I'm renting an apartment in Florence for 6 weeks and have to pay the total amount + deposit upfront when I get the key on the day I arrive. This amount is about $2500 and I really don't want to carry that much in cash on me if I don't have to. Are traveler's checks the way to go and will I be able to cash them on arrival in Florence? Any other insight would be greatly appreciated!
Nix the travelers checks. If you find a place to cash them, the exchange rate will be horrible. If somebody else doesn't know how to move that much money, I'll come back and edit, but I need to think a bit.
When I take walking trips in Scotland I have to pay up front for the room, board and guide and they don't take credit cards. I go to my bank and get a check in pounds made out directly to the business owner. She deposits it directly in the bank. Since it's specific to the person/ business there are no worries about carrying the check. So, I advise asking your bank what is possible and then checking with the agency renting the apartment. Pam
If it's in a major city, it might make sense to do a wire transfer--the $$ can go direct to the other account, and the cost is usually a flat fee regardless of the amount.
The cheapest way to solve your problem is to open an account with XE Trade. Money will be taken from your checking account by electronic transfer and converted to euros. You can choose to have the funds deposited directly into the apartment owner's bank account by electronic transfer. Or you can choose to have a bank draft in euros made payable to the apartment owner but mailed to you. Hand the draft to the owner when you arrive in Florence.
The exchange rate will be only slightly higher than the international rate on the day the transaction is initiated. There are no fees for either of the distribution methods I listed above. (You can also do a wire transfer, but there is a fee for that.) For security reasons it takes a little time and effort to set up an account, but everything goes swiftly and smoothly after that.
This is one place where traveler's checks might make sense, if your landlord will accept them. Unfortunately it won't be cheap. $2500 worth of euro denominated traveler's checks would cost me an extra $138! Multiple ATM withdrawals would cost between $0 and $105, depending on the card issuer. I am guesstimating that a wire transfer would cost over $50. You would still have to tote a lot of cash from an Italian bank to your landlord. Do you know the Italian for "I am here to pick up my $2500 worth of euros that my bank wired here?"
First, realize that nearly any option will incur some type of fee, either in transaction fees or in the actual exchange rate, you are only trying to find one that limits the cost and provides some level of safety.
One option not mentioned would depend on your circumstances, but you might consider use of a credit card and cash advance. Typically, CC cash advances (highly dependent on the card) incur no more, sometimes less fees for a withdrawal,(so you can keep the fees to about 2-3% over interbank rate) but do incur a higher interest rate that begins at the time of transaction. I avoid this by using a card with a zero balance, then go on-line the same day and make a payment on my card. My card can be used at an ATM as well, not sure if I could get 2500 Euro out at once (dependent on the ATM) but certainly could at a bank, or maybe in a couple of ATM transactions.
Thanks everyone for your advice - very helpful. I'm going to check with the apartment owner as to whether she will take a check from my bank (or from XE Trade) and also what the fee would be to pay via PayPal. When I booked the apartment, I paid a 350 Euro deposit, but had to also pay an extra 22 Euro for paypal commissions. This percentage in commissions doesn't make a lot of sense to me as I take PayPal payments from my clients and only charge a 3% paypal commission.
I guess Traveler's Checks could be a last resort.
thanks again. Any other thoughts appreciated!