Exchange Euro's before trip?

My Credit union limits the amount that can be taken from an ATM to $300/ day. I was wondering if it is better to exchange some cash prior to leaving? I noticed that R/S says you can sometimes get a discount for cash for rooms and meals. Although I love to charge because I get more travel miles ( I'm paying for our flights thru air miles earned !!!) And of course I always pay before due date. Thanks for all your help

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
5847 posts

No. It's better to change money in Europe (or better use your ATM card there when you arrive). In the US you'll get lousy exchange rate. Ask your bank if they allow you to raise the limit to $400. Otherwise just withdraw 200 or 230 euro at the time whenever you go to an ATM (Euro 230= approx US$300). Remember to call your bank customer service and alert them that you will be using the ATM card overseas, so that they don't block it thinking someone is using it fraudulently. To minimize trips to the ATM (some American banks might charge you up to $5 per withdrawal when you use it overseas), use your credit card to pay for things as much as you can, especially for purchases over 20 euros. Obviously if it's a very small purchase many vendors won't accept it, since some merchants have a minimum 20 euro purchase to use a credit card. Both credit cards and ATM cards are likely to charge a 3% foreign transaction fee. Still better than changing US $$ at banks or change bureaus, that have higher commissions. Don't forget also to alert your credit cards that you will be using the card overseas. PS: Just in case see if you can have 2 ATM cards from different accounts and 2 separate credit cards, in case one gets canceled or doesn't work for whatever reason. Always better to have a back up.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
3054 posts

I use the ATM for day to day spending money. Otherwise, I use a Capital One Visa card that doesn't rip their customers off on the exchange rates. I use Visa for restaurants, rooms, rental cars and gasoline. If I have to pay cash for a room, I might make a couple of withdrawals on different days.
Have you asked the credit union to raise the limits for a couple of weeks to $500 per day? They may have the ability to do that for you.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2184 posts

You might want to check out "Graffiti Wall > Money/Communication > ATMs: Minimizing Fees" elsewhere on this web site. It might help you make a decision related to your question which seems to appear on the Travelers' Helpline almost every day. I go to Europe every summer for over 10 years now and take two Debit cards, each one from a different financial institution. My primary debit card is tied to a checking account in a local credit union that has a 1% transaction and a $500 daily limit which they refuse to raise so that I use my debit card at ATM machines as I run low on cash. I also carry two different credit cards, again from different banks.
I use a credit card sparingly, perhaps once a week at most, preferring to pay cash as I go. I have found more and more places that I frequent that no longer accept credit cards. Not sure just why, perhaps the fee they have to pay to the card's issuer. It was not that long ago, perhaps a year or two, that RS would not accept CC but now he does but gives a discount to those who prefer to pay cash/check/MO. I too fly often on miles but most of my miles are gotten from flying between Hawaii and the mainland so I am not adverse to getting miles when I can. Happy travels

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1493 posts

I usually rent apartments, so I MUST have cash on arrival in Eu's. I have used both American Express (which gives a pretty good exchange rate) and my bank, which also gives a decent exchange rate and a $15.00 fee no matter how many EU's I buy. I always bring enough to cover the balance of the rent and another 200eus to cover ground transportation and first day expenses. I just feel better doing it that way rather than needing to hit two ATMs immediately on arrival. I'm very careful with the cash and usually carry it on my neck in one of those cut proof pouches that you can buy at a luggage shop or through Rick's store. I also have a money belt, but they are not as convenient for a woman.