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2 questions

Is it better to buy Euros here in the states at our bank before travel or after we get there? The 2nd question is, should we get health insurance for Germany and France for the 2 weeks we are there? Tom

Posted by
2081 posts



in general its better to buy there - use ATM or pay with Credit card.

However, you may want to look into your bank/credit union charges for foreign tranactions, if any.

also, when i was over there and tried to withdraw $$ out of the ATMs using my VISA, it considered it as a "Cash advance" and i was chargedd a fee of 2% max. THEre was also a serivce charge too. My Visa Credit card is linked to my savings and checking account, but i could not access those accouts.

since i dont have an "debit card" i will let others answer for that.

Also, you may want to check with your bank/credit union as to how much they charge to buy Euros over here compared to any foreign tranaction fees on your card.

just an for your info. i tried different methods and for the most part, i can buy foreign currency here with an 8.00 USD fee and whatever conversion fee they use. you can do the math for my credit union fees/charge for a ATM withdrawl or buy money here. That 2% + adds up real fast. There are other banks that offer no foreign transaction fees/charges and im looking into that for next year.

happy trails.

Posted by
6898 posts

Thomas, most airports have ATMs that will provide you with easy access to Euros usually as you exist from the luggage areas. If you really want some Euros before you depart, you can get them from your major bank for a service charge of about 5%. Or, at many major U.S. airports, Travelex has ATMs that will dispense Euros. Yes you will pay service charges but you will have Euros.

As for travel insurance, it's totally up to you and your comfort level. Until our last trip, which was a New England cruise, we've never purchased travel insurance. However, we are getting older and one of our neighbors was recently air-lifted home so we did buy the travel insurance for this recent cruise. Again, it's up to you.

Posted by
3392 posts

I use my bank debit card for ATMs in Europe. The exchange rate is excellent and the fees very minimal...pennies usually. There will always be ATMs readily available when you land. If you're worried just buy 100 Euros before you leave at AAA or your bank. They charge for it but it can be worth it if you don't want to worry about it right when you arrive.

Personally, I always buy travel insurance when I go overseas. You just never know what will happen. I know two different people who have had to be medivacked to CA from Central America to the tune of $25,000. Your luggage could disappear, your flight get cancelled due to weather (hotel costs), you could get a kidney stone in the Alps (happened to my husband one year when we were hiking!), you could break a tooth on a baguette...who knows? I just like the peace of mind knowing that whatever happens, I'll be covered and compensated.

Posted by
9363 posts

My regular health insurance covers me anywhere in the world, but I have extra med evac insurance through Divers Alert Network ($35/year, don't have to be a diver to belong).

I just use my regular no-fee credit union debit card to use the ATM when I arrive. Just be sure you tell your bank when and where you will be traveling. Unless it is an absolute emergency, never use a credit card to obtain cash from an ATM. It is treated as a cash advance, and begins accruing interest charges right away, at a higher rate than regular purchases.

Posted by
50 posts

Personally, I always exchange money before I leave America. I like to arrive in a foreign country with the amount of cash I intend to take concealed in my money belt. It lets me avoid long lines in the airport and high transaction fees. Plus, we have cash on hand for a taxi and lunch without ever having to look for an ATM. I also carry my Capital One Venture card with me which has no foreign transaction fees, but I do no use it at an ATM because it is considered a cash advance.
Do you have travel insurace for your hotel and air fare? Many travel protection plans also cover emergency medical overseas.

Posted by
9363 posts

Exchange fees are high when purchasing euro before you leave. Barring any preferred customer deal, the best rate you are likely to find (fees and rate inclusive) is about 10% over the interbank rate. It is cheaper to get cash from ATMs on arrival where, depending on your card, you pay anything from 0-3%. Carrying all of the cash you intend to use doesn't really save any time (I have never seen a long line at an ATM, and they are easy to find), and if you lose it, it's gone. I do like to have a small amount of cash on me when I arrive, but it is usually left over from a previous trip. If I didn't have any left over, I would purchase a small amount ($100 worth) before leaving.

Posted by
4174 posts

We get trip insurance from Insure My Trip ( After you explore their website, I highly recommend that you contact them by phone. They can help you decide what coverage you need or want and the potential costs for it. They work with several companies.

We both have health issues, and we insure primarily for situations related to that. We buy it early enough so that if we can't go for health reasons, we don't lose much money. We also make sure we have coverage for Medevac or repatriation of remains. Some may think the cost too high, but it is a pittance compared to the overall cost of the trip and especially compared to the cost of having to pay for some of the things it covers out of pocket.

Fortunately, we have never had to use it, so I can't comment on the claims process...and I hope I never will be able to do that.

For our first trip to Europe together in 2009, I bought some euros at the only place in town I could get them. (The last time I checked, neither of our credit unions provides them.) That vendor no longer sells them, so we have no option but to use the cash machines in the airport upon arrival. Most European airports will have a variety of them and often have bank branches in the airport. I have never had any problems doing this, but for the past few trips, knowing that I will go back every year and that I can't get them anywhere here in town anymore, I bring some euros home with me after each trip. They wait patiently in the Safe Deposit Box at the CU until I pull them out for the next trip.

Posted by
8234 posts

You will do best to use an ATM card at a bank ATM machine in the airport you arrive in.

Not all ATM's are created equal. My Wells Fargo card is 3% charge + $5 transaction fee; too much. I'll be getting a credit union ATM that has no service charges, at least from their end.

I use a Capital One credit card because they don't rip off their cardholders on the exchange rate. There are apparently not many credit cards that give you "market rate" on charge cards. I do try to put rooms, car rentals and restaurant bills on the credit card before using my "ATM Cash."

My wife is on Medicare with a Supplement, and she has no healthcare coverage outside the USA (even in Canada.) I have Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO, and I'm covered worldwide. I might have to put charges on my Visa, but would be reimbursed upon my returning documentation to Anthem.

We are buying medical travel insurance on our next trip in the Spring for my wife only. We don't necessarily need all the other coverages offered at many of the companies. Healthcare is what we're really interested in, and it would be about $75 for two weeks for her.

Posted by
11507 posts

I do not leave my country without extra medical insurance.. what my plan here would cover could easily be more somewhere else.. I don't want to lose my savings when paying 50 bucks for insurance would protect me.I also always make sure to get repatration of remains.. that can be thousands of dollars.. and I make sure it includes medical evacuation .

I have always done this.. btw.. when I get my extra medical insurance they always ask if we are going to the States.. if we are the rate is much higher then for just Europe or Mexico.. I wouldn't even drive over the border for cheese without extra medical insurance.

I don't buy cancellation or luggage loss insurance.. if I lose my luggage its not going to do me much harm.. I rarely shop and the very few things that matter are always in my carry on. As for cancellation insurance.. well I book hotels I can cancel with a day or twos notice.. so most out one night, and my airfare I can always just pay 100-200 bucks to change dates.

That said about 10 days before a big trip my dd had a medical emergency at home and was hospitalized.. it was touch or go whether I would leave on my trip. DD got out of hosptial after 5 days and told me to go! Her dads mom ( who was a nurse) came and stayed with them just in case.. but actually left after a few days as DD was never home.. after a week out of hospital she was going out with friends again.. but that was the one time I really wished I had had cancellation insurance.. there was 3 train tickets with no refunds and two cheapo inter europeon flights with no cancellation and an apartment rental ( which unlike hotels you can;t get a refund easily for) I may now reconsider not getting cancellation insurance.

Posted by
2876 posts

"My wife is on Medicare with a Supplement, and she has no healthcare coverage outside the USA (even in Canada.)"

If you have Medicare Supplement Plans C,D,F,G,M, or N, foreign travel emergency care is covered at 100% up to the plan limits (typically $50,000). You have to check with your own carrier to find the prices for each different plan.

Posted by
12172 posts

ATM's in Europe are the better option, both more convenient and cheaper.

Insurance? I'd go with some of the other answers. Since a big part of the insurance question is risk, you have to gauge your own risk of needing it - then balance that against the cost. I've never purchased any special insurance because I don't even use my health insurance at home - so I gauge my personal risk really low and just go with the benefits my plan offers. Will that end up being a really bad choice? Maybe, but not so far.

Posted by
3621 posts

Oh boy! Here we go on the insurance question, again. The fact that anyone doesn't use their health insurance has no relevance to the question of whether you need it. The bank breaking possibility is emergency evacuation and repatriation. Those can cost as much as $50,000. Anyone, young or old, couch potatoes or super fit, can have an accident and need those services. For our most recent trip we purchased policies that covered that and very little else. We used and were able to get coverage for around $60 for a 4 week trip. The rep I talked to there was very helpful. Our medicare supplement covers any treatment anywhere, and we figured we can tolerate the cost of petty stuff, like lost luggage. I'll also throw in here that our United/Chase Visa card has a trip cancellation insurance benefit, which would reimburse the cost of tickets. It's well to check your cc to see what it offers in that line, if anything.

Posted by
638 posts

"Is it better to buy Euros here in the states at our bank before travel or after we get there?"

Ah, the Rick Steves helpline version of the what came first, the chicken or the egg.

Posted by
4064 posts

Buried in this thread is the suggestion that a credit card can withdraw cash from a foreign ATM at a minimal charge. That's not true for many credit cards. Withdrawals on a debit/bank card come out of your own account, generally a chequing account; in other words you are getting your own money. Cash on a credit card is considered a loan and usually charged interest at rates up to 20 per cent, plus the service and exchange fees.
To be clear about the health insurance, you do not get a policy for a specific country and you certainly should get coverage for emergency treatment and, if needed, medical transport home for you and your companion, wherever you are going. Sorry, but you will need to shop around to make comparisons.