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Order Euro's prior to leaving or relying upon ATM's

We bank with Bank of America and I understand we are able to use Barclays in Ireland for cash. Should we order Euros from our bank prior to leaving the U.S.? Our bank does not charge a fee for ordering Euros but the website mentions something referred to as a "spread". We plan to use our visa for most purchases since there are no foreign transaction fees. If I do wait and rely on an ATM, will I still be charged a conversion fee?

Posted by
5502 posts


"Spread" between bid and ask currency prices is the hidden fee. Note that while BofA doesn't charge an ATM fee if partner bank ATM s are used it does have a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Keep in mind that when you use your debit card to withdraw money from
an international ATM, Bank of America will assess an international
transaction fee of 3% of the converted U.S. dollar amountFootnote3.
Foreign ATM operators may offer to do your currency conversion for
you, but they may charge a higher fee for conversion. You can refuse
the foreign ATM conversion and be assessed the 3% Bank of America
international transaction fee instead.

BofA's UK partner is Barclay's. Are you visiting the Northern Ireland that is part of the UK or the Republic?

Posted by
9361 posts

If you want to have a few euros to get you going before finding an ATM, just buy 100 dollars' worth or so. Bank of America has some of the worst rates going for withdrawals from foreign ATMs, so if you must use BoA, make infrequent, large withdrawals. I bank with a credit union, which charges me absolutely nothing for using it abroad. The foreign ATM will not charge you. It is Bank of America itself that is charging you for using your card abroad. There are better deals around, but buying your euros ahead isn't one of them. Whether or not there is a "fee", rest assured that they are making money on the transaction. If I am not mistaken, BoA charges both a per-use fee and a foreign transactioin percentage. I believe the per-use fee is waived if you use one of their partners, but there is still a high conversion fee.

Posted by
507 posts


To clarify Nancy's post . . . A Bank of America debit card that is used at an ATM not owned by a partnering bank will carry a $5 per transaction charge as well as a 3% ($3 per $100) currency conversion fee.

A Bank of America Travel Credit Card carries no transaction fee. Should you use it at an ATM or a partnering bank to withdraw money, it will be considered a cash withdrawal {aka a cash advance to the politically correct} and you will be charged a fee equal to $10 or 5% of the withdrawal, whichever is lower.

I, like Nancy, recommend opening a checking account at a local credit union & getting a cu debit card. You no longer need to be associated with the credit union's group in most cases. One just needs to live in the city/state where the cu is located. The overseas fee associated with the cu ATM card is 1% and in some cu's 0%. Check it out.

BoA adds about 9 cents to the exchange rate. If the interbank conversion rate is 1€=$1.25, you will be charged $1.34 per Euro. You order 100€
& you pay $134.00, $9.00 of which is a fee.

Compare a $9 per $100 fee to an overseas BoA partnering bank's ATM's fee of $3 per $100 or a cu's fee of $1 per $100 from an ATM.

Your choice . . .

If using your credit or debit cards overseas, be sure to notify your bank so your card(s) are not frozen when using them. BoA may have forms to fill out.

Posted by
4468 posts

Barclays does not operate retail banks in the Republic of Ireland.

Posted by
3262 posts

Even if you were to get some (or a lot of) Euros before you leave home, if you wind up needing more while you're in Ireland, you might wind up using an ATM at some point anyway. For convenience and best overall rates, we get our cash over there.

Posted by
9361 posts

Using a credit card in an ATM is a "cash advance" (nothing to do with political correctness, that is the term), not a "cash withdrawal". Never use a credit card in an ATM, except in an extreme emergency. A cash advance results in immediate interest accrual at a higher than normal rate - not a smart choice.

Posted by
16769 posts

We are confident that paying for large purchases with a credit card and using your debit card to withdraw cash from European ATMS will both give you a better rate than exchanging money at home, in spite of the (variable) fees that banks will charge. See also If Barclays don't operate in the Republic of Ireland, then some other partner banks may do. For instance, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas are pretty widespread in Europe.

Posted by
5502 posts

RE: If Barclays don't operate in the Republic of Ireland, then some other partner banks may do. For instance, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas are pretty widespread in Europe.

While DB or BNP may (or may not) operate in the Republic of Ireland, the BofA rules seem pretty clear where they waive the $5 USD fee when a Global Alliance partner bank's ATM cash machine is used.

BNP Paribas: France

Deutsche Bank: Germany and Spain

As others note, your local Credit Union MAY have a better deal. While BofA is my primary bank, I use my credit union ATM for foreign transactions. My credit union does not charge outside ATM fees for the first 4 transactions per month and converts at pretty close to Interbank rates. (An Austrian bank did charge me a small ATM use fee this past January).

Even if you want to use your BoA ATM fees or no fees, its a good idea to have a back up bank ATM account. I use my Credit Union as my primary foreign ATM account and my BoA ATM checking as my back up.

Posted by
3 posts

So is it better to take dollars to Ireland to exchange for Euros or use our debit card at an ATM since Bank of America does not have any global alliance partners in the Republic of Ireland?

Posted by
2044 posts

Exchanging dollars is not an exchange, it is using dollars to purchase the local currency, at a hefty marked-up price (even if done at something pretending to be an ATM such as a Travelex machine, which is actually an un-manned exchange booth. Even though it is taking money from your account, it is BUYING euro.) Proper bank ATMs withdraw money from your account and issue it in the local currency.

As has been suggested so many times on these boards over the years, open an account with a bank that does not charge fees for ATM use, such as CapitalOne or Schwab, or a local credit union, and use it solely for travel. These will be electronic accounts which you will deposit sufficient money from your regular bank via the web before you travel.

Posted by
11154 posts

"So is it better to take dollars to Ireland to exchange for Euros or use our debit card at an ATM since Bank of America does not have any global alliance partners in the Republic of Ireland?"

NO. Even with the fees, you get a much better overall rate of exchange when using debit and credit cards, as Laura said above. As Nancy and Collette said, you can get lower fees than Bank of America's by opening an account with a credit union; other options frequently mentioned here are TD Bank and Charles Schwab.

When you exchange cash, the rate is usually about 7-10% lower than the banks use with your cards. That's how they can say "no fees" at the exchange booth and still make a profit. With cards, the bank uses something very close to the official exchange rate shown on websites like, then adds smaller fees (like the 3% and/or the $5). You still come out ahead with cards.

I agree with all the other posters: get about $100 worth of Euros before you leave, then use ATM's in Europe for the rest of your cash needs. Since your credit card has no foreign transaction fees, use that as much as possible, but you'll still need some cash.

Here's Rick's page of excellent money tips. Read all the links, and you'll be an expert:

Posted by
507 posts

I just put some figures together. Consider the ATM conversion rate in Europe could be higher than the day's exchange rate to allow the bank-owned ATM to make money. Anyhow, here are my figures.

Getting Euros Before You Go
At the bank . . .

$1.25 Exchange Rate Now<-->1€
.09 Estimated Bank Fee
$1.34 cost of 1€ x 100 = $134.00 (9% fee) bank
USA TTL for 100€ = $134.00
ATM in Europe w/no flat transaction fee
Chgs 3% conversion fee
.80 € Exchange rate now<-->$1
.80 x $125 = 100€ (+ $4.75 conversion fee)
Europe TTL for 100€ = $129.75 (3% fee)
100€ = $126.25 (cu 1% fee)

Where is that big amount I am supposed to be saving? I only see $10 per 100€. ???

I stand to be corrected. :-)

Posted by
3262 posts

Hi Colette-You're right, and a lot of travel decisions aren't going to cost or save someone hundreds or thousands of dollars (except maybe getting take-away kebabs vs. a 10-course, 3-Michelin star dinner, or getting seats in coach months ahead of time vs. getting business-class seats a week before departure), but in the end, $10 savings can get you a couple of pints at a pub in Ireland, or can contribute towards whatever dinner one is procuring. For some people, the confidence in having all their foreign money acquired before leaving home might offset any extra cost they incurred when obtaining that money at home, but then they have to be responsible for all that cash the whole trip, and might have over-estimated and then have money to exchange back at the end of the trip.

And for real high rollers, multiply that 100 Euro conversion equation by however many someone is actually contemplating bringing from home, and the cost differential might increase significantly.

Posted by
4689 posts

One thing that didn't come up here is whether the establishment you might want to eat or buy in accepts credit cards. In some countries, even Visa and Mastercard are not welcome everywhere. Aside from that, many credit cards also have a 3% foreign transaction (or Foreign Country location of transaction) fee.

I added that parenthesis because some merchants will offer to execute your transaction in another currency, but it generally won't help you, because the bank knows where the transaction was done, and the fine print in your cardholder agreement says they still get the 3%

Part of the strong reaction you're getting here is the resentment in the U.S. that since the government has cracked down on banks earning income by (opinon) deceiving and mistreating poor or ignorant customers (I mean, by executing the largest transaction of a day first, in the hope of creating an overdraft fee ... ), the banks have had to turn to other ways of "making money". Some of us just don't see any reason to help out a CEO who already earned $40 million dollars in compensation this year! That's a sense is which "I care" about $10.

Also, I'm lucky enough to travel abroad regularly. One of the few "advantages" of rock-bottom interest rates is that I don't mind keeping a baggie of Euros in the back of my desk drawer between trips!

Posted by
507 posts

Cyn, and Ken,

Thank you for your reply. Since I have been on the forum I keep hearing "one gets a better rate overseas than in their own country." So I did the math.

If you go back to the ATM that has the 3% rate and add on Bank of America's $5 transaction fee for a non-partner European bank, then the cost for just 100 Euros at a European ATM goes from $129.75 to $134.75, seventy-five cents higher than buying them back in the states. Then, I don't want to carry around 134,000.00 Euros from before the time I go through the TSA point.

I am a seasoned traveler although my trips may be 3 to 5 years apart. I have come to agree with most posters that getting 100 Euros before I leave would be good. Everything on my trip to the other side of the pond has been paid for except lunch & souvenirs.

{Edit: this is my last post on this thread.}

Posted by
5013 posts

there is no such thing as an official "market rate". Its whatever the buyer/seller wants to pay. The interbank exchange rate published in the paper every day is not binding on anyone. My bank calls their rate a market rate too, but its not close to the published interbank rate. Nobody does this for free.

Posted by
5502 posts

there is no such thing as an official "market rate".

Why Can't I Get Interbank Rates From a Bank?

The prices quoted by the Currency Converter are based on interbank
market rates and generally reflect the exchange rates for transactions
of US $1 million or more. These are the "official" rates quoted in the
media, such as The Wall Street Journal. Retail spreads (the difference
between the Bid and Ask prices) for smaller amounts are not reflected
in these interbank prices since they vary among payment systems,
countries and banks.

If you go to a bank in your home country, you usually have to pay more
of your home currency to get foreign currency than you will receive of
your home currency, if you return the foreign currency. This results
in the two exchange rates shown in the margin result.

Because these retail rates vary so much in every place, we cannot
advise you where to go at any given moment to change currencies. You
can usually find out such information from your local bank, travel
guides, or people who have visited the place you are heading for.

Posted by
5013 posts

@Edgar. Thanks for the clarification. What I meant was that there is no one "official" government regulated rate. That each buyer/seller can establish their own rate

Posted by
541 posts

Hole-the-wall is the British/Irish term for a bank-related ATM. They are as legitimate as our ATMs here. We laughed the first time we heard our Irish cousins refer to the ATM as such, but use it jokingly among ourselves now. If you Google it, you will see that the fellow who invented the ATM thought it would be great to have a hole in the wall of the bank where you could get money.

Posted by
9 posts

I just got back from Dublin and London. Used atm's at airport in Frankfurt during layover. My back charged outrages fees and spread as well. I opened a Charles Schwab high yield checking account for free. no charges no minimums. the exchange rate was great and they do not charge any fees at all and waive the transaction fees charged by the atm you are using. my statements supported this. so I am happy to say it worked great and i will continue to use. It is very easy to find atm's in airports so i recommend exchanging money when you arrive. the one warning is when you transfer money into the account from another back they hold it for 3 business ( i was not happy about this ) before you can access. so make sure you move money a week in advance to assure the funds are there. Hope this may help someone.