Should I get euros here in the States or can I get them at the airport in Rome?
This question keeps getting asked regularly. Buy your euros here in the US if you are very wealthy and don't mind paying the biggest exchange rate possible. I have never purchased them prior to going to Europe, yearly, and have never had a problem getting them from ATM machines using a debit card - NOT a credit card.
Get them in the states
i converted here b-4 i left..for a 2 week stay, 1000.00 eu;paid the regular "scew american economy" [cost 1400.00 for the 1000.00 euro thing], and never looked back..ran out of $$ last 2 days..[i went "thru the back door"..NOTHING but hostels,buses, trains}...using ATM there wasn't a problem towards the end but i DID get charged that extra 3%, standard..for most card transactions..if i had to do again? would do what i did: it was just a comfortable feeling i had what i needed, and didn't have to deal with the hassle of getting cash. but that's me, kicking and screaming being dragged to 2007 paperless airplane tickets,[which i just heard is gonna be permenent, no choice], transacting $$ using a piece of plastic. :}
I'd buy them in the US. I use the Travelex site here and buy them online. I have been following the rate for the US dollar over the last few weeks as I am off to NY in a month. When the exchange rate has been really good I have bought some. You can get a quote each day and then buy currency when it is at a rate you think is good. By buying online I also get a better rate than buying over the counter. You order on line and give a credit card as a guarantee. You then nominate which branch you want to pick up the currency from and either pay for the money in cash or with a the credit card you have nominated. Very quick and easy.
We have always gotten then thru ATMs in Europe but it might be a good idea to buy em in the US bcuz the exchange rate is likely to get worse with time
Ginny - do a bit of research on this forum (using the search option). There are pros and cons about obtaining Euros. Obtaining at a high rate prior to travel, using ATM or charging on credit cards. I've done a bit of all three and it would seem that the variety afforded the best net outcome/level of comfort for me. It's what ever you feel most comfortable.
Having some Euro before or as you arrive is wise to get you started. Credit cards charge conversion rates, ATM charge you as well. Just pay and relish in the fact that you are actually there enjoying a lifetime experience.
Went to Italy last month. I bought $1000 in euros in the States a couple of weeks before going since I was getting a good rate. Thank God I bought before I went, because when we got to Italy, the rate there wasn't as good. I did get some euros at the ATMs there a couple of times, but both times didn't know what rate I was getting (ATMs don't post the exchange rate). Didn't find out until I got home that the rates wasn't as good as I got before going. A friend of mine brought traveler's checks. Exchange rate for those were absolutely horrible!
So my advice is:
1. Keep an eye on the exchange rates and know when you're getting a good rate.
2. Buy some euros before your trip.
3. Don't bring traveler's checks. If you need cash while on your trip, use the ATM.
I just checked the Travelex site, and they're quoting $1550 USD for $1000 EUR. That's 1.55 while XE.com has the rate at 1.429%. I'm assuming there is a fee built into that and it says that AAA members receive 25% off the fee. I'm curious what an Italian ATM would charge to compare (of course fees would likely vary).
I've bought mine in the States for the piece of mind. I know I'll have access to money over there but I want to be covered on my way and not have to look for an ATM or stop my tour for cash. If I run out by the 7-8th day I'll have a better grasp of the system over there by then and will feel more comfortable. The way I figure it is...I'm spending major coin on this trip..I'm not going to worry about the nickles and dimes on the exchange rate...it's bad and that'll be fairly consistent!
I always buy my Euros in the States months before the trip. I watch the rates all the time so I know when there is a good rate and buy then - always during the low season. I have always come out hundreds of dollars ahead this way. The draw-back: You have to be comfortable carrying all that money with you.
To Steve: The standard exchange rate would be 1% above market (so 1.439). Some US banks will also add a premium of 1-2%, but this in entirely up to the bank, plus the "out of network" fee that many banks add on. If you use a bank's ATM in Italy, which most of them are, they won't charge a fee. (It's my understanding that they're not allowed to charge a fee for non-Italian cards.) To compare, that EUR 1000 from an ATM would at worst be something like $1472 (and this assumes 3% + $5 in 3 withdrawals). For me, it would only be $1437 (1% + no fee in 3 wds).
I feel the best thing to do is to simply bring an ATM card and some emergency cash in USD. If the airport ATM doesn't work, there will always be an exchange booth. Most larger airports will likely have multiple ATMs. (I moved to Germany just after Euro cash was introduce and arrived with only DEM 80 and my ATM and credit cards.)
I always get Euros in the airport at an ATM as soon as I am able. The only thing you're risking is potentially being hungry and not having any Euros to spend if you can't find an ATM right away. ATMs in Europe are as prevalent and easy to use as they are in America.
I've never taken money beforehand. I always just stop at one of the many many ATM's you'll see in airports (including Rome) or train stations and get what I need. Although, my bank doesn't charge me to make foreign ATM withdrawals, so it's obviously cheaper for me to just get currency when I arrive at my destination. The exchange rate is bad enough, I don't see any sense in buying currency beforehand and getting an even worse rate. I have never been able to NOT find an ATM. They're all over the place. I think Paul has the best advice - just take some back up USD.
In the Travel Tips section on this Web site, Rick Steves has written a very good article about changing money in Europe. Go here: www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/moneytip.htm.
I always pref to get a few 100 Euros before I leave - then go to the ATMs there at BIG banks (for best rates). Your bank may have a partner bank - like BofA does with some in europe. ALso I found my bank actually had the best and easiest way to get those - cheaper than the exchange places, lower fees, and in a variety of denominations - all available from the web with pick up at my branch the next day or 2 (BofA). that worked for me - plus a couple 100$ US Bills (and a small $10 or 20)in the money belt just incase
We buy some through our bank before we go and also through ATMs when we are there. Just returned from Italy and had a problem with some of the ATM's not accepting our card as it was not on their system (For some reason our bank no longer is on cirrus system so we had to look for machines that accepted PLUS - look on the back of your card) 2 times we wanted to withdraw more than 250 euro and that was the maximum the machine would allow us to withdraw. Also, avoid using credit cards for cash. Check with your bank and see what they charge. Most credit cards begin accruing interest on cash withdrawls the day you make the withdrawl, at a higher rate than that for purchases. One other note: alert all banks whose cards you might possibly use overseas before you go. Give them your dates and cities of travel. They can block your card if they think it might be stolen and being used illegaly and that could really spoil a trip.
We never have a problem getting euros at airport ATMS upon arrival at any European airport. We would not purchase euros here. However, we always make it a point to bring home euros or pounds to get us started on the next trip--around 100 or so is a nice amount to bring home. We also make certain we use ATMS that have no extra charge--Parribas, Deutch, etc are compatible with Bank of America that we have our account with at home. And Capitol One is the best VISA card to use in Europe--at least for now.