I'm looking for the best rates and convienence. I heard not to exchange money at the airports because it's too expensive. Any places that you've discovered along your travels? Any particular banks that offer good exchange rates? Any ideas on where I should go to exchange my money once I get there? Thanks Jacque
Any bank ATM will be on the Cirrus and /or PLUS system, and your ATM card will do fine. The interbank exchange will cost about 0.75% versus that daily published exchange rate. This cannot be beaten. European banks do not charge fees at bank owned ATMs. Hopefully you have one of the recommended cards here that do not charge ATM fees anywhere. an odd amount, such as 58000fl in Budapest or 3900 kr in Prague so that you get small a few 1000 fl notes or 100 cr notes, equal to abut $5, making getting that first transit ticket easy.
Make sure you have called your bank security from your home phone before you go to alert them of what countries you will be in when.
The key is never to use currency exchanges. Get your cash overseas from bank-owned ATM's using your ATM/debit card from home. If you use bank-owned ATM's the exchange rate will be the same at airports as at any other location. And like Larry says, you'll always get the best possible exchange rate.
Better to burn your money than use a currency exchange. You can always buy an extra bottle of wine or scotch. We were in Budapest, and found several bank machines that worked fine. Very easy, very easy.
Totally agree w/ the posts above. I don't even recall the last time I used a Currency Exchange anywhere in Europe. My ATM card has worked pretty much everywhere. And definitely a great tip to alert your bank (and credit card companies for that matter) when you'll be traveling to a country that is out of the norm for you. I even do that if I'm traveling to someplace totally new here in the States. It just minimizes the chance that they'll think you are possibly the victim of ATM card/credit card fraud. In particular, in both Prague and Budapest, I don't recall having any problems withdrawing money from bank ATMs using my ATM card. And, a related money tip, if it helps; I never keep great sums of money in my wallet when traveling abroad. I always keep some emergency money, a 2nd credit card (and my passport, for that matter) in my money belt that fits comfortably around my waste, under my pants & shirt. That way, in the very unlikely event that I am ever robbed/my luggage is stolen, etc., I can still get my butt to the U.S. embassy (if needed) or airport and get home! It's just provides peace-of-mind! Enjoy Prague and Budapest, Jacque; 2 GREAT cities you are sure to love.
I flew into Budapest and took money from the ATM while waiting for my suitcase at the carousel. The clerk at the currency exchange next to the ATM was more than willing to give me lots of small bills for one of the big ones. I arrived in Prague by train and easily got local currency at an ATM at the train station. There were lots of ATMs in both cities. In my experience the cheapest way to get local cash is by using an ATM - get a card that doesn't charge fees. If you have money left over at the end of your stay in each city, use to toward your hotel bill.
Just one comment in regards to fees that you see in Europe as related to ATMs. First of course, any fees that your bank charges, you will of course see. Your bank (like mine) may also break out the fees charged by the network (the ~1% someone mentioned) which include an International transaction fee and a currency exchange fee. In my experience, looking at the interbank exchange rate for the day, it is really almost not noticable given the amount of fluctuation in rates during the day. As for fees charged over there. It is accurate to note that "most" of the time there will not be an additional fee for using an ATM like you see in the US for an out of network ATM. But note that it is "Most" of the time, there are two scenarios that I am noticing more often: One is just the fee like we see in the US, ran into it in Spain, and it was a Bank owned ATM. This I think is rare, I only have run into from that one Bank. The second you are much more likely to run into at Airports and ATMs in heavier touristed areas. Basically a question will come up to the effect of "Would you like to conduct the transaction in your home currency?" Hitting "Yes" or agreeing will allow the Bank to do the currency conversion and initiate a transaction in USD for example. You avoid the Currency Conversion Fee charged by the Network, but at a worse rate than Interbank. The correct response is to do the transaction in local currency. I have run into this at ATMs run by multiple banks in Spain, and ran into it also in London. You may run into much the same thing when using a credit card, again, always do the transaction in local currency.
There are ATMs inside airport near the exits at PRG. The charge to your bank account is the same as if you visited an ATM in Prague. I've never had large sums of money to change & usually use up what I have while waiting for my flight out of a country on food, drinks, light shopping, etc. And I normally keep some Koruna & Euros for my next trip. Most places that exchange money in Prague are a rip off in either rate or hidden fees, so you might as well use the ones at the airport if you have any left.