When making a charge, should one ask that the bill be charged in euro or dollars?
Assuming you're in a country where the euro is the coin of the realm .....
The majority of American banks know what's up. So they have adjusted their Visa and Mastercard contracts to say things like "... outside the United States" or "foreign transaction", instead of "foreign currency conversion." You are too late to beat the guys who beat Congress and the Federal Reserve already. Fuggedaboudit. Concentrate today on getting a credit card with zero foreign exchange fees. I'm not going to mention any names. But I was surprised to get a postcard saying that my airline card (which has an annoying annual fee ... ) is ping the conversion fee. Some years ago, my wife got a card affiliated with my union that was only 1%, which was acceptable to us. You have to make a judgement based on your annual charge patterns, tolerance for charges and fees, and credit rating needs. I recently took out a credit union Visa card because it had both 0% foreign transaction fees and a Chip-and-PIN feature.
To clarify, if you charge in a country that uses euro, have them charge you in euro, not dollars.
To make it even simpler, all charges in the local currency or even better just use cash. We have gotten to the point where we seldom charge anything. Cash just works so much better.
Billing in Dollars is called dynamic currency conversion. Avoid it. It doesn't save you anything. Your credit card company still charges the same commission plus the merchant converts the bill from Euro to Dollars at a rate favorable to him. Another thing about credit card usage: Most banks charge the same % for currency conversion for both ATM and credit cards, but charge an additional fee for out-of-system ATMs, so getting cash can actually be a little more expensive, but, in Germany at least, only the most expensive accommodations, restaurants, etc, take credit cards, so if you are using your credit card, you are spending more to start with.
Well, Lee, even Rick doesn't seem to deliberately stay in hostels anymore. He's grown up, and so I have I. So I'm willing to pay a bit more for creature comforts. And when I use a card with zero conversion fee, the deal is virtually as "good" for me as going for cash at an ATM where I have no network fee - in my case, Deutsche Bank. I've never had trouble paying for a hotel in Germany with an American credit card. I did have trouble paying for admission to the 2011 BUGA (garden show) in Koblenz without a Chip-and-PIN card. But I've been to Germany since then, and (with the exception of ticket machines at unattended rail stations) had no trouble using my (swipbe) credit card when I want to. (I do not mean to change this thread into a discussion of Chip-and-PIN, because there are plenty of discussions here already with such a subject line. The OP asked about currency conversion.)
I've always thought Lee was a privat zimmer guy and not a hostel nut, but you can't knock hostels. Sometimes brain food is more fun than creature comfort, even with advancing age. Four of us (stangers-all for the first few minutes) were shacked up in a room in Pitlochry last month. With three master's, I was the uneducated dolt - - everybody else had a doctorate. The Swedish guy was a chemist (which I don't know anything about), the Canadian guy was a historian (which I know a little bit about), the Finnish gal was a biologist specializing in the mating habits of South African penguins (which I don't want to know anything else about). After the obligatory introductory crap specialties never came up again, but there were some great conversations when we went out for supper. I slept fine. The showers were hot. I paid cash, just like Lee.
To clarify: I have never stayed in a hostel. On the other hand, except for when the company I was working for paid for it, and our group was staying together, I've never stayed in a four or five star hotel, either. It's only recently that I started looking for Privatzimmer. I've stayed mostly in a lot of small, family run, guesthouses, and rarely has there been any indication that they take credit cards. Some have specifically said no credit cards. In Germany, the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA) requires any establishment to meet the same requirement of cleanliness and maintenance for any number of stars. The only difference for the number of stars is things like hours of room service, lobby, shoe shine equipment in the room, heated towel racks, etc., things I could care less about. One of the requirements for two or more star hotels is that they take credit cards; as I remember, for a Gasthaus, they can have a few more stars without taking plastic. However, there is an abundance of places in Germany with no stars, and they although they might have fewer services, they are just as nice as the starred places. I attribute that to the fact that they don't want to take credit cards and can only have one star without taking them, so why bother? In over 90 nights in Germany, I have averaged about 30€ for a single room with breakfast (always with breakfast).
"but, in Germany at least, only the most expensive accommodations, restaurants, etc, take credit cards, so if you are using your credit card, you are spending more to start with." Not even remotely accurate. Maritim Berlin, Gasthof Fraundorfer, Hotel Garni Brigitte, Hotel Baseler Hof, Pension Siebel, Hotel Frankenland, Filser Hotel, Sclosshotel zum Markgrafen differ vastly in price, ambience and comforts. But I can personally vouch that they all accept credit cards. Likewise, at the small little Gasthaus around the corner from me, I can get a Schnitzel the size of a frisbee, a beer, and a huge side of fries for about €15. And they take credit cards too.