We are traveling to Greece on July 6. There are long lines at the ATMs and I also saw posts from a couple weeks ago that some places prefer cash instead of credit cards. I'm wondering if anyone might be there now, or recently returned, who has an update on the situation.
I think you may have a better handle next Tuesday when the rubber meets the road (the creditors declined an extension of the bailout which expires on June 30). The ECB may not be able to function as a backstop to the Greek banks to replenish cash reserves. Given the situation is changing day by day, it's hard to rely on reports even from last week or to be able to predict what will happen a week out. My parents were there two weeks ago and it wasn't a problem then - but that was two weeks ago when everything looked brighter.
The NY Times and Wall Street Journal have excellent day-by-day articles so give them a read...
Any one who can accurately forecast the Greek outcome would do well speculating on the financial markets.
Report dated today:
About 35 percent of the ATM network - some 2,000 out of the 5,500 ATMs across Greece - ran out of euro banknotes at one point during the day and were being replenished, the bankers said. Banks were working in coordination with the central bank to keep the network fed with cash, they said.
Replenishing ATMs usually takes one to two hours per ATM, leading to the long lines, one banking source said.
Around 600 million euros was withdrawn from the banking system on Saturday, one senior banker at one of Greece's four big lenders told Reuters. A second banker estimated the outflow at more than 500 million euros.
Though that was below the level of over 1 billion euros seen on some days over the past two weeks, the figure was almost exclusively from ATM withdrawals, where the average daily limit of cash that can be taken out is 600 to 700 euros, bankers said.
I just read they are going to vote on the referendum on July 5th.
It doesn't look that the prime minister and elected officials are backing the EU's "suggestions" to tighten their belt. The yes or no referendum is July 5th, and it's a matter of great importance. I just wonder how long Angela Merkel and the EU is willing to throw money at Greece? One day, a decision is going to have to be made. And that day is close.
Greece is really an entitlement state with an economy based on tourism. And they're the largest merchant marine country in the world--controlling 15% of ship tonnage. And young people unemployment is increasing.
If you fly directly into Greece, you may want to carry a bunch of paper Euros. If you go through an European gateway airport, get off the plane and get enough funds out of an ATM to last through your trip. It may take a while for this matter to be settled.
I was in Greece from May 26 - June 17 and for the first time in 12 trips, I took 1500 Euros along because I'd heard the "decision day" was May 27 (subsequently there have been 2 postponements). So I did spend money I would not have needed to, but who could know? And now it really IS decision time, and I think you'd be wise to take along Euros (not in 100s, but plenty of 20s).
As others have said, unless you are taking one of the 3 nonstops from N. America (Delta from NY, USAir/American from PHL or Air Canada), you have no problem. At your layover, just withdraw a ton of Euros from an ATM at your European transfer airport. Of course you will have arranged with your BANK to allow a major withdrawal (try to talk them into €1000, or at least €750) ... I assume you already have contacted your bank(s) about withdrawals abroad so they won't freeze up your account(s) if you use your ATM card outside of the US (to protect against fraud).
I have three accounts in different institutions, one major bank and 2 different credit unions, to maximize my withdrawal amounts & options. so that I don't use my credit cards unless I plan a major purchase.
One thing that many Americans seem unaware of, is the penalty they pay for using credits cards abroad. Here in the US, many of us use our credit cards for EVERYTHING, every day, from groceries, to hair cuts to taxis etc ... and if we pay off in full at end of month -- no cost to us at all. IT's different abroad. If, like me, you have an "ordinary" VISA, Mastercard, Amex -- not one of those "deluxe" "Sapphire" Platinum, richy-rich cards -- when you use it overseas you pay an extra 3% for the "privilege" of doing so, even if you pay off your full bill each month. Why? Not because it involves extra costs for the companies. No, It's Just Because They Can. This may not matter much to you, but if you pay for a week's hotel bill @ the Euro equivalent of $150 per night, that's $1,050 x 3% = $31.50. Not huge, but on an island, that's dinner for 2 WITH wine. Something to consider.
When I said, I spent money that perhaps I didn't need to -= I was referring to the fact that buying Euros here in the US, from a bank or a Currency Bureau, gives you a worse exchange rate than using an ATM Abroad. On the day I bought Euros in Philly, the online rate was 1€ = $1.12.... so an ATM rate abroad would be about $1.14. Instead, I paid about $1.18 per euro at TD Bank.
Things are moving quickly. Any advice given today may be completely useless tomorrow.
While Greece is largely a cash-based economy, they do accept credit cards at non mom-and-pop places. And you can get a credit card without foreign exchange fees, like Capital One (no annual fee either but you need a good credit score).
Cash historically has been preferred by at least some to assist tax evasion. However, there may be an increasing practical concern by sellers that if the banks do cease to function for a while (and many commentators seem to think they will be closed at least on Monday, and online banking has been suspended by at least a few operators already) that it may take a while for them to get any payment.
If capital controls are put in place, then the cash amount that may be withdrawable from any single account per day could be drastically reduced as well.
Great idea about withdrawing money from an ATM in another EU country that accepts Euros. Normally I wait until I get to the Athens airport then withdraw money from an ATM there to avoid the high exchange rate here in the US. But since there is so much confusion and unknowns about what will happen in Greece withdrawing money in your layover country is a great alternative. I have a credit card that does not charge for foreign transaction fees. I rarely use it anyway . . . just bring it along for an emergency. I don't fly to Greece until early October so hopefully something will be resolved before then. But in the meantime take Euros with you or withdraw from a layover country just in case. I hope things work out for the Greek people. They have already been through so much and have suffered for the most part because of politicians . . . which seems to be the real problem not only in Greece but in most countries!
From today's NY Times: ATHENS — Greek government officials and banking executives were meeting in Athens on Sunday evening to consider temporarily closing the country’s banks and perhaps setting limits on A.T.M. withdrawals in an effort to keep the banks from collapsing as the Greek financial crisis heads into uncharted territory.
See full article in today's (June 28) front page of New York Times...here's an excerpt:
"ATHENS — Greece will keep its banks and stock market closed on Monday and place restrictions on the withdrawal and transfer of money, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a televised address on Sunday night, as Athens tries to avert a financial collapse."
Source: New York Times
Things are changing on a daily and (sometimes even) hourly basis, so just keep track of the news. You have plans B (withdraw on your way over) and C (use a non foreign fee credit card) as backups. Who knows what will happen next week - this is major drama.
Since we have a direct flight to Greece we won't have the opportunity to exchange money in another European country. It may cost us more but maybe we'll exchange some money here in the US before we go and take plenty of American dollars with us. Having been there in previous years some of the locals on the island like getting American dollars. And, as long as merchants take credit cards that would be another source as well. Although I know how they like cash to avoid taxes. Some merchants will tell you their credit card machine is not working just so they can get the cash instead.
I just received this from the Embassy in Athens. We are scheduled to leave in the next few days. We have purchased some euros here and will try to get more at our layover airport.
The State Department alerts U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Greece of the possibility of disruptions to banking services – including credit-card processing and servicing of ATMs – throughout Greece in light of developments within the local economy. International and local media are reporting that banks will remain closed starting on Monday, June 29, 2015, and that capital controls may be imposed before they re-open. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry more than one means of payment (cash, debit cards, credit cards), and make sure to have enough cash on hand to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays.
The travel security message came because I registered our trip with the state department. I've never actually received an alert until now. The message goes on to advise about avoiding areas of demonstrations.
Jayemeehal notes that "...as long as merchants take credit cards that would be another source as well. Although I know how they like cash to avoid taxes."
Ironically "endemic tax avoidance" may be a significant contribution to the Greek crisis.
On average, self-employed Greeks spend 82% of their monthly reported income servicing debt..... More than 100% of the self-reported income of Greece's professional classes is going toward paying off consumer debts. Not, we suspect, because they have massive unbearable repayments to make, but because they're colossally underreporting their income.
Article includes a table showing that self-employed lodging and restaurant proprietors have an average monthly reported income of 1234 (€?). But the group has monthly debt payments averaging 1305, a 1.06 debt payment to income ratio. The implication being a gross under reporting of income facilitated by a cash economy.
The UK news is reporting tonight that ATM withdrawals in Greece have now been capped at €60 per day and that all Greek banks are closed tomorrow possibly until a week on Tuesday so taking dollars is not recommended. The UK media are advising people going there to take lots of Euros due to the size of queues at ATMs and many have stopped accepting credit cards.
Euro is getting "hammered":
Sun, Jun 28, 2015, 6:38pm EDT
We've got our first look at markets after a weekend full of Greek
drama, and to start things off the euro is getting slammed.
In early trading Sunday night, the euro dropped more than 1.5% against
the US dollar to below $1.0979.
The euro closed at $1.1167 against the dollar on Friday.
The BBC is reporting that there is no 60-euro limit for withdrawals at Greek ATMs if you have a foreign bank account. However, your own bank or the Greek bank usually has a higher limit for any ATM withdrawal (200-300 euros?), so ask ahead a be prepared. Be assured that the Greek people will treat any tourist now with a great deal of warmth and gratitude--so it's actually a great time to visit if you are prepared.
However, according to the news here in Paris, the ATMs are mostly empty.
I've read from a number of European websites (not just the BBC) that cash machines are limited to €60 per day for Greek accounts, but higher for foreign accounts. For example here:
Banks closed till 6 July
Cash withdrawals limited to €60 (£42; $66) a day for this period
Cash machine withdrawals with foreign bank cards permitted
But, some cash machines are running out of money. Plus various stories "could you live on €60 per day?".
Many places have always prefered cash to credit cards. The credit card companies charge too much.
Quite handy for the Greeks who moved their money years ago into German (or other eurozone) banks - they get around the €60 restriction.
At this point, there are so many variables that's it's anyone's guess what the outcome will be. At the present time (20:50 in Greece), there's a huge gathering in Syntagma Square but they seem quite peaceful so far. Not sure what they hope to accomplish?
The situation will likely change on Tuesday if the Greeks default on their debt. It's possible the EU could still change their mind and offer another bailout? I heard an interview on the news a few minutes ago from a Greek-Canadian businessman, who had a few comments on the July 5 referendum. He said that the referendum questions are somewhat ambiguous and poorly framed, so who knows what the vote will be? The pundits were again speculating this morning that if Greece exits the EU, this could have ramifications for Italy, Spain and Portugal, which have much larger economies.
If I were going to Greece in the near future, I'd pack along enough Euro to last the trip (I have a general idea what my spending patterns are) and use credit cards wherever possible. Prearranging and paying for hotels, transfers and Ferries with a Greek travel agency would also help (I've done that in the past and it worked well).
I can absolutely understand their frustration about the current situation, and feel bad for the many people that are suffering as a result of this. I wish I knew what the solution is.....
At this point, I think it would be prudent to exchange cash stateside and take with you. Not ideal, but what are you gonna do!
I'm on the RS Athens tour and have been in Greece for almost two weeks. Only one or two places have accepted a credit card, everywhere else is cash only. We have seen smallish lines at the ATMs, and with the exception of June 29th (when we were in a very small town), have been able to access the ATMs. However, there is day to day uncertainty here and it is best is you plan to bring enough cash for ALL expenses (barring hotels). The crisis is affecting the citizens of Greeks more than the tourists. They have been warm and gracious while living through something horrible.
Τhe Ministry for Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism would like inform visitors to Greece that capital controls introduced by the Greek Government do not apply to those wishing to withdraw money from an ATM or carry out any other type of transactions using credit or debit cards issued abroad.
Moreover, the Ministry does not anticipate any disruptions in visitor’s every day holiday experience, neither in the islands nor in mainland Greece, as there are adequate fuel supplies, products and services.
Greece continues to guarantee the highest quality of tourism services to its visitors, who have ranked Greece as one of the best destinations worldwide.
The Deputy Minister for Tourism, Mrs Elena Kountoura, as a member of the Greek Government, said that Greece still is and will always be a favourite destination for holidaymakers. Visitors currently in Greece as well as people planning to visit Greece will not be affected by the latest developments and they can continue to enjoy their holidays in Greece without any problems whatsoever.
Lee, it's a press release. One can hope that all goes well, but it's best to prepare (like taking euro with you).
While it is a press release from an agency with a vested interest in communicating all is normal, I agree that you should not be overly concerned. I will point out though that just because visitors are not affected by limits does not mean you will not be affected. Standing in line behind dozens of locals looking to get their 60 euro out would affect me and getting to a machine that is out of cash would certainly be an issue.
This is a great topic!
I will be in Greece on September 1st after two days in London. I will be flying into Athens and hop on a flight to Santorini for 4 days. Then after some island hopping joine a RS Greece tour on Sept 14th. So, it looks like I need to bring emergency dollars from the U.S., bring some euros purchased from a bank in the states, and hope the ATMs are working and the lines are not too long in Santorini. Does any one know if it would be cheaper to purchase euros in London rather than in the USA? If I had to do it over again I would have planned a two day layover in Paris rather than London so I could get some euros.
Thanks for any insight.
Euro notes can be obtained at a 1% cost or so in London from a specialist exchange bureau - with pounds. Even ordering in advance online and picking them up at Heathrow is not that expensive; at time of posting for example pre-ordered currency picked up at ICE in the 1-2-3 Underground Station is €1.39 to £1, compared with the interbank rate of €1.407.
With dollars you are looking at a double conversion so you may have to negotiate a bit more to try to minimise this. Even so you'd probably be looking at 3% or so. If you have a 'good' ATM card you might get a better rate by withdrawing £ first.
The ATM restriction for Greek accounts is down to €50 in many places as banks are running out of €20 notes.
September though is a long way away ....
Sunday is put up or shut up time. That's the latest deadline for a deal. If there is no deal by then, I think the banks reopen with drachmas.
We've been here all week with no issues. In fact mass transit has been free. Buses, trains and metro cost within the city costs nothing. Not sure how long it will last but it's a very nice bonus. No issues getting money or using credit cards either. Although, any food establishment won't take cards, but then they never have. People are as nice as ever.
There are more people at ATMs than usual but nothing aweful. The most I've seen is 10 people in line at the mall. Yes, they are still spending money. Greek credit and debit cards are accepted so they can still pay bills too. Others are doing some bartering. We got euros before we got here but at the airport they were offering special deals for US dollars. I don't know what the deal was since we already had euros. It's as wonderful as ever here so everyone should come, spend money and help their economy!!