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Obtaining forints

I'm looking for best suggestion to obtain forints for my 2 days in Budapest. My bank doesn't offer a chip and pin ATM card so I'm looking for suggestions for a bank that I can open an account at that has a good deal for using ATMs in other countries.

Posted by
12384 posts

Two days and you are going to open an account? Use your standard old non-chip and pin ATM card in any ATM machine in most any European country. You will get extremely competitive exchange rates with your ATM (I am assuming your bank is in the US?)

Posted by
3465 posts

ATM DEBIT cards without chips are guaranteed to work through 2020 by the card issuing networks. That is the cards with either Visa or MasterCard emblems on them. ATM only cards may not work any longer (these are the ones without the logos) and many here have reported that recently.

With all that said, ask your bank or check online about fees for international use. Many charge 3 to 5% of the converted amount and some even add in an additional fixed fee of up to $5 just to get your money in a foreign country. If Budapest is the only place you are going where you need cash, the fees won't bankrupt you. But if you are planning on doing regular travel to foreign places, you can look into finding a bank with no fees on their debit cards. I use a Capital One 360 Debit card. The 360 account has zero fees for anything you might want to do. You usually receive your Debit card in about 3 - 5 days after opening the account. You maintain this account online only and they do money transfers in or out of the account that the Debit card is attached to for you at no cost. I have used this card, along with another Capital One Credit card for many purchases,in Europe for over 10 years of travels with zero problems. And there is no need to close your existing bank account unless you want to because the 360 account will stay open forever as long as it has a positive balance. You can use the 360 account as your travel money account and only put money in when you need it.

Posted by
12384 posts

Obviously i incorrectly thought you were talking about a Hungarian bank account. That would be nuts (but i have one).

I use my BoA VISA ATM card and get excellent rates of exchange in Budapest; and i think all the VISA and MasterCards give the same published rate of exchange. I also have no service charge. But if your card does charge you a flat fee, pull out more so the impact is less.

Posted by
5654 posts

BoA VISA ATM card and get excellent rates of exchange in Budapest; and i think all the VISA and MasterCards give the same published rate of exchange.

https://bettermoneyhabits.bankofamerica.com/en/saving-budgeting/how-to-pay-when-traveling-abroad

...if you’re a Bank of America customer, Bank of America will assess
an international transaction fee of 3 percent of the converted U.S.
dollar amount.

The non-Bank of America ATM usage fee is $5. This fee is assessed for
each withdrawal, transfer or balance inquiry performed at a non-Bank
of America ATM in a foreign country. In addition, the ATM operator may
charge an access fee for cash withdrawals.

My local credit union does not charge an ATM usage fee but has a 1% FX transaction fee.

Posted by
12384 posts

I don't want to give any bad advice so I went back and checked my bank statement.

On October 3, 2017 (a few weeks ago), I withdrew 50,000 HUF from a K&H Bank ATM in Budapest.
The charge to my account was $190.46 which is a rate of 262.523 HUF to the USD
The Internet published rate was 265.98 which I have always been led to believe was a buy/sell median for larger sums. ( http://www.exchange-rates.org/Rate/USD/HUF/10-3-2017 )
So i got 98.7% of that rate ($2.48 less) Not sure about others, but i am pretty okay with that.

Another source put the rate on that day as 265.69 to the dollar which makes my cost even better
( https://www.exchangerates.org.uk/USD-HUF-exchange-rate-history.html )
There are no fees on my account for the transaction.

Maybe I get a different deal because I am a ML customer.

But I am not promoting BoA. Just my experience with ATM cards....

An interesting note. I remember that the ATM gave me the option of billing my account in Forints (HUF) or in Dollars. The charge in Dollars would have been about $212. A lesson of why to always choose the local currency and let your bank do the conversion.

Posted by
14326 posts

I used my Capital One ATM card (without a chip in it) over and over in Budapest (I averaged about $100 each time, so I wouldn't need to carry a lot of cash around) and once in Kecskemet. I used some bank ATM's and some non-bank ATMs. I compared the amounts to xe.com mid-market rates at the same time as the withdrawals. Overall, my bank account was reduced by $879.52. Using the xe.com rates comes to $875.19. Cap One does not charge me any fees. I was careful to decline the dynamic currency conversion (DCC). It works like this - at some point you are asked if you want to be charged in US$ or in forints, with some explanation suggesting that US$ is the better choice. It is NOT. In the past few years I've used that card in a dozen European countries without a problem.

If you are only there for 2 days you could just bring cash dollars (or euros if you're going to be in a "euro" country before Budapest) and get forints at a currency exchange. You can also use a credit card for many purchases. Every restaurant and bar I went into asked if I was going to pay cash or credit so they all take plastic. It did happen that at my Budapest hotel, their cc machine broke and I had to pay cash.

Posted by
6337 posts

I also used both a Capital One Master Card and an Ally Bank Master Card many times over 6 days in Budapest without any issues. They were both mag strip cards without chip & pin.

Posted by
12384 posts

Oh, one other note. Don't use an ATM that isn't associated with a bank. The private ones will hit you with charges and will do the DCC thing.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks everyone for the helpful responses. I will take the advice for Capital One. I would also like to thank you all for the advice about declining the dynamic currency conversion and only using bank ATMs. Safe travels to all.

Posted by
2133 posts

I have a Schwab bank account for the simple reason that they do not charge transaction fees. As James E notes, they may subsume the transaction fee into the exchange rate, and possibly I am paying a transaction fee under a different name.

One thing to note - we ran into a problem this trip in that the trip was longer than in the past. We had indicated which countries we were going to be in, but these notifications expired after 30 days, and we were without cash for a period due to inability to get the card to function. So, make sure that you renew the notification of foreign travel to your financial firm.