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Simplistic Money advice for germany

Have seen so many tips on exchange places, atms, dont go here for money or do use this place etc so wanted to get a simplistic place for advice for a first time euro traveler. Flying into frankfurt germany next month for 6 days. So my question is it best to pull American dollars before I leave travel with it on the plane then exchange at a bank after I land or is it best to just bite the bullet on bank fees and pull money from a german bank atm and get euros that way? I read that airports have high rates to exchange vs bank atms. Is this true? Overall should skip airport atm and wait for a german bank.
I read that "cash is king" in germany so it sounds like our credit card will not get used as much use I was anticipating. Any advice more seasoned travelers to Germany to offer would help. My head is spinning g with advice and info overload :)

Posted by
6733 posts

Don't drag dollars over there and pay an exchange fee to get Euros. You will do better with pulling Euros from your own account using your home-bank ATM card at a German-Bank ATM. There's a SMALL fee for this to be charged by the local bank. - might be $.50 - $5.00 depending on the bank. But you get the standard international rate. You can find German-Bank ATMs at the airports and train stations (Sparkasse, for example.)

(Travelex is generally to be avoided, I understand - that's advice I've always taken.)

But there's a reasonably good chance that you COULD use your credit card for purchases while there. Where will you be? How are you getting around? What is pre-paid already? I mean, it's only 6 days and you don't want to have hundreds of extra Euros in cash in your pocket when you leave.

Posted by
7958 posts

Do not change dollars at a bank or currency exchange. That is way more expensive than taking it out of an ATM. Take euros out of an ATM. Take your money out of an ATM attached to a major bank like Deustch Bank.

I have been to Germany many times most recently April 2018 and I do not agree with what you read about cash being king.
Of course you need cash to pay for small purchases like at Frankfurter and Curry Wurst stands that are everywhere and a beer.

Posted by
6702 posts

It’s always nice having a few Euros upon landing so as not to rush to find an ATM. Exchange some currency before heading over, then hit an ATM once you get to your hotel. Hotels and chain stores generally accept credit cards, but many B&Bs and small establishments only take cash. At the end of your trip, hang onto any remaining Euros so you have some for your next trip. I do agree that Travelex has terrible exchange rates.

Posted by
7050 posts

Airport ATMs vary - they can be bank-owned or non-bank owned, just as they are in city centers. Of course, non-bank owned ATMs are more prevalent in places like airports where people are a captive audience. You can almost always find a bank-owned ATM in an airport.

Get a bank account that doesn't charge you high fees for using an ATM overseas - credit unions typically don't (mine charges 1% of each transaction to withdraw money without any other fees).

Posted by
23411 posts

It is simple -- the cheapest and most convenient way to obtain local currency is via a debit card at a bank owned ATM. Bar none. Without question it will be the lowest exchange rate available. Even if your card issuer charges fees for using your debit card, it will still be cheaper than any other option.

By the way, unless you have an account at the German bank they will not sell you Euro. While I personally tend to use cash about 95% of the time, credit cards are widely accepted.

Posted by
8992 posts

At the Frankfurt airport there are dozens of Deutsche Bank ATM's scattered all over the place. Use those. You will get your best rate that way. Never use the money exchanges. Don't expect banks in Germany to exchange your dollars for you either.

Bad rates come from your own bank or if you use an ATM that is connected with the ReiseBank, or at one of the other ATM's in the airport or at the main station that is not Deutsche Bank. In the city, use the ones that are inside of banks, not just on a random street corner.

Yes, you will need cash for small purchases, local train tickets, and even some restaurants. Just ask first.

It is easier than you think.

Posted by
2458 posts

Credit cards are accepted more than they used to be. However no place I stay at and most places I eat at accept only cash.

If you must have some Euro before you go, AAA offices usually can provide some. If you can, have ATM cards from two different banks/credit unions

Posted by
321 posts

Hi Adam-
Please follow Ms. Jo's advice.
"At the Frankfurt airport there are dozens of Deutsche Bank ATM's scattered all over the place. Use those. You will get your best rate that way. Never use the money exchanges. Don't expect banks in Germany to exchange your dollars for you either. "

I am planning on landing at the Frankfurt airport in several weeks. The first thing I will do after going through customs and getting my luggage is find a Deutsche Bank ATM. Sometimes they are in out-of-the way locations but wander around (or ask at the information desk ) until you find one. In the past the Deutsche Bank ATMs did not charge any transaction fee and the exchange rate was almost as good as that shown in the newspapers or on the financial news TV stations.

Get an ATM card from your bank that is attached to your CHECKING account. (Sometimes, but not always, ATM or Debit cards attached to savings accounts do not work.) Some banks will give you a Debit card that will also work as an ATM card- just be sure the bank confirms that the card will work in an ATM in Germany. TELL YOUR BANK YOU ARE GOING TO GERMANY FOR A WEEK AND YOU WILL BE USING THE ATM/DEBIT CARD FOR SPECIFIC DATES. Also call your credit card companies and tell them about any credit cards that you may use in Germany and the specific dates they may be used, or any charges may be declined. Take only those cards with you that you may use in Germany. Leave the rest at home but call these cards and tell them your specific travel dates so they can decline any potential fraudulent charges while you are away from home. Be sure you have the telephone numbers with you in a safe place so you can call the Credit card and banks if you loose your cards.

It sounds like you may have enough time to get an ATM/Debit card from a local bank or Credit Union that will charge you a transaction fee less than the standard 3%. Some banks or Credit Unions or brokerage houses charge 1% or less. (I have ATM/Debit cards from all three types.) Also, take at least 2 different ATM/Debit cards in case one of them is declined by the Deutsche Bank ATMs. Also, FYI the last time I was in Munich the Deutsche Bank at the Marianplatz DID exchange a $100 bill for me, but charged fees totaling about 8% so only use this as a LAST RESORT!

If you have any more specific questions ask and I'm sure someone on this forum will respond-

Have a great trip!!!

Posted by
19137 posts

During my last trip to Germany, I used 6 different banks, including Deutsche Bank, and they all gave me the Interbank rate for that day. The other 5 banks were because there was no Deutsche Bank branch in town or at least not one nearby. It wasn't until one of the last few days that I was at a 7th bank, and I got suckered into accepting DCC, and it was at Reisebank, just like Jo cautions. Even though I was aware of DCC, they pulled it off subtly. They showed the fee for currency exchange as an amount, not a percentage, and they made it look like a summary of the transaction, not a choice. When I pressed continue, I accepted their rate. Afterwards, I realized that they would not have known what my bank charged as a fee, so there was something wrong. I was in the same train station several days later, and I got more money out of the ATM. This time I carefully looked at the last screen and realized that they were charging their own exchange rate and there was another button on the lower right to reject ("reject" wasn't how they worded it) DCC. I pressed that button and got a transaction without their exchange rate.

Oh, well. My credit union charged me a smaller fee because the charge was in euro, so in the end it only cost me $7 or $8 dollars - a cheap lesson not to trust banks, particularly ReiseBank.

Posted by
14580 posts

Always use ATMs of German banks, Sparda, Landesparkasse, etc, forget Reisebank. True sometimes the DCC is sneaked up on you. You can recognise that when using the ATM. Luckily I never fell for it, although a couple of times I almost did, especially the first time I saw that option presented at the ARM, but I opted not to take "their" exchange rate.

Yes, "cash is king" much more in Germany than in France, Holland, and other countries. Hopefully, it stays that way in Germany.

Posted by
5697 posts

Six days in Germany -- will this be on the same trip as the Amalfi coast ? Remember that euros from Germany can be used in other euro-based countries like Italy and France.

Posted by
32239 posts

I use the same method as others have mentioned. Obtain €50-100 or so from your local bank for "travel expenses" until you get settled, and then use ATM's to obtain money in Europe. Be sure to notify your bank that you'll be travelling in Europe, so they don't "block" your card when they notice transactions in Europe.

I've found that it's a very good idea to pack along a "backup" ATM card, in case the primary card malfunctions (I've had that happen).

Posted by
20309 posts

ReiseBank is a currency exchange outfit along the lines of Travelex. Best to walk away from their ATMs.

Posted by
2378 posts

During my last trip to Germany, I used 6 different banks, including Deutsche Bank, and they all gave me the Interbank rate for that day. The other 5 banks were because there was no Deutsche Bank branch in town or at least not one nearby.

Deutsche Bank offers absolutely no advantage when changing money. Moreover, the ATM networks of the Savings Banks ("Sparkassen") and Cooperative Banks ("Genossenschaftsbanken") are much larger: Savings Banks about 25,000, Cooperatives about 19,000, Deutsche Bank (including HypoVerein, Commerzbank, Postbank) 7,000.

Posted by
14580 posts

From a historical perspective, when I was in Germany for the time time in the summer of 1971 and cashing Am Ex Traveler's Checks, I almost always did that at German banks, went to all different banks, Dresdener, Deutsche Bank, Berliner Bank, Commerzbank, Volksbank, , Landessparkassen, Handelsbank, etc etc. In some there was a special window counter to deal with exchanging TC.

Doing that transaction meant that a commission charge would be incurred for changing the $ amount, say $ 60 or $80 into DM. I wanted the receipts as historical evidence, a few of which I may still have. I noticed the difference.

Deutsche Bank was one of the banks that charged the most for a transaction of like amount relative to another bank, say changing $ 70 at Deutsche Bank compared to changing $ 70 at a Volksbank. I believe the other most expensive bank along with Deutsche was Dresdener Bank.

Not too surprising since these two "D" banks were among historically the four largest in Germany. Obviously, I stopped this expensive practice after a couple of times

Posted by
3878 posts

So, to sum up the simplistic money advice...

  1. Don't brink a pocketful of US dollars to Europe.

  2. If it makes you more comfortable to arrive in Germany with some euros in your wallet, get a limited amount from your bank or AAA before departing for Germany.

  3. Use your ATM card to get cash from bank ATM machines that are not ReiseBank machines.

  4. It's good to have a backup ATM card in case your primary one gets eaten by a machine (has happened to me, too)

  5. Know the fees for your card and look for cheaper alternatives if your primary bank has high fees (BB&T, for example, charges $5 per transaction + a 3% fee).

  6. Depending on where you are, credit cards may be accepted, but it's good to ask in restaurants and retail establishments (especially Mom and Pop places) if they accept them.

  7. It's good to have a backup credit card, too.

  8. Notify the financial institutions that issue your bank/credit cards of your travel dates and destinations.

Posted by
27328 posts
  1. Whether getting money from an ATM or paying by credit card, be sure the transaction is recorded in the local currency rather than dollars. If you fail to take that precaution, you will be subject to whatever exchange rate the bank or merchant chooses to use. (Be aware that some restaurant/hotel/shop employees will switch the transaction to dollars even if you specify otherwise. Stand your ground; don't sign the receipt.)

  2. Read all ATM screens carefully to avoid completing withdrawals at machines charging fee.

Sorry about the numbering. I typed "9" and "10", and that's what I ,see when I try to edit this post. Alas, what is displayed is "1" and "2".

Posted by
2378 posts

3 Use your ATM card to get cash from bank ATM machines that are not ReiseBank machines.

.. or automats at filling stations and train stations (exept those owned by the local Sparkasse or Volksbank / Raiffeisenbank)..

3a. If your ATM card is accepted by a retailer like Aldi, you can withdraw cash there free of charge if your purchase total is at least €10. Just give it a try.

Posted by
12 posts

We use credit cards all over Germany and the rest of Europe without any issues. I rarely use any cash. Even though I have a pin and chip card and have used it at ticket machines, most merchants still have me sign for purchases. I do take out about 100 euros from a bank atm to have for purchases from kiosks or bus fare, but that's about it. We found not much difference between using our credit card in Germany and the US.

Posted by
3057 posts

There are a number of cards which DO NOT CHARGE FEES. No fees. ZERO.

We have:
1) A Chase Sapphire card: I am very positive on this card. It does not charge a conversion fee when used. In addition, we recently found a charge on the card which was recurring. Not only did they refund the most recent $40 transaction, they refunded 4 more - a total of $200. It costs $95/year, but worth every penny. Hotels, restaurants, store transactions go on this card.

2) A Schwab bank account: No fees for withdrawal. We start with our trip money in that account. We draw from it for the trip. All cash withdrawals are taken from this card. We look for the network (there are a number of networks which are all connected) and use any machine on our network, which for the Schwab bank is the Plus network (also on the Interlink, Star, and Money-pass networks).

We land in a new place. There are ALWAYS bankomats in the airport, usually 3-4. You get the money from them. There is NO REASON to bring money from the US. Find the bankomat (usually in the very next room after customs). You get your walking-around money.

In Europe, they use credit cards. They bring the machine to the table, and you put it in right there. No one takes your card into a back room. I've never had any fraud in European transactions.

1) Don't get euros in the US
2) Get a low-fee card/no-fee card for transactions
3) Get a no-withdrawal charge card for money withdrawals.

Posted by
3057 posts

One other point worth a separate post:

When you have cards, you notify your bank/card issuer about where you are going.

The notification has an expiration date. On our last trip which was 5 weeks, we notified 1 week in advance. 30 days after that notification, we ran into a problem with cash withdrawals. The notification was only for 30 days. So make sure to
1) Notify issuer of all countries you will visit
2) Find out the expiry date of that notification

We had to call the bank from Germany. We could not figure out how to do a collect call. So we called direct. Call cost $7.50, so even a direct call is not huge money.

Posted by
3878 posts

@Paul... There are people for whom having some euros on them on arrival creates comfort. If it lowers anxiety, that absolutely IS a reason to get some euros in advance. I certainly wouldn’t say everyone should do that, but for a subset of travelers, it is a very reasonable thing to do.

Posted by
19137 posts

I have been to Germany many times most recently April 2018 and I do
not agree with what you read about cash being king.

I think it really depends on where you stay. I've spent over 160 nights in Germany/Austria/Czechia in 11 trips over the last 18 years, and I would estimate that 90% of the places where I've stayed only took cash. On the other hand, I've spent most of my time in small, economical Gasthauses, Privatzimmer, and Ferienwohnungen, and these places don't generally take plastic.

If you stay in starred hotels, of course, most will accept cards, but they are more expensive. DEHOGA, the German organization that awards stars, requires the acceptance of cards for more than one star. That's probably why you see so many non-star-rated hotels in Germany. They aren't going to bother with DEHOGA's regulations when they are far better than 1 star but can't get an appropriate star rating without taking credit cards.

Third party booking websites will often let you pay them directly with cards (hard to do cash online), but they represent only about a third, and the most expensive third, of available accommodations.

A Chase Sapphire card: It costs $95/year, but worth every penny.

Not for me. I had a $95/yr Chase card for a while, but I closed it because it was costing more than it was worth. I use a credit union card that costs me about 1.2% and a Wells Fargo card that charges $5 (no exchange fee), which is 1% for a $500 withdrawal. Those cards are more convenient because I bank there. Using those cards, I spent $45 in fees for my last trip (Oct. 2017). I'd have to make a lot more frequent trips to justify the Chase card.

Posted by
14580 posts

I have traveled back and forth in, zigged zagged all over Germany in the last 47 years, (the exceptions are the Black Forest and Ostfriesland), from the left bank of the Rhine to Frankfurt an der Oder, from Munich to Schleswig-Holstein, from Cuxhaven to Leipzig, villages, small towns, urban centers like Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, etc, etc. One conclusion I arrive at relative to other countries, especially since the 21st century is that " cash is king " in Germany, and it is absolutely accurate to assert that Germany is still a "cash " country...hopefully they keep like that.

Posted by
14580 posts

I always bring Euro with me upon landing since they are left over from the previous trip, I make of that prior to each departure. On the credit cards, those chip and signature cards we have here, I bring more than two but they are not all placed together. If I am a pickpocket victim, they might get one credit card, certainly not all of them...dispersal is the key.

Posted by
11 posts

Most simple advise: Exchange dollars for Euros at your local AAA. Then use cash for your smaller and medium expenses. For larger expenses use credit card that does not charge foreign exchange fees.

Posted by
8992 posts

You will save money buy using an ATM attached to a real bank, rather than getting your euro from AAA or your bank in the US.