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Purchasing Euros

Does anyone know the fee and percentage for purchasing euros in Greece? Is it true that you can get 20@ off of food, hotels, souvenirs, etc? We are going on an 11 day cruise. We already exchanged $600 in a Miami mall and after the fees and .82, we received 485 euros. Maybe we should have waited until we arrived at the airport in Athens.

Posted by
195 posts

Not familiar with the rates there, but I've always found it less expensive to withdraw money using a no-foreign-transaction-fee ATM card once I'm in the country I'm visiting. When I've ordered euros ahead of time in the States, they do tend to give me a worse exchange rate. The airport often gives you a worse exchange rate too from what I understand (we've never tried it due to hearing the exchange rate is worse). I usually order just enough to get me by for the first few hours. In light of this, if you need more cash, you might consider an ATM if you have the right kind of card with no fees (check to see what your withdrawal limit will be though).

I've heard the 20% off thing mentioned too but have yet to hear whether it is legitimate. Would be nice!

Posted by
2933 posts

Greek banks don't charge a transaction fee for ATM withdrawls. Get yourself a no-fee Debit Card. I have one from Capital One and one from Charles Schwab.

Posted by
3681 posts

According to today's exchange rate, you probably should have waited. At an ATM you could have gotten about €531 with your debit/ATM card, depending on what your bank charges for exchanging the money or the transaction, if anything. My credit union charges no transaction fees and less than 1% for the currency exchange. So for example, getting €531 cash at a bank ATM in Greece would cost me $600 + €5,31 ($6.00). Not the €46/$52 it cost you.

The only way you would get dinged on the exchange rate in Greece is the same way you would in any country -- if you say yes to DCC (Dynamic Currency Conversion). That's included here -- https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money/card-fees#dcc.

I was in Greece about 2 years ago. I have no clue what you mean by "20@(%?) off food, hotels, souvenirs."

Posted by
4688 posts

Phil,

You may want to check these helpful money tips here: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money

Bottom line... You will get the best exchange rate by using a bank ATM in Greece.

  • Your bank may charge a transaction fee per transaction.
  • Do not use Travelex as they give the worse exchange rate!
  • Make sure you notify your bank regarding your travel plans (dates & countries you will be visiting)
  • You may also want to increase your daily cash withdrawal limit before your trip.
  • It's also a good idea to have 2 debit cards attached to separate accounts, just in case...

Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
49 posts

Yes Commila, Lee, and Lo. It's been a while since I traveled to Europe, but live and learn. I received 485 euros and could have received around 531 had I waited with my $600. I read from other posts, that US citizens could get 20% off of their hotel, restaurant bills, etc. in Greece. Have no idea if that's true.. Also, we will be traveling with 2 large suitcases, and 2 carry ons, all at maximum weight. How difficult would it be traveling on the metro with all this baggage?

Posted by
49 posts

more excellent suggestions Priscilla! I will get 2 cards.

Posted by
6868 posts

I read from other posts, that US citizens could get 20% off of their hotel, restaurant bills, etc. in Greece.

Can you clarify who exactly is the party making this offer/claim? The exchange office? Or is it totally unrelated to exchanging money?

Posted by
49 posts

Its unrelated to exchange money. Somewhere I read a couple of posts stating that US citizens visiting Greece in 20016 will be offered discounts. Again, I have no idea how accurate that is.

Posted by
5849 posts

The 20% discount is based on some reports of a program where Commercial stores are offering 20% discounts to four "honored" countries, of which in 2016 the US is one of those. I believe they did something similar in the throes of the financial crisis, but most visitors did not notice.

If you search, you can find some articles, here is one: http://news.gtp.gr/2016/04/13/greek-shops-20-discount-tourists/

From what I have seen, it is only "certain" stores, I see no mention of Hotels or Restaurants, no details of how you would claim the discount, and I can't help but notice that the minister announcing the program touted the wonderful DCC option as a way to pay for your purchases.

I would not expect great discounts or trouble myself seeking out stores offering them. Things are plenty cheap in Greece.

Posted by
49 posts

Thanks Agnes and Paul. I just verified that my debit card will not incur any fees when making withdrawals over there. I was just curious about the 20% on certain stores. I cant be bothered either, and definitely hearing that Greece is very affordable.

Posted by
21709 posts

....traveling with 2 large suitcases, and 2 carry ons, all at maximum weight......

Whoa !!!! That is a lot of luggage. 70, 80 pounds?? per person ?? It will not be easy since you will need to move that luggage on and off fairly quickly. Part of the problem is that you make yourself very venerable to pick pockets because you are preoccupied with so much luggage. Make sure you have nothing of value in any pockets or loose bags. You should also consider using taxis with that much luggage.

I know you say you are going on a cruise but really do not need that much luggage? We have been on 22 day cruises with just three carry-on size bags for the two of us. You need to rethink that one.

Never heard of the 20% but it could be a new promotion. Generally you can get a 5 to 10% on hotel rooms if you pay in cash and not a credit card. If you use a debit card at a bank owned ATM in Greece you should get within one point of the interbank rate at the time of usage plus an fees charged by your card issue. Those fees can range from 0 up 4% and sometime a transaction fee of $5. You paid just under 10% in fees in Miami. Or $1.23 per Euro when the Interbank rate tonight is $1.13 and the ATM in Greece would be about $1.14. Pretty standard for money exchanged in the US.

Posted by
184 posts

One always needs to keep things in context. I have always wanted to have some local currency before I travel. I know it cost more but it gives me peace of mine. Look at the total cost of the trip related to an initial conversion rate for having some money on hand.

It is always easy to say get your currency when you arrive. However finding an atm and then dealing with jet lag and all the rest of travelling take some local currency with you.

However accept this advice, as you should with any advice, with a grain of salt. People have opinions, but do what works best for you.

Posted by
18301 posts

my debit card will not incur any fees when making withdrawals over
there

Be careful! "Fee" is a notoriously misused term. My Wells Fargo card has only a $5 fee at an ATM, but the exchange rate is also "discounted" by 3%. Does your debit card give you exactly the Interbank rate, or do you get a less favorable (-3%) exchange rate?

Today's Interbank exchange rate for $600 is about 530€. If you purchased euro from Wells Fargo (you probably don't have any in Miami), you would have received just over 500€. Travelex doesn't have a fee, but for 480€, you'd pay $598.06 (technically, $600 would get you 481,56.€, put they don't give change.

I like to have a few hundred euro with me to start a trip, but it's left over from my last trip.

Posted by
2864 posts

Lee is quite right; some banks creatively mis-state their charges, and it IS confusing. Many of the "biggie banks" (Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, TD etc) also have "premium" cards for Big Customers w major $$ in accounts, and those may have no-fee no-% provisions. his website -https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/banking/debit-card-foreign-transaction-international-atm-fees/#nofeefx -- has a list (not complete) of banks & other institutions. Also some biggie-banks have a so-called "allliance" provision... which means you have no fee or a lesser fee IF you use a certain overseas bank's machines. HOWEVER, this may not always be handy or possible -- for example, one such alliance deal only has the alliance's ATMs at a few places in Athens and none in the islands.

This whole business is confusing (on purpose?). It IS true that VISA & MASTERCARD have a basic 1% fee for converting ... that's because they're involved with these money-changing networks such as Cirrus (symbol is on back of your card). Your bank or Credit Union may or may not choose to pass that on... most "no-fee/no-%" cards either absorb it, or build it into the daily currency exchange rate. Others Add even more to it -- typically the "biggie banks" add another 2%, then a $5 transaction fee. Since they don't do it at home, why do they do it abroad??? Simple: Because They Can. Let the buyer beware -- or switch to an Online Account or to a Credit Union account ... i have a CC that I use ONLY for Travel & build up my travel fund in it.

There are 2 more ways to get "dinged" as Lo (above) says: #1 - you fall for the DCC ploy ... the machine asks if you want to see your withdrawal amount in your own (i.e. $$) currency amount rather than €€? Well sure, the innocent traveler thinks -- but that sets you up for an Extra conversion charge. Just Say No. This is a fairly recent ploy, last couple of years, and appears in some ATMs at ATH airport. Just Say No. #2 - for convenience (often its on an island) you want to get a few Euros at a free-standing machine in a market or even on the street. Don't; these are not bank-related, and are free to add on transaction fees. As a final note of prudency, I like to use an ATM that's right at a bank, either outside or in the lobby, AND if possible, during banking hours, just in case my card gets stuck or there is a glitch ... hasn't ever happened yet, but it adds to peace of mind.

Posted by
2864 posts

A side comment on the luggage: I totally agree with Frank, that you need to re-think this. You will be burdened down like a pair of camels! Of course, depending on the swankiness of your particular cruise and cabin level, you may need a jacket and your wife a couple of gowns for special dinners, but 2 extra-large checked bags & 2 bulging-full 22" bags is a whole lot! Is it that you almost exclusively travel by car and you & your wife has never learned to pack light? I urge some editing.

However, with all that luggage, I agree with others that a taxi is the cry. Greece as a country has one of the lowest rates of petty crime. but there IS one "hotspot" -- the Metros coming from the Airport or the Sea port, because of vulnerable new traveler like you. You may be OK getting on, since the Metro will be empty, but by the time it reaches the most popular exit, Syntagma Square, it will be packed, and the crooksters would take advantage of your fuss about pushing your bags thru the crowd to get to your pockets. And a taxi is NOT that expensive ... From Airport to Central Athens there is now a Flat Fee of $38 including any luggage fee & tolls (and a tip of €2 is fine) -- while a Metro ticket for 2 is $18 for a joint ticket. And if you can manage an 11-day cruise, you should be able to swing that.

If you do still want to use public transit, and your hotel is close to Syntagma Square, there's a perfectly safe (and relaxing) alternative to the Metro. (and takes only 10-15 minutes longer) Right outside the aiirport building, the X95 Express BUS leaves every 20-25 minutes. €6 (AND half-price for seniors). You buy ticket at a nearby counter, and in the bus you "punch" it in a pole-mounted box (important; otherwise you could be fined). Luggage is piled IN the bus in a central "pen." No one can get on after departure, and only 2 other stops, so it's pick-pocket safe. And it terminates right at curbside so you can take your time collecting things & getting off. When I'm on my own I always use this, you can doze en route thru the suburbs, then view the Acropolis as it looms ahead in the center.

Posted by
3681 posts

About the luggage...

Please keep in mind that you will have to handle it by yourselves. There are no metro or bus porters to help you. Even the few steps up and down for the bus can be a big challenge with that much luggage. And the metro has lots of steps or an escalator, neither of which is big bag friendly. I was told that there are elevators, but I never saw one when I was there 2 years ago.

If you can't manage that much luggage on your own, you need to cut back to a size that you can manage. Or as others have said, take a taxi.

For good advice on wardrobe coordination and control for women go to the Vivienne Files -- http://www.theviviennefiles.com/?view=classic&m=1. There's a special section on packing. And there is great information and a forum on packing right here on the RS website.

Posted by
26 posts

To avoid all the fees we went with Capital One Quicksilver credit card and Capital One 360 ATM/Debit card.

Be careful while using the ATMs at Piraeus Bank. They show a screen with the exchange rate in USD and Euro. Always opt for Euro since that will give you the best rate. Also be careful of ATMs run by EURONET. They are not a bank, but chain of ATMs. They have the worst exchange rates.