the few states that does prohibit it. BTW, when I was in Washington state in February, every gas station there had two tiered prices, higher if you used a credit card! But what I meant was that the places that don't take credit cards are usually the less expensive places. It's only the more expensive places that take cards. So if you are only staying where you can use the card, you are paying more for your accommodations than you need to. "Geez, no fun travelling on the cheap, on holidays!" I won't say that I "travel on the cheap." However, since I don't have unlimited financial resources, the less money I spend unnecessary (like going places where they take credit cards), the more often I can come back. Face it, the cost of taking credit cards has to be passed on to the customer.

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
440 posts

I didn't know 140 days in a country can make a expert. Get real. Most of what this guy writes has little or nothing to do with real travel. So he stay's in cheap hotels. Does that make a hero. Most of the places he writes about most travelers could care less. Let's quit with the number of days and nights. Most of the people who write here could have spent years. I am with you George. I pay with cc all the time. To call Germany a cash society is just plain wrong. I am sorry for the vent but why would you badmouth someone for their opinion. Oh thats right you have a 140 days in country.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11256 posts

For your information, I have never stayed in a "cheap" place in Germany - economical (not overpriced), yes; cheap, no. I just checked into this Gasthof in Pfronten, about the same distance from Füssen as Reutte, on the Ausserfernbahn, on which we will travel tomorrow to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Mittenwald. We have a comfortable double room, which is spotlessly clean, for 59€ (for both of us, with breakfast). I have found this to be typical of Germany. Per DEHOGA, hotels with 1 to 5 stars all have to meet the same conditions of cleanliness and maintenance, and hotels without stars also meet those conditions. The so-called "advantage" of multistar hotels is that they have things like 24 hour room service and shoe-shine machines in the hall. As the hotess was taking us to our room, she emphasized that they don't take credit cards (I wasn't planning on it). This is the fourth place I have stayed in the last 12 days. The first place, for 86€, was a 3-star hotel and did, as DEHOGA requires for more than 1 star, take credit cards. The last two, a hotel for 80€/nt (DZ) and a Ferienwohnung for 43€n/nt, did not take plastic.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8731 posts

Lee, That place looks really nice. I've not yet spent the night in Pfronten but just might now. Is it where their map shows or actually in Pfronten-Steinach? Isn't this different than the last place you stayed there? I hadn't been familiar with the expression <<Katzensprung>> but I really like it. Gute Reise.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11256 posts

Nigel, if you mean the map under "Anfahrt", no, Google doesn't have it right. They are in Steinach. The are on the main street that runs through town from the Steinach Bahnhof to the Ried Bahnhof, near the Steinach Bhf end. Pfronten is actually not a "town", it is a collection of 13 (?) villages (Ried, Steinach, Weißbach, et al) that have grown together. Last time (2009) I stayed in Pfronten, I stayed at another place, Löwen, a ½ km or so NW or here. Löwen was all right, but I like Aggenstein better. My only objection is that almost everyone here can speak English, but that would be helpful for most people on this site.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I've often disagreed with Lee, but he's right on this one. I've LIVED in Germany for nearly 3 years. Almost all my daily expenditures are in cash. When I do use a card, it's my chip & pin card, which most Americans won't have (and shouldn't bother getting for a trip) There are only a few things I use a credit card for: Hotels Pricier train tickets (purchased online in advance usually) Larger department store purchases
Nice dinners at somewhat fancy restaurants For everything else, cash. It's much easier that way. If I'm worried about carrying too much cash on my person, I leave some at home or in a gasp hotel safe (or sometimes not even in a safe!!) Never had a problem.