Going to be gone 5 weeks in Spain an would like to know if it's best to exchange dollars for euros in the states or is it best to wait until you get to Spain?
This has been covered many times here, please search the board.
Withdraw your money from your bank account in euro via bank ATMs in Spain = maybe 1/2 of 1 per cent cost of money. Purchasing euros (which is what exchanging is) in advance here means paying upwards of 10 per cent cost. Your choice.
Neither, As posted many times on this forum, the cheapest option is to get your Euros out of a cash machine (ATM) in Spain, using the same debit card you use at home for getting cash.
- Make sure you inform your bank first, so they don't block your card for "suspicious transactions".
- Some people feel more comfortable with a few €€€ in their pocket when they arrive, enough for the first day so they don't have to find a cash machine at the airport. In which case just swallow the extra cost and get some Euros from your local bank.
It is constantly repeated here that the cheapest and most convenient way to obtain local currency is to use a debit card at a bank owned ATM in the country. Personally think it is smart to have a hundred euro in your pocket when you land so buy a hundred from your local bank or current exchange. You will pay between 5 and 12% to purchase Euro in the US but that is a small price to pay for the convenience of having a few Euro in hand when you hit the ground.
Don’t buy foreign currency in advance. Some tourists just have to have euros or pounds in their pockets when they step off the airplane, but smart travelers don’t bother and know better than to get lousy stateside exchange rates. Wait until you arrive at your destination; I’ve never been to an airport in Europe that didn’t have plenty of ATMs.
Bring along some US dollars. While you won’t use it for day-to-day purchases, American cash in your money belt comes in handy for emergencies, such as when banks go on strike or your ATM card stops working. I carry several hundred US dollars as a backup (in denominations of easy-to-exchange 20s). I’ve been in Greece and Ireland when every bank went on strike, shutting down without warning. But hard cash is hard cash. People always know roughly what a dollar is worth. If local banks don’t have exchange services, you can always find exchange desks at major train stations or airports.
Personally that advice needs to be revised. We now know that there are some airport with no bank owned ATMs in the airport. Only ATMs owned by Travelex or other private companies and those ATMs should be avoid because of additional fees charged. So I think the really smart traveler does land with a few Euro in his pocket so that he is not dependent on finding the first ATM. One less thing to worry about when getting through immigrations, customs, gathering luggage, and finding your way out of the airport. There has been a couple reports here of not finding a working in the ATM in an airport. A small five to ten dollar insurance policy if you buy a few Euro stateside.
We now know that there are some airport with no bank owned ATMs in the airport. Only ATMs owned by Travelex or other private companies and those ATMs should be avoid because of additional fees charged.
Which airports fall into this category now? Also, what is the actual experience with utilizing Travelex ATM machines in those airports which have a cozy relationship and only allow Travelex machines?
As I posted previously in other threads, I did a trial this past April at a Travelex ATM in Heathrow 2. When I checked my account later, I found I was debited within pennies ( a fraction of a percent) of that day's posted exchange rate. I didn't even have to decline the nefarious DCC. Unless someone has direct experience otherwise, as opposed to an article, it would appear that Travelex machines where there are no bank-owned ATMs are safe to use.
I keep "left over" euros from each trip so that I have cash for the next trip. Last year in Madrid Barajas airport, none of the ATM machines near our gate were working. I had to wait until we arrived at our destination in Bilbao before I could get euros out of the ATM machine. For my own peace of mind, I would never enter a country without some local currency. Things don't always work the way you plan so it's good to have a contingency.
Worst case scenario - you can't get euros from an ATM at the airport, so you go to a currency exchange in the airport and change enough dollars to get you to your first destination. The exchange rate won't be worse that what you'll get in the US.
Based on Larry's experience, I'm not worried about any major rip-off from Travelex machines. But if you do have a concern, then just withdraw €100 or what you need to get into town and pull out a larger amount from another ATM later. This is something you'll do multiple times during the trip.