Is it true that AAA is a good place to exchange currency?

I read this somewhere and am trying to verify. Thanks.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

Usually not. Their fees can be very high. If you want to take foreign currency with you, I'd suggest checking with your local bank to see if they can get it for you.

Posted by Barbara
Houston, Texas, USA
34 posts

Chase will sell you Euros w/o any fee. Whatever the rate is for that day is what you get. You can pay for them one day and pick them up the next.

Posted by Lisa
Beautiful Austin TX
582 posts

I think AAA must be one of the worst! I used AAA in Berlin, and their fees were up the roof!
Good idea to avoid AAA.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
6808 posts

Regarding banks that say "no fee" for euros: This topic is frequently discussed here and the last 2 or 3 people who were told no fee found that the banks they went to were offering an exchange rate that is 8 to 10 cents higher than the interbank rate. A recent example was somebody whose bank said they would not charge a fee, but when he inquired about the exchange rate found that on a day when the interbank rate was $1.545, about what it is today, the exchange rate offered by the bank was $1.63, a markup of 5.5% for the bank. This person concluded that using his ATM card in Europe to get cash would only cost him the interbank rate +2% to 3% or about $1.58, not the $1.63 from the "no fee" bank. If the exchange rate you're getting from your bank for the "no fee" deal is more than the interbank rate plus 2% to 3%, your bank is not doing you any favors, since they probably buy the euros at the interbank rate--and while you can't get that rate, you can get interbank + 2% or 3% in Europe at ATM machines or by using your credit card.

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
2381 posts

Keep in mind, where ever you go, there is some "loss" whether they call it a fee, wrap it into the exchange rate, or both. Go to a site like Oanda.com and get the current interbank exchange rate. Currently, a hundred Euros would cost $154.83 US, if you could get that rate. Then compare what 100 Euros would cost with fees and exchange rates included, that will lead you to the best deal. For comparision, an ATM in Europe, if your bank does not have outrageous fees, would be 2-4% over the interbank rate, so still less than $160. Credit Card used in Europe (Again dependent on fees) about the same, maybe more like 3-5%. Some banks and AAA can be up to 10%.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11276 posts

"Chase will sell you Euros w/o any fee. Whatever the rate is for that day is what you get."

Not whatever the rate is, but whatever their (Chase's) rate is for that day is what you get. Don't confuse "their" rate with the Interbank rate; Chase's rate is about 5-1/2% higher. They're using a technicality here. Just because they don't call it a fee, doesn't mean it won't cost you something. I called Chase and they currently want $1.63/Euro (vs ~$1.55 for the Interbank rate).

As for AAA, when I checked with them several years ago, they were just above Wells Fargo's rate of 5%, not enough higher considering I could get the cash there instead of having to go to WF's downtown branch, but I've seen recently that they are now using Travelex, which has a very unfavorable exchange rate (about 7-1/2%)!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11276 posts

The really disgusting thing is that the Network (M/C, Visa, Cirrus, Plus, et al) only charge your bank 4/10% for currency exchange, ie, to pay the European bank in Euro and collect from your bank in equivalent $. However, big banks, like Wells Fargo and Chase, that have a foreign currency exchange operation, forego that feature, choosing instead to pay the Network in Euro, and collect from you in dollars plus a 3% exchange fee.

That's a big profit from them, a feeling of being screwed, justifiably, for you.

Posted by Jeff
Fort Worth, TX, USA
84 posts

Lee's information is right on mark. I just purchased 2000 Euros from Chase for our upcoming trip and their markup was about 5.54% above the current exchange rate.

I didn't want to buy the euros now but we need E500 cash our first day, an additional E500 by day 3, and E400 more by day 5 (to pay for two apartments and a day trip, all of which required cash). With 250E per day limits on ATM withdrawls we would have been maxing those out every day just to pay for major expenses, leaving no cash for food, souvenirs, etc. so I really felt compelled to buy euros before going - and the way oil prices are skyrocketing I don't see the dollar getting much stronger in the next four weeks before we go.

I understand why most folks would want to have minimum cash on hand when they arrive but that simply didn't work for us, given that we're using apartments rather than hotels and we have a day trip to the Dolomites planned on Day 3 . . . so that advice works for most, but not all.

Posted by Patton
Prague
65 posts

Why not just take the local currency out at the ATM when you arrive rather than exchange currencies? So much easier.

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
3076 posts

Because there is a limit on daily withdrawal amounts. With the US Dollar being so low, you must withdraw large sums of dollars to get 500 Euros.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

Many banks daily ATM limits are not set in stone.

Some banks will allow you to ask for a higher limit (this used to be common but is getting less so because big banks don't really do individual service any more)

More likely, banks have multiple checking account options. Most of us likely have the free checking option. One feature of that option is a $500 daily limit on ATM withdrawels (not 500 euros). Banks also have their "premium" checking accounts that gives a variety of added services such as free checks, free travelers checks, free notary services and a higher daily limit on your ATM (usually $1000 per day). The account may have a $10 per month service charge unless you have suitable balances with them in deposits and loans. Usually you can move in and out of the account type. A one month $10 fee may be worth it if you know you will need more cash than your daily limit allows.

Third option, set up more than one account and bring multiple cards for cash withdrawels.