Money in France/England

My wife, daughter, and I will be traveling to France on an RS tour, but will be arriving early, then leaving a few days after the tour. I've searched regarding how much money to bring, but get everything from nothing at all to $2000 euros. We bank at a credit union, do not use their cards and after inquiries, realize they are clueless to European travel needs. So, we are using two credit cards (NOT DEBIT CARDS), Capital One and Chase for our needs. The question is, will these work at the ATM's in Europe? Will a four digit PIN work at an ATM? How can I find out before I leave?
I'm also unsure of how much cash we could spend each day on food... that seems to also be anywhere from 35 euros to 100 euros per person. Hard to figure out how to budget with such large ranges in spending... any suggestions?

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8731 posts

Don't do that. For all the reasons Nancy said. Don't do that. Can't you get ATM cards from either your CU (aren't they a member of a network like Visa or Cirrus?) or from a new bank that can get you what you need? ATMs with either a debit card or ATM card are by far easiest way, and almost certainly much less cost.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7819 posts

I can't imagine not bringing a proper debit card on my travels, and I can't imagine using my credit card for cash withdrawals except in emergencies. Go to your bank and get a debit card. Its simple and its how most everyone on this and every forum I go on does.. your idea is not a great one at all. As for daily cash, there are three of you, on tour you will need about 100-120 euros per day for food, thats 10-15 euros for lunches and 15-20 per per person for dinners. Keep in mind this will flucuate as some dinners are included. On those days you will still wish to have some money for dinner drinks if so inclined. Off tour you can count on about 5-10 euros for breakfast( hotel breakfasts are more expensive then just going out and getting your own at a cafe etc) , 15-20 lunch( but I actually eat cheaper since at lunch I usually just pick up a sandwich or crepe or piece of pizza etc not a sit down meal all the time) and 15-25 for dinners per head. You can of course spend alot more , or a bit less, depends alot on what you expect and want to do.. I find if I cheap out on a few take and eat lunches I can then splurge on a good dinner with more wine!

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7670 posts

NEVER use a credit card in an ATM for cash, except in an extreme emergency! This is treated as a cash advance, and finance charges will begin accruing immediately. Cash advances are also subject to higher finance charge rates than your usual rate for purchases. I use a small local credit union and an online bank (so I have cards from two places). My credit union didn't know, until I told them, that you could use their debit cards in ATMs abroad. I had already done it on a couple of trips by then. They charge NO foreign transaction fee at all, which makes that card my first choice. My online bank, Ally, charges 1%. Even if your credit cards charge no foreign transaction fee, you will be hit with finance charges immediately (no grace period for cash advances), which makes them a costly alternative. To directly answer your questions, yes, they will work in ATMs with a four-digit PIN. And the way to find out if they work before you leave is to try it here. But it's a really bad idea.

Posted by Barry
San Diego, CA
587 posts

Whatever cards you decide to go with be sure to tell the Credit Union/Issuer that you will be traveling in Europe, just give them a list of the countries you'll be in and when. If not your card could be frozen/locked when their security sees transactions in Europe.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
232 posts

England. Many of the B&B hotels/inns that we have stayed at in the UK include breakfast in their room rate. Full English breakfasts can be pretty substantial where a light lunch is all that I have needed. Cost of dinners can be influenced by the number of pints that you buy.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2820 posts

"I'm also unsure of how much cash we could spend each day on food... that seems to also be anywhere from 35 euros to 100 euros per person. Hard to figure out how to budget with such large ranges in spending... any suggestions?" The reason there is such a vast range is...because there is such a vast range. Everyone spends different amounts, and without knowing more about how much you spend in the US, no one can say how much you will spend in Europe.Some people are happy going to supermarkets, getting take-away sandwiches, having picnics, etc. Other people want a restaurant for each meal. Then there's the range of restaurant prices (just like in the US). So, if you plan to have more restaurant meals, plan for the high end, and if you don't, you can plan for the lower end. I agree with all the other advice you've gotten. You should get a debit card for ATM's from your credit union; if it says PLUS or CIRRUS or has the VISA or MASTERCARD logo on it, it should work in Europe (although I have seen stories here of credit union cards not working). You should probably also open an account at another bank, just to have an ATM card that you know will work. Credit union cards usually have lower fees than banks, but it's important to have backup. And even "high" bank ATM fees (like Chase, which charges $3 plus 3% for each foreign withdrawal) won't be as high as getting a cash advance on a credit card (my Chase credit card charges 6% for foreign withdrawals, starting immediately upon receiving the money).

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
960 posts

Forget the Capital One credit card (except for major purchases - hotels, rental cars, expensive meals, etc.). Get a Capital One debit card and get one from another bank also (maybe an online bank) so you have cards from two separate accounts just in case. I took two debit cards for my trip to France last summer (Capital One and Ally). Make sure you inform bank of the dates you will be using the card in Europe and have them give you a high daily withdrawal amount so you don't hit your max. I also found that having two debit cards avoided the daily withdrawal limits on some ATMs in Europe so I could get the max on each card.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2373 posts

I am in the category of thinking it's a bit silly to open new accounts for a two week vacation. Stick with what you have at your fingertips. How do you obtain cash at home? If you have any kind of ATM card, even one that is not a Visa/MC debit card, it will probably work at the French and English ATM's (mine does). You can also buy some euro and pounds ahead of time - say a few hundred dollars each. Then use the ATM to supplement as you need to. If the ATM just won't work at all, increase the amount of cash you bring. A decent dinner in Paris/London will cost $30-50 each person. Figure more for fancier, less for simple and account for the age of your daughter. Other meals can be calculated off that. Use your Capital One CC as much as you can to avoid using cash (it should have no foreign transaction fees - ALWAYS pay in LOCAL currency - never accept dynamic currency conversion if offered). Some places won't take credit cards and for small purchases they are not accepted or commonly used - so use your cash for those times. If you have any cash left over at the end of your trip - use it to pay off your hotel bill and put the rest on CC. It costs you money each time your convert cash. Buy currency from your bank or a nearby large bank - it should cost about 10% more than the actual exchange rate for that service. Never use currency exchanges - those cost upwards of 20% or more.

Posted by Edwin
Arlington, VA, USA
248 posts

Avoid Captial One debit cards. Capital One charges $2 per ATM withdrawal and a 3% foreign currency conversion fee. They started this as of August 2012. There are many options on debit cards that provide for better fees than Capital One.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2684 posts

Hi, On whether your credit card's 4 digit PIN will work at an ATM in France and Emgland, the answer is yes. Inform your banks that you are going to be over there so as to avoid any chance of their blocking any transaction you do, be it at a restaurant, cash withdrawal (I don't really recommend this), paying your hotel bill, buying a train ticket, or groceries, etc. Now prior to departure the banks know the exact dates and the countries I'm visiting so that they can expect to see charges, compared to 20- 25 years ago, I didn't bother telling any credit card banks that I would be charging over there. In Germany I've never had a charge denied.