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Carrying cash

In his books Rick suggests taking several hundred $ in $20 bills in our money belts. Does anyone see the logic in this? We will be getting Euros from ATMs near banks using our credit union debit card. If we carry some dollars for an emergency, we would need to convert them at a bank anyway, so why the small bills? Wouldn't larger less bulky bills make more sense? We won't be using dollars at merchants where we need small bills.

Posted by
8889 posts

If this is your emergency money (= help, panic, none of my cards work, I don't care what exchange rate I get, but I need some cash), then why carry them around with you all day. I would think it is better to keep them in your hotel room safe.
If you have to fall back on this emergency money, figure you will loose at least £/€/$ 10 + 10% in doing so.

Posted by
518 posts

Like investments, I like to "diversify," meaning, I carry cash too but keep in several places: money belt, hotel safe or locked in luggage, small amount in wallet for small purchases, etc.

As for bill size, I assume it's for small merchants that don't carry a lot of change for big bills, but if you plan on shopping at larger stores or stores that accept credit cards that won't be a problem.

Posted by
9363 posts

While I don't agree with carrying "several hundred", the money is meant, as Chris said, as an emergency stash. It is not for spending directly, but to exchange in an emergency. The reason for the smaller bills is not for merchants without much change (do merchants here have change for euro bills?) but because currency exchanges sometimes will not take larger bills like $100s due to the possibility of counterfeiting.

Posted by
1068 posts

I carry (in an actual money belt) about $320-370 US. At least 2 $100, 2 $50 and a $20. I usually have about $170 more in a difficult to locate pocket in my luggage. I figure this is only "deep" emergency money.....as stated above, when exchange rate etc. doesn't make a difference. It is in different places in case I lose my luggage or I am totally robbed. It gives me a bit of breathing room to replace credit cards etc. When I travel, I don't mind having back-up, back-up plans.

Posted by
5789 posts

For travel to China where ATM cash machines can be scarce, exchange of US Dollars to Chinese Renminbi is the norm. Large city hotels catering to foreign/western travelers exchange currency as a normal part of their business as do Chinese banks. The usual advice for travelers to China is to bring $100 USD bills that are clean and crisp (no tears) with current security features. Torn or dirty/damaged bills may be rejected. The hotels, banks have automatic counting machines that appear to also scan the bills for security features. That said, some Chinese hotels will have exchange limits. Our Shanghai hotel had a $1000 USD limit per stay.

In terms of European travel, carrying two hundred in $20 notes, especially if split between two persons is not a lot of extra bulk and currency easily used when it is not needed in Europe and repatriated to the USA.

Posted by
3714 posts

Having a little USD (or your own currency) cash is also good if you have a long wait in a US (or your country) airport either enroute to Europe or on the way back. Yes, you can use your debit or credit card, but I hate doing that for any purchase under $20, even at home.

Posted by
6801 posts

The advice to carry a relatively large stash of US dollars for emergencies made more sense in the days before the euro when every country had their own currency. May still apply when traveling in multiple countries that do.

Posted by
544 posts

I agree that I would probably carry 100 - 200 euro instead of $100 US for my emergency cash. Just get it at the ATM when you arrive at the airport.

I know that people have had trouble with ATM cards from smaller banks sometimes. You might consider verifying what ATMs are in the airport you're arriving in will work with your debit card.

Posted by
16883 posts

In your desperate hour, you might not be near a bank that is open, but instead trying to pay a taxi driver or similar. He may agree to take your dollars but not to provide change for big bills. Also, if $20 is adequate to get you past an emergency, you avoid taking a bad exchange rate on a larger amount. Once you do get euros from your first ATM, try to keep them "in stock" in your money belt, not letting your supply run down to zero.

Posted by
31524 posts

catherine,

That logic doesn't make any sense to me. That may have been a good tactic at one time, but I'm not sure whether it will be much of a benefit these days. It's highly likely that you'll come home with the same stash of $20 bills, thinking "why did I bother bringing them?".

The reality is that if you exchange the U.S. currency at a Change booth at the airport or whatever, you'll get ripped-off on the exchange rate. Some hotels may be willing to change them, but again at a less-than-favourable exchange rate. At shops or other services, they may not be willing to take them at all.

I always carry a stash of various currencies, mostly because I have them left over from previous trips, but there's no way they would add up to several hundred dollars.

Posted by
2526 posts

OK, so my strategy is to have about $200USD (mostly twenties) to use in case of arriving in Europe and the ATMs at the airport all lack cash (has never happened to me). I can then exchange, at a poor rate, the least amount required to get to my hotel and the nearest bank ATM with cash. Also, if I am stuck at a U.S. airport and wish to buy items that are absurd via credit/debit card or pay for a taxi to a nearby hotel. I do also carry some euro from a prior trip if indeed the arrival country is "on" that currency. Find the best strategy that works for you.

Posted by
2745 posts

If you are in countries using the Euro, this doesn't make sense to me. I suppose if you are in Turkey, and go to Greece, an emergency stash of Turkish currency may not be useful. But Euros or dollars would be.

I get about 100 Euros from home before I go (yes, I know about the fees. It's worth it to me and I have needed it). Then I just make sure to have 100 or so extra Euros in the safe or moneybelt throughout the trip. In a bigger emergency requiring cash my credit card or family could wire money. In actuality, I spend a bit of it at the airport on the way home and save the rest for a future trip.

Posted by
518 posts

I agree w/ Margaret...similar to those who have never purchased travel insurance and claim "nothing has ever happened to them." Probably better to play it safe and have some protection or backup plan and keep some cash on you. And in a pinch, you'd probably rather not spend time running around looking for an ATM.

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks everyone. I am deciding that it really makes little sense to have a stash of US cash. We will simply bring enough to convert at the credit union at the military base when we arrive. When we enter Italy, we should be set for a couple days. After that we will use bank ATMs regularly with our debit card to assure we have enough euros to cover any expenses not payable by credit card. We have one card that does not charge a conversion fee. As a backup, we have a couple other cards we can use. Although they will have a fee, it will be less than using the money exchangers in Italy. I am not eager to have a large stash of $ in my suitcase or on me when I won't spend them anyway. Also, not all hotels or B & Bs have safes. Between the two of us, I am sure we will have enough cash on hand for a few days at a time.

Posted by
5697 posts

Actually, I carry the USD so I will have it when I return -- not wanting to find the ATM after 12 hours on the plane with nothing but euros in my money belt. We haven't had to use the $ during the trip, but it's cheap insurance and doesn't weigh much. And once we get home, it's worth exactly what we paid for it.

Posted by
18 posts

We always have some USD with us. Of course we want to be prepared for coming home. It was just the suggestion of taking large amounts with us that didn't make sense.

Posted by
31524 posts

An easier method that avoids the problems of poor exchange rates or ATM's that shut down, would be to just pack along €100 or so, or equivalent amount in whichever currency will be used at your first stop. The exchange rate for currency purchased at home may not be as favourable as at an ATM in Europe, but I'm sure it will be better than that provided at Travelex or other currency exchange places. I find this a much simpler method.

Posted by
2526 posts

Carrying €100 in cash works well if your destination airport is in a country utilizing the euro.

Posted by
5789 posts

An easier method that avoids the problems of poor exchange rates or ATM's that shut down, would be to just pack along €100 or so.

And if your travel itinerary includes the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland and ending in England you can also pack along 2000 CZK, 100 CHF and 50 GBP along with your 100 EUR.

The point of the RS travel tip regarding currency is that Europe is pretty modern and ATMs work with exceptions like the Grexit episode. The RS travel tip regarding carrying USD is that several hundred USD in cash is the backup to ATM cash machines not working on first arrival.

Yes bad things can happen. And one can hypothesize situations where even 200 EUR cash is not enough. So back to the original post: "Rick suggests taking several hundred $ in $20 bills in our money belts....Wouldn't larger less bulky bills make more sense?"

Posted by
8889 posts

If the excrement really interfaces with the ventilation device and none of your plastic works, in most non-Euro European countries I would suggest Euros are marginally more acceptable than US dollars or other non-European currencies. People in Britain, Switzerland and many other non-Euro countries are familiar with the Euro, probably have a few at home, know somebody who is going to a Euro-country and are prepared to offer you a deal.
US dollars are not something you see every day, and people would be unsure if you are trying to give them a dud, and it costs time and money to change them at a bank.

When I say most people in non-Euro countries are familiar with Euros, there are some exceptions: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2989992/Would-accept-100-Euro-note-One-sandwich-shop-owner-did-s-toy-one-Early-Learning-Centre.html

Posted by
2349 posts

In 1987 my friend and I returned from Scotland, after a long flight delay, and missed our connection. Airline put us up in a hotel, but gave no meal vouchers. We arrived with about 40 in pounds, but the exchange was closed. We had exactly $17.50 cash between us. I don't even know why we had that. We had to put down a $10 deposit for a phone to call home. Leaving us 7.50. We split a chicken salad sandwich, and someone took pity and bought each of us a beer.

Yes, things are different-ubiquitous debit/credit cards, ATMs, and cell phones. But crap still goes wrong. I take back up cash, both dollars and euro. It does not take up much space. I move the dollars to the money belt just to get it away. It's no big deal.

I was clearly traumatized by that experience. Very Scarlett O'Hara of me.

Posted by
31524 posts

Bruce,

I was addressing this one particular Thread, where the Euro seemed to be the currency being discussed. I've revised my earlier thread.

Posted by
524 posts

Wherever we travel, DH always brings cash. Not to use, but just for emergencies.

Posted by
3331 posts

We usually have $100 with us for potential emergency use. The one time we didn't have a substantial stash of leftover euros, we were heading for Genoa and changing planes at CDG. I thought we'd just get some euros there. WRONG! The atm's in our terminal were down. Turns out they were all from the same bank. CDG is not an airport in which you want to go wandering around to different terminals, so I took my $100 to the Amex kiosk and changed it for euros. I really didn't care about the rate. I just wanted to know I'd have enough money to pay for transportation into Genoa.
Ironic footnote: the bus from the Genoa airport cost just 1 euro/pp. All 5 atm's in the airport were functioning. However, I haven't changed my mind about having that $100 "just in case" money. Why not? It doesn't have a use-by date.

Posted by
2745 posts

Exactly! The "get euros at the airport" thing bothers me. Yes, throughout your trip, use ATMs. In a city or town you will be able to find a variety of ATMs and you can plan on having a little cash left when you make an ATM stop as a cushion.

But arriving in a foreign country, assuming the airports ATMs will work and be open...seems risky. You often need that cash in order to pay for the taxi/train/shuttle to leave the airport. If the ATMs are down or otherwise unavailable you will have trouble.

This happened to me. Madrid airport. 6AM. Everything was closed, the airport was dead. All the usual shops, restaurants, even the areas with bathrooms in the terminals, were blocked off. ATMS were of course plentiful...in the blocked areas. But literally only a hallway was open, leading the arriving passengers to passport control, baggage claim, and ground transport. Luckily, I had my cash, paid the 10Euro for the shuttle (cash only) and was on my way. Sure, I could have waited an hour+ for the airport to open more, wouldn't have ruined my trip or anything, but I was sure glad to be on my way.

Posted by
18 posts

We have the unique advantage of landing at a US military base before beginning our Italy tour. if we need a snack before finding the ATM, we can use US $. We will have access to ATMs either at the airport or nearly next door, operated by the credit union or the community bank, both with minimal or no fees. Our plan is to withdraw the max allowed with our credit union debit cards to get us through the first few days. We have decided not to carry more than $200 USD between us. Along the way we can pay with the Capital One card which has no conversion fee and use the credit union card at local bank ATMs when more cash is needed. I think that should work well. It seems to be the concensus among other retired military travelers that that plan works well.

Posted by
119 posts

My ATM cards were demagnetized on a trip to Spain & Portugal. They refused to work on another trip to France, and I still don't know why! Fortunately, I was traveling with my husband & his cards worked!

Posted by
60 posts

My husband and I travelled with a fairly large amount of cash in Euros and SwissFrancs in our money belts. We are both martial arts instructors of many years' experience, so we have well-honed instincts to tell when someone's hand is in the wrong place.

We changed money before leaving and the exchange office in Los Angeles only had large bills. We thought it would be tough breaking a 500 Euro bill (!!) but we managed to do it at a bank in the airport on arrival.

Posted by
3175 posts

We have had € left over from previous trips so we aren't concerned with the immediacy of getting € when we first arrive. We can usually function for several days to a week on the money we bring. We usually have a small amount of $ that we don't carry around with us while sightseeing.

I always have $20 though in my easy to get to stuff for stopping at InNOut on the way home from the airport...one of our after 1 month in Europe traditions.

Posted by
10 posts

Interesting thing happened on our trip last fall in Croatia. We were staying in a private residence near Split and the owner wanted to be paid in Euro instead of Kuna. It was a two step process - go to the bank and get Kuna, then go to the currency exchange and get Euro. Exchange rate was way better than at the bank. We needed enough Kuna to get 400€ and explained that to the lady at the bank. Something went awry in the translation and we walked out of the currency exchange with 4000€. We pretty much paid cash for everything the rest of the trip. We started referring to it as the BWD (Big Wad of Cash).

Posted by
1068 posts

I carry about $300 US and, if in countries that have Euros, about 150 or so of those. It is back-up "emergency" only money. Money is money. You can always convert cash. In addition to my "hidden pocket" for passport and credit cards I also have an old-fashioned money belt with a zipper in it.... I would guess the 5 or 6 bills I put in there folded up weight about .25 of an ounce or less. I never used any of it and never regretted taking it..... just a part of my trips now. I just feel better having extra cash.

Posted by
21859 posts

The principle reason for $20 bills over $50 is that the $50 bill the most counterfeited bill in the world. I cannot use a $50 in the US without someone testing to see if it is real. I have even had the bill reject without testing in the US so its acceptance can be a problem in Europe. In an emergency $20 bills are probably easier to use. However, full disclosure, I have never had any experience or need to exchange US currency in Europe.

Posted by
18384 posts

Don't even think about carrying US currency to Europe for an emergency. Imagine someone from Mexico coming to the US with Pesos or someone from Japan with Yen for an emergency. I don't think Europeans are impressed with dollars anymore.

You're far better off keeping a stash of Euro. If you haven't been to Europe before and brought back some Euro, get some (about 200€) here before you go over. It will probably cost less than converting US dollars over there and just a little more than from an ATM over there. Then when you get over there, put your stash away same as you would with dollars and keep it for emergencies. At the end of your trip, spend it for your last expenses (or, assume you will return, and bring it back to have a stash for you next trip).

Posted by
1068 posts

Don't even think about carrying US currency to Europe for an emergency.

Really, a European Bank or exchange booth won't take US dollars and convert them to the local currency? I didn't know that.

Posted by
6801 posts

Ray, just like in the US, most banks now do these transactions only for customers, not walk ins. It was different in the days when every country had their own currency. Sure currency exchange operations will, but not for free. Its really not exchange - its buying and selling currency, and not enough profit for a bank to want to deal with a couple of $50's.

Posted by
18384 posts

I didn't say banks or exchange booths wouldn't exchange US dollars, but it doesn't make sense to take dollars. People probably won't just take them, like they used to in "the old days", so you'll have to find a place to exchange them, and it will probably cost more than getting euro over here. But if you take your cache in euro, you can use it immediately.

USA Today does not give good information. The first article has this suggestion about using an ATM, "Find an ATM that offers a low fee." I've never used an ATM in Europe that charged a fee. I guess some non-bank ATMs do, but I've never used one. Usually, the fees come from your bank.

The last time I exchanged US dollars (Traveler's Check, actually) was in 2000. There were no exchange booths any more; I had to go to a bank, and it was a time consuming process, and I paid more (6%, I think) than I would have at an ATM.

Posted by
1068 posts

I agree that carrying dollars is not the best method. Your point(s) are well taken. However, it is just one of several backup strategies that I use. As I said, I happen to have an old fashioned money belt with a zipper in it. As I wear a belt anyway and the bills weigh no more than .25 of an ounce it is a small price to pay for my 4th back up. If I had a choice of having no money and no plastic abroad versus $300 US and no plastic, I would prefer to have some cash. But, as stated it is not a preferred back up and certainly would not be the only one I would recommend to people.

Posted by
529 posts

I always have US currency with me. It has been most useful in the US. I have used it for airports, diverted flights, delayed flights and those with unexpected overnight stays. I used it easily in Eastern Europe.

Whether coming or going, I'm too tired to deal with ATMs especially with 200 other people in line beyond me due to a cancelled flight or other unexpected issue. I rather be prepared than unprepared when it comes to financial matters. It's not difficult to carry $200 USD with you.

Posted by
18384 posts

Nor is it difficult to carry 200 euro with you, and it's much easier to use euro. I've never had problems using a 50 euro note. So 200 euro is just four 50 euro notes, vs ten $20 bills.

Posted by
518 posts

It's kind of like the debate of whether or not to carry your passport (or copies of your passport) around with you during the day. At the end of the day, doing either of these things really doesn't cost you anything in terms of weight, bulk, expense, etc. So even if you do choose to do it and it proves to be useless...it didn't cost you anything anyway.

It's not like carrying around an extra pair of hiking boots, extra backpack, etc., in case the first one gives out, where the cost of such "insurance" presents such a burden that you really do want to consider whether or not it's worth the expense or burden.

Posted by
1068 posts

Interesting point about Euros. Exactly 25% of the countries I visited this year used Euros and (if my plans come to fruition) none of the countries I will visit next year will use Euros. Not sure how Euros are helpful..... but to each their own. As an aside, I carry Euros also (in Europe), probably adds .1 oz and although I have not needed them, I never felt bad that I had them.