Where to get euros

Is it better to get euros from the local bank in the US, or go to ATM's in various European cities. We are going on a W. Mediterranean Cruise. The local bank has a $7.50 fee, no matter how many Euros you get. Yet I've been told that some of the ATM's have high fees.

Posted by Jeff
Bend, OR, United States
1145 posts

And even if the deal from your local bank isn't more expensive do you really want be carrying that much cash with you?

Posted by James
Frisco
1766 posts

The key is not so much the fee as the exchange rate. The median right now is about $1.30 to 1 euro; and you will get close to that at an ATM machine and when you use your credit card. Most (not all) credit cards charge a fee for exchanging and it is usually 3% or less. Your bank may charge you an ATM fee. So, go to your bank (or their website) and see what sort of rate they will give you. I bet its not anywhere near as good as $1.30 to the euro. In my situation it has always been more cost effective to use my debit card in the ATMs for walking money and Credit Cards for dinner and larger purchases.

Posted by George
Canada
814 posts

NEVER use a credit card to do an ATM withdrawal - on my credit card, that gets treated as a cash advance and the interest meter starts immediately on withdrawal. Nancy - you're right I've changed my reply.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7670 posts

I think James meant using ATMs to get euros, and using credit cards for purchases, not using credit cards in ATMs (I agree that you never want to do that except in an extreme emergency). The ATMs you will encounter on your trip will not charge you fees. The fees will be charged by YOUR bank. So check with them to determine what they will charge you for foreign ATM withdrawals. You can probably exchange money on your ship, too, but their exchange rate might not be the best. I might get a few euros to take with you, then rely on ATMs once you are there.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1328 posts

hi, do some homework and see what the fees/rates are and then go from there. your banks(s) should have rates and fees listed for cash w/d from foreign ATMs, if not ASK! fwiw, everyone will get their piece of the pie too. happy trails.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10841 posts

The cheapest and most convenient way to obtain local currency is via a debit card at a bank owned ATM in Europe. Even if your debit card issuer charges fees it still will be cheaper than an Euro purchase in the US. High ATM usage fees are associated with private ATMS so just make sure you are using a bank ATM.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3487 posts

Also, look at the exchange rate that the cruise ship offers. It is usually fixed at the beginning of the cruise for the duration. Sometimes, it can be a good deal.

Posted by Kathy
Winston Salem
18 posts

I think it's better to use a credit card not cash, if that's possible. But I know that people in Europe don't like credit cards, so bring some cash with you at all times. My experience has been that it's best to get cash using an ATM in Europe with the bank that has an association with your American bank. That way they won't charge any fees. Otherwise, there will be a fee (my Bank of Am charges $5 no matter how much I get from an European ATM). I think $5 is reasonable. Don't get travelers checks! They are a nightmare and I wasn't able to use them in most places =(!

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7670 posts

Bank of America charges one of the highest fees around ($5 per withdrawal plus the 3% currency conversion fee, if I am not mistaken). There are lots of better deals out there! My local credit union charges NOTHING, and I don't have to find a particular partner bank to get that deal. I also have an account at an online bank which charges only 1%. Shop around.

Posted by Denny
Columbus, OH, USA
733 posts

Last spring we took a Holland America transatlantic cruise, and the exchange rate indeed fluctuated during the duration of the cruise. The folks at the guest relations desk can tell you the rate. Our transactions were added to our bill. We hooked up with some people onboard to arrange our own driver tours upon arrival, and exchanged onboard so we would not have to scramble around in port looking for an ATM. I don't think the rates were too out of line, but it sometimes comes down to a lot of convenience for a few dollars. I rejoined a credit union of many years past to get the 1% ATM fee they assessed. Shop around, good luck.

Posted by James
Frisco
1766 posts

Nancy, it apparently depends on what kind of BoA account you have. I get no charges or fees either with the ATM or with my Master Card and 1% on my BoA Amex.

Posted by Chris
Bedford
28 posts

Karen, We bank at Bank of America and they told me they could order the Euros for us, it takes about 10 days to get them. They said if we order a minimum of $100 (U.S.) the $7.50 shipping fee would be waived.

Posted by kat
parkdale
197 posts

We got Euros right away for no fee at Wells Fargo.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11250 posts

Wells Fargo sets their rate at the beginning of each business day; Oanda's rate changes continuously. If the Oanda rate goes down, the difference versus Wells Fargo is more. If Oanda goes up, WF looks better. I've watched WF vs Oanda for years - at one point daily - and WF averages 5% over the interbank rate. Blindly accepting what Oanda calls the "typical ATM rate" (+2%) is dangerous. What does your bank charge? I've found most large banks - Wells, Chase, US, etc - charge 3% on the exchange rate plus a fee of at least 1% ($5 for a max withdrawal of $500), or 4% total, for foreign ATM withdrawals. Using the Interbank rate + 4% gives you a rate of $1.338/€ right now (Sunday, May 19). I still use ATMs over there for cash, but I understand that getting cash from my bank over here doesn't cost that much more ($135.40 vs $133.80 - $1.60 per $100). That's for Euro. In May, I just got enough Czech Koruna from my local bank to buy a rail ticket at a border station, before I would have had any opportunity to get cash from an ATM, and paid 14%. And, BTW, using credit cards for major purchases (hotel, dinner) can be false economy. I've found, in Germany, anyway, that places that take credit cards are more expensive to start with. The most economical places only take cash.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

I agree with everything Lee said. Oanda lists several exchange rates: the 0% Interbank Rate, 1% Interbank Rate, 2% 'Typical ATM Rate', 3% 'Typical Credit Card Rate', 4% Interbank Rate, and 5% 'Typical Kiosk Rate'. 'Typical' means typical. Of course, what counts is the rate charged by each individual's bank. Retail currency exchange services like Travelex and American Express Travel Services will always be higher on the buy side (and lower on the sell side - buy back) because of their motive to make a profit on the exchange. I also watch the exchange rates closely for weeks or even months leading up to a trip, and even follow the forecast trends. I've been lucky several times that I've bought Euros when the rate was lower than I would have gotten had I waited until the actual time of a trip. Once several years ago I got Euros out of an ATM at $1.24 to the dollar in the Florence airport as I was waiting for my flight to depart. By the time my next trip rolled around the rate had skyrocketed. A bit of luck, that. Haven't been as lucky since, which I guess is a good thing for the U.S. Dollar. But it can pay off to track the exchange rates.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3576 posts

So choose carefully (like Wells Fargo) and get enough to start your trip. We're talking about a very few extra dollars...Don't sweat the small stuff. Travelers are already paying extra for sitting outdoors for lunch, drinking an espresso on the plaza, eating a 'free' (of course not) but convenient breakfast, etc. Spending (net) $3 bucks over a European ATM for some pocket money to get started with isn't a big whoop. And my main hobby is frugality ;-) Karen, I don't know how many ports you'll be in, nor what you'll be spending money on, but go ahead and get some Euro to start with (100-300€, depending on how many are with you) and don't worry about it. I have absolutely no idea what your ATM/money changing experience will be like with your particular cruise line, but to spare you spending your precious time in port looking for an ATM I would always keep some smallish bills in my moneybelt (or purse/pocket if you dare). As a 'landlubber' traveler who travels solely on land, I may pass 30+ ATMs each day as I walk around, so I have no trouble finding one nor taking care of a problem (an 'eaten' ATM card, for example) because I'll be in town for a few days (always try to use ATMs at the beginning of your stays in each town). An 'eaten' card would pose a real hardship for you. And NO, ATMs don't routinely eat cards, but occasionally stuff happens (no €€€ come out, etc.). Generally speaking, European ATMs are no different from your local ones, but your bank may charge $5+ per transaction, so always take out the maximum amount the ATM will allow.

Posted by Roy
Auburn, AL
798 posts

I agree with Eileen. A lot of folks will tell you to wait until you get there to get euros from an ATM. But it is no fun to arrive on a Sunday with no local currency and find out the ATMs will not accept your debit card. You will pay a few dollars more to get 100 or 200 euros from your local bank, but those funds will give you a cushion if you have to wait until the banks back home open on Monday or Tuesday (if a bank holiday)and you remind the bank to remove the block on your card.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2372 posts

While the O.P.'s question got answered weeks ago, some of these recent posts have what most of us consider very poor advice. Almost any purchase of foreign currency from a bank will cost you about 5-10% above the interbank rate. Even with many common bank fees, using an ATM costs no more than 3-5% total over the interbank rate. So while there is nothing wrong with buying a little currency before you go to have on hand, it is very financially unwise to buy more than $100-200 worth unless you need large amounts of cash on arrival. And trying to play the currecny futures markets is a really bad idea for the average tourist. No one can predict where the dollar will head and by how much. And buying cash at a 5-10% premium, the dollar would have to move significantly to even recoup your investment costs, which it rarely does. Bottom line, buy a little currency before you go for peace of mind/convenience, then use an ATM just like you do at home. It's that simple!

Posted by Roy
Auburn, AL
798 posts

One person's poor advice is another's lesson learned from experience. An extra $10 or $20 for a little peace of mind is a good thing. Being stuck upon landing on a weekend in a foreign country with an ATM card that does not work is not.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11250 posts

According to the Oanda website, right now, to withdraw 370€ from an ATM in Europe using a card the charges 3% over the Interbank rate (i.e., Wells Fargo, USBank, Chase, etc - any large bank), will cost you 489.83. These banks also add a "foreign ATM" fee ($5 for WF), so the withdrawal would cost you $494.83. From Wells Fargo's foreign currency website, 370€ would cost $499.94 plus shipping. I have a WF branch near me, so I can get it for that rate, without shipping. The Interbank rate is $475.14 for 370€, for the WF rate over here is 5.2% over and from an ATM over there, it's 4.1%. BTW, I always make my last ATM withdrawal enough so that I bring home some Euro so I don't have to worry about having cash in hand when I go back over.

Posted by Chris
Bedford
28 posts

We are buying our Euros from our local bank prior to leaving on our cruise and they will waive the $7.50 shipping fee with a minimum of $100 (US). Check with your bank

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10841 posts

Chris, waving the fee is not a big deal. The important question is, What is the exchange rate? That is the only number that counts.