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Buy euros at AAA here in U.S. or at ATM in Greece?

I've never gotten euros from an ATM in Europe before.

I just bought $1000 worth of euros from AAA here in the U.S. (AAA uses Wells Fargo). I received 855 euros, an exchange rate of 1.17. No fees, that was the complete transaction.

I see on CNBC the spot exchange rate now is just above 1.12. My bank's debit card does not charge me for using a non bank owned ATM in Greece, or any other fees. I believe I will be charged a $5 transaction fee for every time I withdraw euros from an ATM in Greece. Doing the math, assuming 1.12 is the rate I will get at an ATM in Greece, that is only a 38 euro or between $43-$44 difference in $1000, less with ATM transaction charges. Is it that simple? Am I missing something?

Posted by
15030 posts

Under the circumstances, probably not a bad investment. Who knows if another banking crises could occur while your there. Keep most of them in a money belt. I hope you got them in 50's and 100's, because a 500 could be a problem.

Posted by
672 posts

I'm in Greece right now. I had no trouble getting Euros from an ATM in Athens airport. And, no problem using credit cards (we have chip and signature) for purchases.

Posted by
3787 posts

I just don't like hauling around such large amounts of cash. When I travel (and in daily life), I carry no more than 100 Euro on me, go to the ATMs frequently and use my credit card. To carry 855 Euro would make me nervous - not that it would be taken, but that I would do something stupid like drop money.

Posted by
11898 posts

Since the official exchange rate is S1.12 and the AAA/Wells Fargo gave you a rate of $1.17, that's not bad. I would do it. If you are going to carry that much cash on you, don't put it all in one place. I don't carry that much, maybe half as much or just a bit more, but it is separated and concealed, with most of it not in the wallet, if my wallet is lifted.

Posted by
659 posts

That's a very good exchange rate from Wells Fargo. My bank in the US charges a very high fee just for purchasing Euros on top of the rate difference. I agree with the other poster about carrying such a large sum of money on you. What we do is wait until we leave the arrivals area at the Athens Airport and go to the ATMs there and withdraw only the Euros we'll need for a few days. It's quick, easy and safe! My bank charges just a small ATM fee which really saves us money.

I don't think the ATM in Greece will charge that high amount but someone else may know more about it. I think it's much less if any at all.

Posted by
2302 posts

TommyK5, it's not the Greek ATM that charges!! Use of Greek ATMs is Free! ANY charge at all is levied by your hometown bank.

And Tommy of MA, if your hometown bank charges ONLY a transaction fee, not a % of amount withdrawn, you indeed have a wonderful bank -- usually only Credit Unions give this kind of deal. Most of the Biggie Banks (Chase, Bank of America, Citibank etc) do a "double-dip" ... $5 per transaction PLUS 3% of amount withdrawn. If a person withdraws $1,000 from a Biggie Bank in 2 transactions during a visit, that's $30 + $10 = $40 -- and at my friendly Naxos taverna, that's 3 good dinners, including 1/2 liter wine.

Using your lowball hometown bank, the cost would have been $10 ... $30 less than the Biggie Bank. So you've got $1,000 in cash already ... if you need more, use your hometown bank ATM card

Posted by
17378 posts

If you don't mind giving up an extra $43, I'll take it. ;-)

It's not a good investment, but it might be good insurance. If Greece had another crisis, and you could not get money from an ATM, you'd feel kind of stupid for not taking the cash. A few comments:

  1. I might do the same thing for Greece today, but it's not a good "investment" for Europe in general.

  2. For some pretty good reasons, I normally withdraw $500 worth of Euro from the ATM every time I use one. In fact, on my last trip, because their were two of us, I increased the max withdrawal to $750. And I usually hit the ATM when I have less than 200€ in my pocket, so I often carry more than 500€. I carry it in my hidden stash; same place I carry my ATM cards. If I lose the stash, the loss of a few hundred euro is not going to be as inconvenient as the loss of my cards and the ability to get any more. I don't think the fear of carrying around a large sum of money is rational.

  3. For anyone else thinking about doing this, Wells Fargo charged him 4.46% (based on a 1.12 $/€ exchange rate). They normally charge 5%, so you might not get quite as good a deal. In a way he is speculating in currency. If the euro drops back to $1.08, it might not look like so smart.

Posted by
2718 posts

You do not say if you have ever been to Europe for how many times. If you search elsewhere on this web site you will find information
on "Travel Tips > Money" that gives information used by many of the folks who frequent this web site.
I have gone to Europe for 13 of the last 14 years and have always gotten local currency from ATMs in Europe using a debit card tied to a checking account at a local credit union that charges me 1% fee - total. As someone else already posted, the European ATMs run by local banks or networked to US cards do not charge any fees. The only fees you will encounter from using an ATM in Europe is from one owned by one of those rip-off exchange companies or a private one that you might find in some business who own the ATM. In a months worth of travel each year in Europe, I withdraw about $250 US each time I use an ATM. We only use credit cards to pay for the few times we have stayed at a chain hotel or any big purchase like a rug in Turkey. We almost always pay cash for the B&Bs we stay in and the places where we eat. Some of the B&Bs do not accept CCs and some places give a discount for paying in cash.

Posted by
2302 posts

Charlie, I must question what you say ... Wells Fargo and TD banks Chase & Citibank (some of the larger banks in the USA) all charge $5 per transaction PLUS 3% of the amount withdrawn. This is according to this constantly-updated guide to ATM and Credit Card usage: http://flyerguide.com/index.php/Credit/Debit/ATM_Cards_and_Foreign_Exchange

Several of these note that there is no charge, or only a low charge, IF IF IF you have a Special Elite Kind of Account or card -- which you may have, I don't. For the ordinary garden-variety budget traveler, with no fancy plastic, the fees above apply.

Posted by
1135 posts

I read these posts and people are saying things like "my bank charges $5 plus a three percent fee." To me the obvious question is... why are they still your bank? Is it that hard to switch? That was a great link above showing a matrix of fees from banks and credit unions. It's ridiculous that in 2015 travelers are still asking whether to bring euros, or exchange them. The answer is: get a good bank and use the ATM.

I am lucky enough to have USAA - 1% fee, and the exchange rate is the bank to bank one - excellent deal.

And you know if they are treating you that poorly for foreign transaction they are also raking it in for domestic fees as well.

Posted by
2302 posts

Kaeleku --- I don't think most of the people were saying that -- they were saying that they HEARD of the other banks charging that much, and they themselves had a better deal. As I said in my posts, I found out about this long ago, and that's why I use a credit union account solely for trave;

Posted by
659 posts

Just double checked with my small-town bank and they do not charge any fees for ATM use regardless of where you use your card. And if the Greek banks don't charge a fee then I guess I'm sitting pretty!

Posted by
16 posts

National bank ATM's in Greece .
You'll pay 4-5 $ per withdrawl.
hope that helps

Posted by
1892 posts

As has been posted on the boards many times, you can get accounts that can be managed online and fed from your regular account at Schwab or CapitalOne that do not charge any fee ATM their end for any ATM use (and Schwab refunds fees charged by other banks), do not charge any international use fees, and have markups of well under 1% on the exchange rate that are solely due to the interbank charges. And Schwab's card now appears to be a true chip card. High limits, too - our Capone is 600, the Schwab a grand.

Posted by
17378 posts

Janet,

just like a recent link to a travel article on USAToday, any idiot can write a travel column.

Yes, the big banks charge 3% plus $5, but you don't have to deal with big banks. Not everyone can get a Schwab account, and USAA is not available to everyone. However, a local, state chartered bank near me, available to anyone, charges 2% plus $2. A local credit union, which both my partner and I use and is also available to anyone, charges 1% with no fee (I know, we've used it).

Posted by
2302 posts

To LEE -- Yes, I know, every idiot can write a travel column, and I hope you do not think I gave a link to an ordinary travel column. The "Flyerguide" is NOT a website that gives specific advice. If you actually looked at it, it simply reports the transaction fees and percentage- of-withdrawal charges (if levied) of a WIDE range of Major banks, online banks, small local banks AND credit unions. It also in many cases (when it has been able to get the information) tells when usage is limited, as you say.

Yes, I agree with you, a person does NOT have to deal with big banks; I never said that, tho you imply that I did. One can seek out other resources. I tried to find a "local state chartered bank near me, available to anyone" -- but could not locate one in Philadelphia. That is why I use a Philadelphia Credit Union open to any Pennsylvania resident (and also a wonderful credit union from my former employer in Connecticut). Lee, you and I are on the same page, please do not imply otherwise.

Posted by
1768 posts

Just FYI -- USAA Federal Savings Bank IS available to anyone. You can open a free checking or savings account, no monthly fees, and get the debit card with just 1% foreign transaction fee -- no ATM fees overseas.

Some USAA services (i.e. insurance) are only available to military (or ex-military) families. But anyone can use the bank, and they have excellent service.

Posted by
9361 posts

Janet, just like Charlie, whom you questioned, my credit union card charges NOTHING, and my online bank (my back up) charges 1%. No special plastic, just their basic policies. It is possible to find good deals on debit cards without special cards or accounts or keeping a particular balance.

Posted by
2302 posts

Nancy, I did not question Charlie's choice of banking institution (as my own message says I too use a credit union), What I questioned was this sentence:
"The only fees you will encounter from using an ATM in Europe is from one owned by one of those rip-off exchange companies or a private one that you might find in some business..."

This appears to say that you will only encounter fees from using an ATM in Europe in certain circumstances --- and that is not so. No, you will not get a fee levied from the ATM ... BUT, if you use a card on an account you have at one of the "biggie banks" I warned against, you WILL encounter a fee from using an ATM... levied on you by the Biggie Banks. Charlie sent me a PM wondering what my objection was ... and when I explained thusly, he understood. He should have stated, " the only ATM-LEVIED Fees will be by rip-off (etc) but you WILL encounter fees charged by your own bank, whatever machine you use."

Posted by
2302 posts

Nancy, I did not question Charlie's choice of banking institution (as my own message says I too use a credit union), What I questioned was this sentence:
"The only fees you will encounter from using an ATM in Europe is from one owned by one of those rip-off exchange companies or a private one that you might find in some business..."

This appears to say that you will only encounter fees from using an ATM in Europe in certain circumstances --- and that is not so. No, you will not get a fee levied from the ATM ... BUT, if you use a card on an account you have at one of the "biggie banks" I warned against, you WILL encounter a fee from using an ATM... levied on you by the Biggie Banks. Charlie sent me a PM wondering what my objection was ... and when I explained thusly, he understood. He should have stated, " the only ATM-LEVIED Fees will be by rip-off (etc) but you WILL encounter fees charged by your own bank, whatever machine you use."

Posted by
831 posts

I'm with Charlene, we've been using USAA bank since 1975. They have the best customer service ever.

Posted by
2752 posts

janet,

Not every big bank charges all of their customers fees for using ATMs in Europe.

I have an account at one of the biggie-est, Chase. I also have an account at Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct). When I recently used my debit cards from both of them in Europe, I got charged nothing zero nada when I used bank owned ATMs. When Google said 1USD = 1.06 EUR, that is what I paid. Nothing more.

The Capital One 360 account never charged any fees for foreign ATM usage. Chase does, but if you ask nicely they will "upgrade" your account so that you do not get charged for ATM use. I got that because I was chatting with a bank employee about my trip to Europe and mentioned I had to remind myself to add travel notices to my cards so they would not stop working and then said "But I probably will not use them because of the fees." One of the account managers heard me and said he could probably do something to fix that. So my debit card was "upgraded" (whatever that means) and now I pay no fees of any kind to use foreign ATMs.

I'm not against whatever choice people make for their banking needs. But it never hurts to look around to see if there might just be something out there that would be beneficial to you based on your needs instead of sticking with your current choice "just because".

Posted by
2302 posts

Mark, I never said Capital One made charges ... they are an online/ no branches bank and promote their no-charge policy widely. My authority for the "biggie banks" charge was this excellent, frequently-updated website -- http://flyerguide.com/index.php/Credit/Debit/ATM_Cards_and_Foreign_Exchange -- which is supplied before, so that, exactly as you say, people can "look around to see if there might just be something out there that would be beneficial".

This website shows the official Chase line as $5 + 3% of withdrawal amount. I don't doubt that your local Chase branch fixed you up with an "upgrade" to no-charge ... not asking what your deposit amount is, but it must be enough for them to want good relations. Small-timers like me (I only keep a couple thousand in my Wells Fargo account) wouldn't get an upgrade -- they formerly only charged the $5, but about 5 years ago added the 3% fee. When I entered a wistful complaint, the branch manager shrugged and said, "Well that's our policy now."

Posted by
2718 posts

What I should have added to my earlier post on using ATMs in Europe: "...you will not be charged any fees by the European ATM's owners, except those...." Some people thought I was meaning that their financial institutions would not be charging any fees. So sorry. As someone else post: "why are you still banking at a place that charges those high fees?"