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Euros before traveling: the never ending question

hi all, first time post.
I know this has been talked ad nauseum on the site and I had already decided to simply wait to pull money from an ATM in Rome's airport upon arrival.

So, I go into Wells Fargo to change my pin to 4 digit, and they asked me if I needed Euros. I told them know because etc etc.
She says, we don't charge a fee. I thought, hmm, maybe I misremembered..and mentioned Rick Steves etc.

On the way I home, I thought: oh yes, it's in the currency rate. That's where they get you!

I first googled today's Dollar to Euro rate. 1.09, per Google.
Then, I called back Wells Fargo and spoke to the manager who actually was the person I discussed this with.

Their rate: $1.10.
No other fees. That looks like only a 1% bump to me.

So, my questions are:
Shouldn't I just go for it?
How is this worse than getting it from the ATM in Europe?
And doesn't ATMs have amount limits?
Is the Rick Steves tip based on the fact that theoretically not everyone has access to the bigger banks, and thus may not be able to get competitive rates?

Side note: I also researched Wells Fargo's online foreign currency exchange, and yes: there, it is 1.14. That obviously is not cool. But getting inside the bank seems potentially smart.

Your thoughts...Thanks so much,

Posted by
1410 posts

If you actually can get the Euros at $1.10, then do it.

Posted by
31030 posts


I always like to have €100-200 with me for travel expenses, such as Taxi or Bus fare, meals, etc., until I get to my first hotel. After that I use the nearest ATM to top-up my cash. I usually have Euro (or other currency) left over from previous trips, so I don't have to bother getting any from my local banks. I try to get out of airports as quickly as possible as I'm usually jet lagged and tired and don't want to stop for anything.

If you can get a reasonable rate at your local Wells Fargo, I'd take advantage of that.

Posted by
11613 posts

Does Wells Fargo have euro in stock or will they be Fedexed, with that charge being paid by you? Doesn't affect the exchange rate, but it is an additional cost.

Bancomats may limit the amount you can withdraw per transaction; you can do sequential transactions if you need a pile of euro. Your bank sets your daily withdrawal limit.

Posted by
2762 posts

I recall post from the past saying that Wells Fargo has a good rate and is theplacentomget euros if younwant some in advance. So go for it---but not more than €200 or so,mas youndon't want to be carrying around a lot of cash. Unless you need more right away for an apartment payment.

Posted by
5 posts

Hi Zoe,
The idea the manager and I discussed was that I would simply pick it up at the bank. It was based on the amount they had on hand.

Thanks everyone, this is all helpful. I've only been to Europe once (Paris, in 05, and wow the rate was like 1.41 at the time or so).

Posted by
148 posts

When we went to Italy last year we went to our local bank and got about $100 worth of euros. We figured that by the time we landed in Venice after an all night flight we'd be tired and would have enough hassle getting our luggage and getting to the boat that we didn't want the additional hassle of having to find an ATM and get euros. And you do want to have some right away.

By the way, don't forget to check your debit/credit cards for any international fees they may tack on for actually using them in Europe.

Posted by
5540 posts

Your Wells Fargo must be different/better than mine.

Foreign currency purchases must be paid for with a Wells Fargo
checking or savings account. We do not accept card payments online.
Today's (May 01, 2017): 1 EURO (EUR) = 1.1459 U.S. dollar (USD)

Cost (USD) $114.59 (100 EURO)

And Wells Fargo's ATM/Debit card has foreign fees in their T&Cs:

Non-Wells Fargo ATM Fees International = $5

International Purchase Transaction Fee = 3% of transaction amount

So the above noted, the $1.10/EUR at your branch would be a good deal. Take it if it's true.

Posted by
5 posts

Hi Edgar,
Yea, I saw the same thing when I researched their site before calling her. She was the manager, and definitely said 1.1. I even told her what I saw online was 1.09.

Posted by
848 posts

I have a friend that always get Euros at Wells Fargo before a trip and he is pretty good about checking that he gets a good deal (but there is only one in town that carries €s). Sounds pretty similar to what you are describing. If it's true then go for it.


Posted by
1036 posts

Not a bad rate at all. If I didn't have any euros I would probably grab them. OP if you decide to buy them, would you mind asking if the rate was so good only because they had them on hand? I'm curious to see if it would be worse if they had to order.

Posted by
447 posts

That is a good deal. You don't know what the exchange rate will be 2, 3, 4 months from now. It could be less or more. No one knows. You are taking a gamble either way. Have fun.

Posted by
4833 posts

There has been a slight increase in the exchange rate, a month ago the Interbank rate was closer to $1.04, it could be that they have some old rate euros, but it seems that they would take the profit and charge you current rate (though they often will still charge you their rate paid if the rate drops) If they are offering $1.10 snap them up, if the price changes with a fee, then re-evaluate.

As for the general Rick Steves advice, you likely are in a situation where the cost you will get at an ATM is much higher than most of the people on this board. As someone mentioned, you likely will be hit with a $5 fee plus 3% over Interbank. Yes ATM's have withdrawal limits, either by your account ($300?) or sometimes by the ATM (A few hundred euro).

For your situation, if you withdraw $200 worth of euro, it likely will cost you 5.5% ($5 + 3% ($6 on $200) or $11) Typically, from Well's Fargo, buying euros at the bank (if they have them on hand) cost about 5%, so buying ahead could be the best deal, but the risk is carrying a wad of cash an trying to estimate your need...overestimating can cost you more.

Most advice would center on finding a better ATM card (Schwab Bank, Capital One Checking, Fidelity, or a Credit Union) but time may be an issue.

Posted by
307 posts

Totally agree with Ken! We have kept 100-200 euros from our last trip. On our first trip to Italy the airport ATM didn't work and we were a bit flustered and really tired. On a trip this big, a $5-$10 difference really doesn't make a difference.

Get a 100-200 euros from Wells Fargo (on our first trip the exchange rate was 1.40) so when you land you can get a taxi (if necessary), a coffee or glass of wine, a snack.

Get a good nights sleep and the next day find a ATM associated with a bank, and get as many euros as allowed.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
3427 posts

Many of the larger banks update their buy/sell rate sheet at the branches irregularly. This could be an old rate that has not been updated yet. I wouldn't be surprised if the rate they give you tomorrow won't be worse for you. Some of the bigger banks have the worst exchange rates -- they just want to make money.

There are other reasons the rate offered is so low, but would only be speculation on my part right now based on things that I experienced when I worked the FX desk for a bank.

Posted by
11977 posts

That's a good rate, grab some at least for the first day or two.
ATMs in Italy are ubiquitous as Italy has more bank branches than any EU State, however it's a good idea to have two ATM cards, maybe from separate accounts if you travel alone, in case one gets damaged or lost. I also like to use machines inside banks, rather than outside, and during business hours, in case things go wrong and the machine eats the card (didn't happen to me but to my cousin in Italy last year, maybe because he entered the wrong PIN).

Posted by
308 posts

I walked into my local Wells Fargo before my trip to Paris in February and purchased around 500 euros as a convenience. They always have Euros on hand in a variety of denominations. I got home from the bank and I did some quick math. Taking into account the foreign transaction fee I would have been charged at the ATM, and having to pull out money twice because of my daily limit, the amount I paid was very close to what I would have spent at an ATM in Paris. It was certainly worth the convenience for me.

Posted by
5 posts

Ahhh.. those pesky little details. :)
So, I decided to go for it and purchase 500 euro.
When I got to the bank, they were (instead) now quoting me what the Wells Fargo website said yesterday: 1.1459. Which did not comport with what the manager told me over the phone (1.1). And I distinctly remember a hesitation in her voice when she rounded the 1.1 (instead of saying 1.10). Remember she sounded odd as she said it, but I didn't push for the 2nd decimal detail at the time!

Ah well. So I declined to buy it for now, as I reconsider.

Posted by
5540 posts

Thanks for the report back.

As the movie Jerry Maguire's character said: "Show me the money" or in your case, "Show me the Euros". It's all talk until it comes down to money on the table.

Posted by
736 posts

For me the convenience of having a few Euros in my pocket when I land is way more important than the pennies it costs me or saves me to get them from my bank or the ATM when I land. I think the last time I purchased euros this summer I paid $1.14 to have them delivered to my house FedEx. Ok so the exchange rate today is $1.09 but you never get the exchange rate - there is always a mark up.

Posted by
13 posts

i usually follow the exchange rate for several months before a scheduled trip, and buy when they are cheap. Wells Fargo in Atlanta has quite a few branches that keep Euros in stock. We bought earlier this year, saving a little over 4%. I may be a bit of a dinosaur; have never used ATM in the US, and probably won't in Italy. I do have a Schwabb card if I ever need it. For all the purported ease of using ATM's in Italy, I have wasted a lot of hours on previous trips, accompanying travel companions dealing with ATM's. Allan

Posted by
752 posts

Just get the Euro, I Always have Euro on me when I land, I refuse the holy ritual of standing in line at airport ATMs. I gotta hit the ground running. I have enough Euro for several days cause I like it that way.

Posted by
112 posts

I'm from Canada and so my experience may not be helpful for those of you in the US but on the off chance that it is, here's what has worked for me.

I always buy currency at what are known as Foreign Exchange or Currency Exchange companies. In Vancouver there are quite a few scattered throughout the downtown area. When we travel to Europe we buy Euros from the currency exchange before we leave and the rate is always better than the bank rate - even though I've been told by my bank manager that I would get a preferred rate.

Similarly, as we live half the year in the US, I purchase USD online from the currency exchange company which debits my CAD account and transfers it to my US bank account. Not only is there no charge for the online service the rate is always better than the bank rate even though I'd be transferring within the same bank. The only hard part is watching the Canadian dollar continue to drop on a daily basis. Travelling to Canada is a real bargain for Americans these days!

Posted by
2454 posts

Ditto Sandra. I get my from AAA. Extremely reasonable, IMO.

Posted by
20 posts

I had no trouble getting 200 euro at FCO on landing Wed, May 3 in the late am. Got two coffees and paid driver for trip to hotel. Still had plenty left for couple of days. Had no trouble getting 2 withdrawals next few days of 500 and 300 euros. My bank charges a 1% fee and uses the daily exchange rate to convert to dollars. This was pretty painless. If having cash in you pocket makes you feel safer and more confident, do that. If you can handle a little uncertainty, wait until you get to FCO airport.

Posted by
5540 posts

The Le Pen defeat takes the possibility of capital controls off the table. CNBC reported that Le Pen considered capital controls to prevent a run on the banks in the event of a surprise upset. Fortunately two-thirds of the French voters picked Macron. We'll see if the price of the Euro anticipated the Macron victory.

Posted by
113 posts

I exchanged $50 at the airport for euros in Paris because my card didn't work at the airport atm's and I tried several. I noticed other travelers were having similar issues. I don't know if it had anything to do with being Sunday or what but I started to kick myself for not having at least one hundred euros before leaving. It turned out that my card worked in some atm's but not others. With the help of my concierge, I was able to locate an atm finally after 4 tries. This was uncomfortable and inconvenient since I had to walk to each atm location. I got to know my hotel's neighborhood though. I took out the maximum it would allow. Not all atm's allow the same maximum so I simply would try again in a lower amount until success. As far as the exchange rate, I relate that to the price of gas per gallon. I don't want to calculate if I'm saving $10 - $20 on exchange when on vacation.

Posted by
20686 posts

Sunday could have been the problem and the ATMs were empty because of high weekend demand. Just as a refresher -- you have two limits on ATMs. The first limit is the restriction by the ATM owner on withdraw for each request. Often on a weekend or in high tourist area the limit is relatively low - 200 to 300 euro. Then you just repeat the withdraw until you have what you need. The other limited is the max withdraw in a 24 hour period set by your card issuer. It can be anything and vary by account. We have found that ATMs attached to a bank during open hours in the middle of the week have much higher limits and sometimes no limits. I have taken out as much as 750 euro at one time.

Also it is helpful to have a couple of ATM cards attached to two different account just in case one of them doesn't want to work for some reason.

Posted by
4695 posts

I travel with two ATM cards from different accounts. Occasionally (very rarely) one ATM will not accept my card, but the one across the street does. Otherwise, never had a problem with my ATM cards not allowing me access to Euros in general, after 12+ trips.

If the Paris airport ATM did not work - if clearly everyone was having problems with them - I'd just skip it and head into Paris. In fact, I've done that before. My credit cards work almost everywhere - certainly to buy a RER ticket into town. But if I really needed cash, I could exchange the few hundred dollars USD I carry with me for emergencies when I travel. So far, I've never needed to. I still don't see the need to buy Euros ahead of time.

Posted by
5540 posts

Frank notes: Often on a weekend or in high tourist are the limit is relatively low - 200 to 300 euro.

The VCE ATM had a lower limit than my Credit Union limit. I requested 300 EUR and was denied without explanation as to why. I submitted a new request for 200 EUR and the 200 EUR request worked. I arrived at VCE Tuesday mid-day (they were cleaning up after Carnevale), not a weekend.

Posted by
20686 posts

True, Carnevale qualifies as a high tourist area even in the middle of the week and the limit could have been 250 euro half way between 200 to 300.

Posted by
490 posts

Regardless of what it has ever cost me, I always come home with 300 Euros! Enough for first day without using ATM jet lagged and brain dead! Worth every penny!