Please sign in to post.

Money Exchange before traveling to Germany

I know Rick suggest to not exchange your money into Euros until you get to Europe, but our bank tells us that it is actually cheaper to exchange in the US before we leave. They are saying there is a flat rate of $10 to exchange any amount of money we want with no extra fees. They also tell us the exchange rate is better with them. Leaving in two weeks and not sure what to do. If we use the ATM in Germany we are charge a 3% fee plus any other ATM fees. Anyone have an opinion on this? Thanks!

Posted by
8622 posts

ATMs are generally held to be the best way to go. I personally like to arrive with some of the currency on me. Perhaps you could exchange a small amount here with your bank and then rely on the ATMS afterwards.

Posted by
19169 posts

Who is the bank??!

I have never heard of a bank that doesn't charge 5% or more off the currency exchange rate, and quite frankly, I don't trust that your bank has told you the truth (or you didn't understand them correctly). You can get the current rate on Oanda.com. Check their rate before you go to this bank and see if they don't charge more. The current rate is $1.13186 per euro. Wells Fargo is now charging $1.17940. That's only 4.2% over, but that's probably because the euro went up since they set the rate this morning.

Posted by
9 posts

Carol, we originally thought ATMs were the best option also, but the bank is telling us that with them there will be no 3% exchange rate. However is we change the money out in Germany there will be 3% exchange rate plus extra fees. Thanks for your input.

Posted by
2791 posts

You need a new bank. One that does not charge you a fee to withdraw your money. And one that does not tell you how they will exchange your money for $10. You can be certain the exchange rate will be bad. A bank that does not suggest you exchange money, which is actually a purchase of foreign currency.

As an aside, we just completed a 3 week trip through London, Bayeux, Brugge, Ghent,and Amsterdam. We withdrew roughly $3200 US from ATMs using our Schwab and Capital One cards. Compatting what was posted as withdrawals versus the exchange rate published for the day the withdrawal posted, we lost less than 0.2% (zero-point-two percent) on the conversions. No fees charged, no DCC issues.

Posted by
9 posts

We have Capital One and the charge is 3% if we withdraw from an ATM in Germany. That is a Credit Card withdraw. Rick Steves says not to use debit cards.

We are assured by US Bank that if we come into the bank and want to exchange cash for Euros, the fee attached is only $10 plus whatever the current exchange rate is.

Posted by
19169 posts

I remember going to US Bank once years ago and they told me that they didn't charge a fee. I subsequently found out that they did charge 3%. It was in the small print on the Internet under Terms and Conditions; the guy at the bank just didn't know what he was talking about. That said, I guess it is possible that they are giving you the exact Interbank Rate. Some banks give you perks with high balance accounts. But, since it doesn't sound like you have a high balance account with them, I doubt that they give you that perk. My Wells Fargo PMA account gives me two withdrawals from ATMs over there per calendar month at the Interbank rate. Since my trips usually span two months, that's four withdrawals per trip. So I guess it's possible that US Bank really gives you the Interbank rate, but verify it. Call them and ask them what the rate is, then check it with Oanda.

By the way, many banks (Chase United Explorer card, for example) have been giving me POS transactions in Europe without the exchange fee discount. They have been doing this since they have been getting 4% or more from the merchant, so they want me to use the card. This is about to come to a stretching halt. The EU has now mandated that banks can only collect 3/10th percent for credit card transactions. They are going to get their money somewhere, so it is going to be from charging us to use the card.

Posted by
19169 posts

"That is a Credit Card withdraw. Rick Steves says not to use debit cards."

No, No, No, No, No!

Never use a credit card to withdraw from an ATM. They charge you a cash advance fee (~4%), plus you pay interest immediately, and with most credit cards you also pay a 3% currency exchange fee. Only use a debit (or ATM) card from ATMs.

Posted by
5053 posts

I like to have some Euros with me when I arrive in Europe and consider the extra cost to have them to simply be part of the cost of traveling. In the overall scheme of things it is not a major cost compared to the total cost of the trip. Having said that, however, it sounds to me like your bank has not really been on the up and up with you. That could be because the individual with whom you spoke simply did not know what they were talking about. Think about this. Even if you exchange $400 for Euros at the official rate and the bank charges you $10, you are still paying a 2 1/2 percent commission.

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks, Lee. We called US Bank in Denver, b/c we live in Colorado, talked to three different locations around the state and still got the same answer but I do not trust them.

We will probably go with a debit card.

My husband felt that would be too dangerous, for our 19 year old son to be using in Europe, but he has changed his mind on that.

Posted by
14248 posts

Yes, agree with Lee. Rick says use a DEBIT card.

Also I think it is helpful to ask the bank person you are talking with if they have traveled to Europe. Sometimes they have no experience on the ground and are just repeating what they've been instructed to say.

Posted by
19169 posts

Don't necessarily go by what I say. Check it out yourslef. They could be legit. Just call them and ask them what rate they are charging right now. Then look at Oanda. See if the rates are the same, or close. I think all banks sync with the Interbank rate in the morning, so call early, before the Interbank rate has had a chance to change much.

BTW,

"They also tell us the exchange rate is better with them."

There is only ONE official exchange rate. That is the Interbank rate (the rate at which banks exchange currency pier-to-pier, that is, where no one is making a profit off of the transaction). Banks create their own rate by discounting from the Interbank rate. If they say the rate is better with them, that implies that they have their own rate, that they are not using the Interbank rate. What is their rate? Travelex discounts the rate by around 10%. So do they mean the rate with them is better than with Travelex?

Posted by
891 posts

We live in Colorado and bank at USBank. years ago before our first trip to Europe I talked to multiple people at USBank and got multiple answers. We ended up using our USAA checking account ATM for debit withdrawals in Europe because the fees were a lot less. The local people at US Bank just don't have the final information about international fees.

Have a great trip
Mimi

Posted by
19169 posts

BTW, today's Interbank rate per Oanda is $1122.53 per 1000 euro.

Wells Fargo's online rate today is $1179.40 per 1000 euro, or 5.06% over.

But not US Bank. Their rate today is $1227.60 per 1000 euro, or 9.36% over the Interbank rate.

Today, most big banks (Wells Fargo, Chase, US Bank, et al) charge 3% over plus $5 for an ATM withdrawal in Eurpe, so with a $500 withdrawal you'll pay about 4% over. Credit Unioins usually charge 1% over. With some banks and accounts, you can get the Interbank rate.

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks, Lee and others for your positive suggestions, they are very helpful and insightful. It is nice to have a forum where people support others and are willing to help another person out with sound and helpful advice. I appreciate the kindness and wisdom. We will investigate all your options.

Posted by
11294 posts

"Rick Steves says not to use debit cards."

Rick never said any such thing. Oh, he may have said it about using debit cards for direct purchases, but he strongly encourages using debit cards to get cash from ATM's (and it really is the best, easiest, safest, and cheapest way to get cash abroad).

Here's his page of money tips: read all the links, and you'll be an expert: http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money

And you wouldn't be the first person who got told inaccurate information by their bank (or cell phone company, etc.) about foreign travel. Unless you're dealing with someone who has traveled themselves, they often don't know, and what they say may or may not be correct. Good thing you checked here before making a costly error!

Posted by
7711 posts

If you want to settle it, go to a US Bank, or call, say "I want 1000 euro, how much will that cost me in Dollars?"

At today's rates,(1 euro = $1.11) I do know that:

My Credit Union Visa Credit/debit ATM card (over there) will cost me $1,120 at most, maybe a bit less (~1% over interbank rate)

My Citi Mastercard, on cash advance, (over there) will cost me about $1,140 plus a minimum interest charge of 50 cents, since I pay off the balance as soon as the transaction posts in my account. (3% plus minimum Interest)

Well Fargo, if I order online, over here and wait a couple days, will cost me $1175.70 (about 5.9% for me today, you can use their site to calculate total cost)

Then see where US Bank falls in there.

Posted by
19169 posts

Paul, I think you are comparing apples to oranges here. Your first two examples, your credit union and Citi are from ATMs over there, your Wells Fargo example is to get cash here, before you go over.

Most people would pay $1138 ($1100 x 1.03 + $5) from Wells over there. With my account I would pay $1100 over there for 4 withdrawals.

BTW, as I've said, Wells averages 5% for euro over here, depending on when they set the rate and you buy. That rate is probably true for GBP also, but they charge a higher rate for less common currencies. When I was going into the Czech Republic a few years ago, and I wanted to buy Koruna before I got to an ATM that gave them out, I bought $40 worth from Wells and they charged me $5,60, 14% over. When I got to Prague and used the ATM there, my local bank charged me 2% plus $2, less than 3% overall.

Posted by
5382 posts

Currently many ATMs in Berlin are empty as a result of a strike at the courier company that fills them.

Posted by
7711 posts

In response, I tried not to mix the fruit, indicating which were "over here" vs "there" to respond to Mac5's point that the bank told them it was cheaper to get euros here vs there...so both must be compared. I could have added a change bureau over there and Travelex here...but that would only be for dramatic effect.

My point is that you always have to look at total cost. Many places will tell you they have "no fees" and levy a horrendous rate, other places have a small fee and very attractive rates, makes no difference except at the bottom line. Same with cash advance, some freak out when it is mentioned, but there are many that think nothing of using credit cards for transactions that still have a 3% foreign transaction fee, while mine offers essentially the same thing.

For my expanded advice, if you are really concerned about the best deal, it has been and still is using a no fee ATM Credit/Debit at an ATM there. If yours charges fees for each withdrawal, and anything like a 3% transaction fee, seriously consider opening another account somewhere, it can even be easily done with a Schwab checking account, no need to invest, just put trip money in and withdraw at your leisure.

For other larger transactions, find a credit card to use with no foreign transaction fees.

Consider Cash advance on a credit card for large amounts of cash not available via the normal ATM card (you may have a lower limit), Again, know the costs, some do charge a use fee plus percentage of transaction. I have not found better than 3%. Interest need not be an issue, I go online within a week and pay off my balance if I go that route, interest ranges from a minimum of 50 cents to a few dollars if I were to wait a few weeks.

For getting some here, I have looked at lots of places, but Wells Fargo is widely available and some of the best rates. That said, I would not use them to get thousands in cash to carry around, just some amount to feel comfortable with to have on arrival.

Posted by
147 posts

Huge lines at lots of airports and train stations to use ATM's. That's why I like having some with me when I leave and then get more while there away from main places. It's worth the $10 or so to me NOT to stand in line when I hit the airport!

Posted by
19169 posts

Huge lines at the airports are not what motivates me to bring euro with me (I've never had to wait in line at Frankfurt, and there has been at most two people ahead of me for the ATM in Munich). However, I once arrived in Frankfurt with three ATM cards. The first two didn't give me money - they just said "call you bank". It was only a technicality; the first card would have worked the next day. I have heard of people arriving in Rome when the ATM "fillers" were on strike and all the ATMs were empty. But it doesn't cost me anything to arrive with money. Like many people here, I go to Europe regularly and bring enough home from my last trip to start my next one.