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Getting Euros

Having rented a place in Rome, we need to have the Euros on hand when we get the key. I had planned on hitting the bankomat at the airport for the cash... OR... would I get a much better exchange rate if I wait till we're in the city and find an ATM to use?

Grazie --

Gary

Posted by
495 posts

When you use an ATM the exchange rate is determined by your bank at home not the ATM. So city or airport the rate will be the same.

Posted by
1201 posts

If you use an ATM the rate should be the same no matter where the ATM is located.

You should be aware though that some ATMs (if not most) in italy will limit the amount of cash you can get as a withdrawal, even if that amount is less than your daily allowance from your bank.

If you need a lot of cash, you may need to use a couple of accounts.

Posted by
1358 posts

Be sure to call your bank to tell them you will be using your ATM card in a foreign country.

You will usually find an ATM at every air terminal.

Just ask someone when you land where it is located. I have used ATMs in air terminals many times in over 20 foreign air terminals.

Posted by
10344 posts

Gary: You didn't say how much you need for the deposit, and we don't need to know the amount--but the reason I bring this up is:No matter how much advice you get here, you will not be able to determine, in advance, what the withdrawal limit will be at the particular ATM you're standing in front of on the morning of day 1 in Europe. It's often the case that the withdrawal limit at a Europe ATM is different from, often less than, your limit here. Getting your limit raised here only deals with half the problem, because the ATM you use in Europe will probably have its own limit that is not related to your daily limit here. So, depending on how much you need for the deposit, it may not be feasible for you to get that amount out of one or even more than one ATMs. In this situation, where you need a large amount of euro cash for a deposit on an apartment, some people decide it gives them more peace of mind or is less of a hassle to buy euros here, only in the amount of the apartment deposit + maybe the first day's worth of other cash expenses, before they go--knowing full well that they will pay a higher fee to get the euros here (that's guaranteed). Let's say you pay 5% more here and you need a $1,000 of euros. You get to decide if it's worth $50 ($1000 x 5%) to have the apartment deposit cash in euros in your money belt when you arrive at the airport. If you don't want to pay the extra, you'll be taking a chance that you cannot get the amount you need from one or more ATMs in time to make the deposit on your apartment, which might cause additional problems. But the standard advice given here, for people who do not need to make a large cash deposit on an apartment, is not to buy large amounts of euros here, because you will pay more, no matter what the financial institution might say about "no fees." They make their profit in the exchange rate, if you buy here.

Posted by
495 posts

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that ATM withdrawal limits are per transaction. So even though there might be, say, a €300 limit you can simply put your card back in and withdraw more money (up to your bank's daily limit.)

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for the info. What made me wonder was some advice in another thread that said get Euros from your bank before you go as you will get a better rate here than there. I found going the bank route was expensive -- they wanted all sorts of fees. I am aware of the withdrawal limit and have planned for that.

Thanks again.

Gary

Posted by
1358 posts

Be sure to call your bank to tell them you will be using your ATM card in a foreign country.

You will usually find an ATM at every air terminal.

Just ask someone when you land where it is located. I have used ATMs in air terminals many times in over 20 foreign air terminals.

Posted by
7710 posts

It may not hurt to have a back-up plan. Possibly some cash to exchange, or in my case, I have a credit card with cash withdrawal capability at an ATM (I have a PIN) The withdrawal limit is much higher than any bank offers, and while it is a cash advance, transaction fees are the same as my Debit card and electronic access to my account means I can transfer funds from my Bank the same day to pay off the credit card.

Posted by
6 posts

I just called Visa to have a PIN number mailed to me and was informed that there is a 3% withdrawal fee, AND 20% interest on amount withdrawn with NO grace period! I imagine that I would only use my Visa at an ATM for an emergency.

Posted by
831 posts

Let me try to help on obtaining euro. Start with the interbank rate that you can find on line or in the paper. Credit cards and ATM and debit cards add fees, either flat or percentages or both. To get an idea of what banks add what fees see http://flyerguide.com/wiki/index.php/Credit/Debit/ATM_Cards_and_Foreign_Exchange
As you can see it is possible to get cards that have only a 1% charge. Compare that to the 5% or more charge that US banks charge for exchange.

An ATM card or debit card will be the least expensive way to get euro. Credit cards will give you a cash advance with minimum fees and percentages and interest that starts immediately.

The ATMs are connected to your bank by networks, Visa – Plus MasterCard – Cirrus, you need to have the same network at your bank and the ATM. If ALL you have is a local or North American network, (Star, Pulse etc) you cannot connect. Do not worry about the logo appearing on the bankomat, most machines will take both the Visa – Plus or the MasterCard – Cirrus. Many ATMs in Italy have a 250 euro transaction limit but you can perform multiple transactions up to the limit set by your bank.

Many US banks set limits by card not account so a couple can each withdraw the limit set by their bank. It is a good idea to have a second account and individual cards on it as back up and to increase the amount you can take out in one day. There are many reasons for a transaction to be denied: no money in the machine, you asked for more than the transaction limit, no connection to the international lines, a spike on the transmission lines, etc. In Italy the bankomats are not very good at telling you why a transaction failed. Do not panic, try again (maybe a lower amount) or go to another machine.

I have a four digit PIN so I can not say that five or six digits are accepted but on many machines I have seen spaces for five or six digits (some machines do not show spaces). I also have a leading zero in my PIN

Posted by
14 posts

I used my debit card in Europe last year with no problem. My credit union craged teh going rate of exchange for the day of withdrawal plus 1 or 2 %. We took 1000 euros with us for a charge of 12.50 plus the exchange rate for that day. We have an account at a commerical bank which might make the difference in charges.
Jim

Posted by
114 posts

We have been to Italy several times now, and in fact, just returned on Tuesday from 10 days in Milan and Venice.

My husband, the math teacher :) swears that the best deal is to take a wad of cash ($50's)and go to a bank to have it changed to Euros. This was easy in Milan near the Duomo and also in Venice near San Marco. We needed to pay cash for our hotel room to get a discount, so we did this recently. In the past, we checked on getting Euros here in the U.S. and the fees and extra charges were horrible, as was using the charge card. We also took a debit card and used that for cash (though our bank has a withdrawal limit of E250 per day) because I get nervous traveling with a lot of cash, despite the money belt. We keep a special account with a limited amount of $$ (in case it gets stolen) for the travel debit card.

No matter how you look at it, there will be fees, etc., but we have found that exchanging cash and also using the debit card worked the best for us.

Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
345 posts

Hi Gary,

First, RE: the basics: Do you have a RS guidebook? There is a lot to know about money/ cash/fees/ exchange rates. You should make a checklist of all the financial/banking tasks you need to do before leaving. Also check the graffiti wall for some free advice.

I've realized from past inquiries of this nature that complete advice on this important subject is just too much for a helpline response. A good guidebook will save you a lot of money and streamline your planning.

Second, I know everyone advises against it, but we bought Euros in the US before my first trip to Italy for exactly the reason you (and Kent) stated. We needed so, so much cash upfront for lodging (not to mention walking around money) we felt it would have been too burdensome hitting the ATMs every day, maxing out the daily limits on our accounts or the individual machine and cutting things too close. It worked for us, but I only reluctantly recommend it. It's unnecessary for most people. ATMs (bancomats) are plentiful and convenient.

The benefits were as Kent stated plus we kept our ATM cards and our cash safely stashed in our money belt instead of planning our days around bancomat transactions. We got a decent exchange rate, not great, at BofA main branch in downtown SF but it was more expensive than using the bancomat.

Posted by
12172 posts

As has been brought up, the best place to get your Euros is at an ATM. They are everywhere and will give you the best exchange rate.

The daily limit might be a problem for you because you need money right away for your lodging. Typical daily limits on ATM cards are $500 (not the same as 500 Euros) and refresh daily (normally at around midnight at home). Daily limits are designed to protect you if your bank card is lost or stolen so your entire account won't be cleared before you call the bank.

A couple ways to get around the daily limits:

First, ask your bank to increase your daily limit when you advise them you will be traveling to Europe. Some banks will increase your limit at your request, most won't.

Second, use more than one account. When I travel, I bring an ATM card for my account and my wife brings a card for her account effectively doubling our daily limit. Both accounts are at the same bank and, since we're both signers on each other's accounts, we can transfer funds if one card is lost or stolen. Many accounts are free, you could conceivably open extra accounts just to have an additional debit cards and daily limits.

Third, order Euros ahead of time so you have the currency you need. Any commercial bank can get Euros for you but you usually have to give them a few days notice (sometimes they have a small amount on hand in the branch).