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where should i exchange my currency?


Should I exchange my dollars for Euros in my home country (Canada) or while abroad (Portugal)?

Are credit cards as prevalent as Canada? Debit cards safe to use? Crazy usage fees in 2015.

Hope to be in Lisbon and Algarve area.

Thanks Travellers!

Mr. V

Posted by
4408 posts

I believe Canada has ATMs for cash withdrawls. They existing in Portugal too. And it so happens that it is always the cheapest, most efficient way to get cash oversees. Always notify your banks of your travel plans.

Credit cards work just fine but are not as widely accepted for tiny purchases as they are in North America. And some places don't take CCs at all. So always have some cash on you.

Some people do like to exchange a small amount of cash before they go just so they have some on hand on arrival. Your bank or an area bank can do it cheaper than a currency exchange.

Check with your own banks on fees. Some charge foreign transaction fees (percentage of the purchase) and some charge an out-of-network fee for ATMs. But even combined, it will be less than 5% and exchanging actually currency costs from 10-20%.

Posted by
878 posts

I always hit the ATM when I land in Europe to get cash. I usually carry two different debit cards from two different banks in case something happens to one of them. Also, make sure you notify the bank before you go on the trip and let them know where and when you will be out of the country. On my last trip, I had to pay for an apartment rental upon arrival, so I had my bank ship me some euros before we left the US. You can use credit cards in most restaurants and shops, but always make sure you have cash just in case they do not. I only use my debit card to withdraw cash in Europe. If your card gets compromised while you are there, you may find your bank account drained and you have a hard time getting the money back. Many travelers fell more comfortable having a few euros with them when they land in Europe, so you may want to see if your bank can provide you some prior to departure.

Posted by
2752 posts

Getting cash at European ATMs after arrival there is always the best (i.e. least expensive) route to get Euros. The rate you are charged is what you see when you Google it. Your bank may of course add fees it feels appropriate. But the ATM will still be a better deal than changing physical dollars no matter where you do it.

In my experience, credit cards are used for big purchases -- hotel rooms, car rental, and similar. Everything else including restaurant meals is cash.

Your debit card should work fine if it has the Visa/MasterCard logo on it but I would suggest not using it except to get cash out of a bank run ATM.

Posted by
354 posts

I, too, always use ATM's in Europe and did so in Portugal. The only thing different in Portugal is the 200 euro per withdrawal limit. You can do two debits in rapid succession, getting 200 euros each time - but you cannot withdraw more than 200 euros at a time.
This isn't an issue if your bank/credit union doesn't have international fees, but could really add up if it does. If you can find a credit union or bank that doesn't have international fees, you will save quite a bit.

Posted by
1892 posts

One does not "exchange" dollars for Euros. That is not an exchange, it is a purchase of the currency you need with he currency you have, and you will lose about 10% doing so, either by the service fee charged or by a bad exchange rate ("Exchange here - no fees!"). You use your own ATM card to withdraw the currency you need from your own bank account, with only a 1% fee (or less depending on who your bank is), and if you have the right bank, no charge for using the ATM (European bank ATMs do not charge a fee for use). The comment above re debit cards is because they are not as well protected as ATM cards and if lost can be used for many purchases against the connected account before you find out. While this can be straightened out, you will be without those funds until then, as opposed to a credit card being misused.

I see you are new here. Search the forums regarding money. This issue has been explained in incredible detail many times here by many posters.

Posted by
2718 posts

You should go to "Travel Tips" and click on "Money" to get a good education on a subject that is asked on this web site at least every week. Those sites can be found on the left hand site of this RS home page. I use to answer these questions all the time until I found out what I was sending and more was right here on this web site. I signed up for the RS Portugal tour last night (mid June). Happy travels.