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Best bet for purchasing Euros prior to travel (USA)

Granddaughter heading to France for Study Abroad; program requiring her to have at least 100 Euros upon arrival. Best agencies for obtaining Euros prior to travel? Thanks!

Posted by
639 posts

I used to secure money from AAA. Others have obtained currency from their bank. Now I simply purchase from a bank associated ATM upon arrival at the airport of my destination. If you use this step it’s important to distinguish from a currency exchange or non bank related ATM machines.

Your easiest avenue may be via your bank, AAA or a travel club offering this service.

Posted by
2461 posts

She could just get euros from the ATM at the airport with a debit card - she'll need a functional card for her study abroad program I assume?

If you don't want to risk that, I recently ordered an unusual currency through my credit union (OnPoint in Oregon). There was a fee for the service, but I think the order actually came from Wells Fargo. Your bank/credit union may offer the service. Or check with one of the Wells Fargo branches in Eugene or the AAA office out by VRC if you're a member. Most require some advance notice and often have a minimum purchase amount.

Posted by
8589 posts

Just realize that there is no "official" government regulated exchange rate for which any business, including your bank, has to sell you euro. So each place can set their own rates and add additional fees as well. So if it's important, shop around, if convenience is more important, your bank is likely the easiest. For only 100€, its not worth worrying about.

Posted by
444 posts

Some branches of Wells Fargo have currency exchange - for example the downtown branch in Savannah, GA. - which makes me think it may be more likely in places with some level of international tourism. If you have an account there, they waive the fee. No idea if the exchange rate is great.

Posted by
6788 posts

Best bet is to never, ever "purchase" (or even worse, "exchange") Euros, as it's absolutely unnecessary, and always costs you more.
As long as you (actually, she) has some ATM (debit) card from a bank at home, simply use that to withdraw Euros from an ATM upon arrival. Just like at home, they are everywhere, and are just as reliable as those at home.

Getting money in France is no more complicated or mysterious as getting money at the local mall or a street in your home town.

Posted by
4538 posts

My wife likes to order in advance from her bank. I like to go to a local currency exchange store. Guess what? They both work the same, you end up with euros.

Do what you find easiest or cheapest, hopefully you realize it will cost money to do this. And yes, I still believe it's best practices to show up in Europe with at least that much in your pocket. If you find you're not using it, start using it before the trip ends.

As for her ongoing finances, the program should have advice. Otherwise her parents should open an online account with Schwab and put money into it, the daughter can take withdrawals from any ATM in the world and Schwab will refund the charges.

Posted by
2712 posts

For 100 Euros get them from a bank here. A young girl has enough to deal with on arrival. Why search for and use an ATM? The fee for that amount is meaningless so best to have the Euros when she boards her flight. If she needs more currency while there be sure she has debit card and the bank knows she’ll be using it abroad. However, Apple Pay is widely accepted. We used surprisingly little cash on our trip last year.

Posted by
1426 posts

Do you have an Umpqua account? If so you can get Euros for a flat $15 fee. I did that in 2022 and the exchange rate was very competitive, only a couple of cents over the spot rate.

Posted by
4986 posts

...program requiring her to have at least 100 Euros upon arrival.

Get them from a local bank or AAA. The extra cost to get them here vs getting upon arrival is negligible. Getting euros while in country is as easy as using an ATM in the states. But the downsides to waiting are (1) she will have to find an ATM, (2) probably wait to use it if at the airport, (3) hope it works (they do malfunction at times), and (4) do it while jet lagged and on new ground. Keep things simple. She will have enough on her plate withour the stress of the downsides listed above.

Posted by
6788 posts

Of course, do what you want (it's your money, your granddaughter, your choice). And it would be a sweet, kind gesture. But it's totally unnecessary.

See Rick Steves' advice on the subject: Travel Tips: Money

"Use your money wisely in Europe. The articles below have my best advice on the best time to use cash or card — and how to avoid unnecessary fees either way — as well as tipping etiquette, and how shoppers can take advantage of VAT refunds."

  • Pay with Plastic or Cash?
  • Cash and Currency Tips for Europe
  • Using Credit Cards in Europe
  • Card Fees (and How to Avoid Them)
  • Tips on Using ATMs in Europe
  • Bank Card Safety Tips for Travelers
  • Pretrip Money Checklist for Travelers
  • Tipping in Europe
  • How to Claim VAT Refunds
  • VAT Rates in Europe
  • How to Haggle: Tips for Bargaining Overseas

Note this specific item (found in the bulleted list under Cash and Currency Tips for Europe:

Resist the urge to buy foreign currency before your trip. Some tourists feel like they just have to have euros or British pounds in their pockets when they step off the airplane, but they pay the price in bad stateside exchange rates. Wait until you arrive to withdraw money. I've yet to see a European airport that didn't have plenty of ATMs.

(Rick's bolding above, not mine).

Dear Rick: There ARE no airports in Europe without ATMs (at least none with scheduled passenger service), that's why you have not seen one yet.

I know, I know: at first it requires a leap of faith, we all (well, often older folks...) seem to have have some deeply-engrained belief that money in Europe is somehow complicated, requiring advance planning and insider knowledge. 70 years ago (50 years ago in some places), that had some validity. But nowadays, getting money in Europe (and in fact, in airports and cities in most of the world) is as simple and straightforward as getting money at your local mall or on any street in your home town. Really, it is EXACTLY THE SAME.

If your grand-daughter was heading to Chicago or Pittsburgh or Atlanta to study, you wouldn't need to make advance arrangements (which cost you money) to pre-order special cash for her. It's no different if she's off to Paris or Nice or Lyon. She's going to land at an international airport. There are going to be plenty of ATMs there, they're as ubiquitous as toilets (and as easy to find) immediately after you step off the plane and/or clear passport control.

Now, if it makes you happy, go ahead and spend the extra money to "pre-order" Euros so you can give them as a gift (very kind of you), but just know that there is absolutely no need to do that, and besides the sweet moment (which may be worth it), all it will do is save her 60 seconds between getting off the plane and moving on. It's a sweet and generous thing to do, but not really needed.

...program requiring her to have at least 100 Euros upon arrival.

The "program" isn't going to have staff lurking by the bathrooms to spy on arriving passengers, checking to see if they have the required 100 Euros. She will have 100 Euros before she leaves the airport. That's "upon arrival."

Study the linked pages listed above - more importantly, get your granddaughter to study them (if she hasn't already). The nicest gift you can give her is the knowledge of how to travel (and live) smartly in Europe. That's (almost) priceless.

Posted by
2856 posts

Make it easy. Get €100 from your bank. Allow a several days for them to be delivered. I order mine on line from my BAC checking account if I need euros. Will she have an ATM card with her if she needs more? Doubtful if she will since cashless is almost everywhere. Be sure she has a contactless credit card, Visa or Mastercard, so she can tap and go. Do not use a pre-paid credit card. I hear they do not work in Europe, nor do Visa gift cards.

ADDING: In June in Prague I talked with a few students on a high school trip while waiting for a concert to begin. One of the girls was locked out of her signature only credit card. She didn't have a back up card or an ATM card so her friends were helping her with money. Be sure your granddaughter has a back up Visa or Mastercard credit card. She needs to take an ATM card from a checking account in case she needs more cash. She also needs to take two contactless credit cards, one for every day and the other only as a back-up.

Posted by
23425 posts

A lot are missing the requirement of having 100 Euros upon arrival. Now we can argue the meaning of arrival but some program go to an immediate orientation program and that could be starting at the airport with little time to find an acceptable ATM. Get a hundred euro at the bank, AAA, or even a money exchange at the airport if your airport has that service. The extra cost to you will be maybe $5 so just do it locally and there is NO best place. Second, and this is far more important, is a system for secure the money and credit and debit cards. A properly worn money belt works well but there are other systems that work so that is the important discussion to have with her. Also assume her university has a study abroad office and some orientation programs prior to going. It will be a great experience. At my undergraduate university we are currently funding two students a year in a study abroad program. Make sure you find an excuse to visit her during Spring break. Good luck.

PS One thing to do is to open a debit card account with a local credit union or bank with both her name and yours or her parents. If she has an existing account, it critical to add a local name. It is important to have your name or her parents on the local account so that they can intervene if something happens -- card stolen, account frozen, etc., -- and resolve problems quickly. Also you can keep a small amount in the account to reduce risk and transfer money to the account as needed.

Posted by
350 posts

For 100 Euros get them from a bank here. A young girl has enough to deal with on arrival. Why search for and use an ATM? The fee for that amount is meaningless so best to have the Euros when she boards her flight. If she needs more currency while there be sure she has debit card and the bank knows she’ll be using it abroad. However, Apple Pay is widely accepted. We used surprisingly little cash on our trip last year.

I heartily agree with the advice above. A young girl or boy new to a country does not need to have the uncertainty of not having any cash to help them out of a potential emergency that cash would solve. Get the cash before the child leaves for the study abroad program.

Also agree that you don't need to create headaches for yourself by shopping around for the best rate. 100 Euros is a relatively minuscule amount. What might be more important is the ease of getting the Euros rather than best rate. I'm sure prior to granddaughter's adventure, there is a whole long to-do list involved.

That said, check with your bank if they offer foreign currency. And of course, you do want to know what the rate is that they're going to sell it to you for. You don't want to be taken advantage of after all, even if for the most part you're not going to care too much about the exchange rate unless it's a ridiculous one they offer you.

Posted by
2094 posts

It isn’t going to cost much to get Euros here in the states. It will also make it much easier for her to not have to take the time to fiddle with finding a using a ATM upon arrival. I don’t get the nickel and dime attitude of some! I’ll tell you, I was thankful to have Pesos upon arrival in Mexico. Police wait for you and stop you as you drive away from the car rental. I paid the bribe!

I know my Peso scenario is way out there, but the point is to make her life easier most likely after an overnight flight.
I got much better rates from my bank than at AAA!

Posted by
413 posts

Thank you, Frank, for reminding that the OP states it is a requirement.

We don't know the particulars of this study abroad, but imagine being a chaperone for a group of 15 students who all need to use an ATM upon arrival.

Nevertheless, so much easier to take any anxiety away and having the $ in hand.

Posted by
25 posts

Thank you all so much for the great tips. I’ve settled on AAA, they’re nearby and less costly than ordering online.

Posted by
19149 posts

There ARE no airports in Europe without ATMs

But will the ATMs work with YOUR card(s)?

March 2004: I arrived at FRA with three ATM cards, two of which I had previously used in Europe and a new one, which I had tested by getting $50 in Denver the day before, on the way to the airport.

I inserted the new card and asked for the maximum amount ($500 in euro). The ATM displayed, "Call your bank."

No problem. I had my Chase ATM card, which I had used successfully to get cash on my last trip.

Same result, "Call your bank."

Now I'm beginning to sweat. I knew it wasn't an immediate problem, because I had a couple of hundred $s left over from the last trip, but that wouldn't last me for two weeks.

Next I tried my Well Fargo ATM card. Success!

What happened?

The new card had a daily maximum that was measured, not by the calendar day in Denver, but for 4AM to 4AM, so the previous day's withdrawal in Denver still counted, and I had exceeded the daily limit for that card. Although I had used the Chase card during my previous trip, it had been over a year since that trip. Chase had reset my limit from $500 to $300 without telling me.

My point is, things happen. You can't always count on finding an ATM in which your card works. Better to have the 100€ in cash with you when you arrive.

The exchange rate as of 30 minute ago, the best rate you can ever get from an ATM, was $107.21. Today, Wells Fargo is selling 100 euro for $113.15. It will cost you no more than $6 extra to make absolutely sure you will have the required 100€ when you arrive. If your ATM card is from a major bank, like Chase or USBank, which charge 3% over the Interbank rate, it will cost you less than $3 extra.

Posted by
19149 posts

There is one piece of advice from Rick that I totally disagree with.

US dollars: I carry $100–200 as a backup. 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'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.

On our last trip to Germany, my late partner brought along her Credit Union ATM card and $100 in US currency. Unfortunately, she forgot that she had had to change the PIN on the ATM card, so she could not make it work. Oh well, she had the $100 in USDs. For the next three weeks, she went to banks all over Germany trying to exchange the $100 for euro, and no bank would make the exchange, Now, I was paying for the big expenses - lodging, meals, transportation, so she didn't really need money, but she just wanted her own money to spend.

So, my advice is, take 100€ from you first ATM withdrawal (or whatever currency that country uses) and set it aside the same way you would have the $100 US. US dollars no longer have the appeal they once had. In a pinch, you can always spend the 100€. You might not ever be able to spend the $100 US.

Posted by
27352 posts

These days you might well have to find a currency-exchange office, rather than a bank, to convert US currency to euros. Finding a currency-exchange office is easier in some countries than others, and competition tends to make the rates better in places where there are many such offices. In my experience, you'll find more of them in places like Turkiye and former Iron Curtain countries. I haven't ever used a commercial currency-exchange office, but I look at the exchange rates from time to time as I walk by, and in the areas I've mentioned, the rates are often only about 2% off the official rate, sometimes less. The question is: Is there an exchange fee on top of that, and how much is it? I've never bothered to go in and ask. The rates at airport exchange booths are much, much, much worse than the ones I've noticed along city streets, but I'd not expect a good deal at a booth in a tourist-oriented place like a large, well-known flea market.

Edited to add: It has been over 30 years since I used dollars to buy European currency in Europe, but I understand why Rick suggests carrying a bit of US cash as a back-up plan. If you purchase euros in the US before departure, you will spend extra money (true, not a lot). That loss will be locked in, and you probably won't need that foreign currency since it's so easy to acquire local money after arrival; most transportation into the city can be paid via credit card, so you don't necessarily need to find an airport ATM. Except in Norway, there are usually ATMs everywhere. The chance of spending extra money in this scenario is 100%.

If you take some US currency along for emergency use, it is extremely likely you'll never need to use it. The odds are overwhelming that you won't have to visit a costly currency-exchange counter. Carrying the US currency costs you nothing. But if you do have an ATM problem, you're covered by having the US currency with you. The chance of spending extra money in this scenario is extremely low.

Posted by
1420 posts

Yep, I'm in the Get Currency Before You Go Camp,
My bank waved the fees if I got 200 euros.
My traveling companion was in the I'll Find an ATM Camp. First 2 atms did not have cash. 3rd ATM had a line of 20 pairs in line. She did have the grace to turn to me and say "if you can pay for the cab to the hotel, I'll find an ATM before supper" ok!!!

Also, I have written those sorts of letters (for domestic stuff) for 16-22 yr olds. Let's give the authors the benefit of the doubt that they have done this before and they share tips to help students hit the ground running 🏃‍♂️ 👍