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Buying euros

We leave in a few weeks for a cruise to Europe.We've never been on a cruise nor our of the country. I'm so confused by the purchase of euros. Do I buy in the states where the price is going up daily or do I buy at. Barcelona airport when we arrive? If I buy overseas my concerns are the availability of banks and or ATM since our time on land is limited. Thank you!

Posted by
984 posts

You use an atm as you would do at home. There are atms at the airport. You do not say where else you are going apart from Barcelona but Spain has more atms per capita than any other country in Europe. In a city, they seem to be on every second street. Be sure to advise your banks where you are going. Ensure you have four digit pin numbers. You will receive a better exchange rate in the country you are going to. If you think you will be too jet lagged to think upon arrival, purchase whatever €uro needed to 'get you through', in the U.S.

Posted by
87 posts

Don't stress over this. Instead, think about how enjoyable your trip is going to be. If you only need a hundred or so Euros, an ATM is fine. If you need a whole bunch, then buying Euros before you rtravel is probably a better idea. As suggested, remember what your PIN is in numbers, not whatever word it may spell out. European ATMs only use numbers. See what your bank charges to get Euros. Ok, it's more than if you get them in Europe, but it's not outrageous. There's a lot to be said for the convenience factor.

Posted by
8700 posts

Rule of thumb: Use credit cards for major purchases and get cash from ATMs for everything else. Read this helpful article by Rick Steves in the "Travel Tips" section of this website. There is very good information in all the articles in that section.

Posted by
4535 posts

"If you only need a hundred or so Euros, an ATM is fine. If you need a whole bunch, then buying Euros before you rtravel is probably a better idea." I'm sorry, but this is absolutely incorrect. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Depending on your own bank's fees, using an ATM in Europe costs between 1-4% above the interbank exchange rate. Some banks/credit unions or service providers have almost no fees. European banks do not charge their own ATM fees so you only have to worry about your own bank. A search of this site will reveal some of the low/no fee providers. If you buy Euros in the US, you will pay anywhere between 5-10% for the service. That comes in either direct fees or a poor exchange rate. I've never seen an example here where someone could show a total expense less than 5%. Many people do buy $100-200 worth before they go just so they have some cash on hand on arrival. Since the fees would amount to about $20 for this, it's no biggie. And for your cruise situation, maybe that is wise too. But as you run low, just replenish at the ATM like you do on your way to the grocery store each week. And do inform your bank the specifics about your trip. It's also a good idea to have a backup card just in case.

Posted by
11294 posts

Here's what you do about money in Europe: Read the article linked by Tim. Then read it again. Then do what it says. Simple. As for availability of ATM's, they are as prevalent in Europe as here. They're in every airport, and in a city like Barcelona they're every block or so. They take no longer to use in Europe than they do in the US (just a few minutes per withdrawal). One thing he does not mention in the article: the ATM screen may only be in the local language. Don't panic. Just insert your card, and you will get the option to choose "English" (or look for the British flag symbol). Since you're taking a cruise, you may want to get a copy of Rick Steves new Mediterranean Cruises book. It will have information on your ports, as well as things like getting money.

Posted by
127 posts

You should have not have any trouble finding an ATM in Europe. I found an ATM next to my hotel in Salzburg, Austria, last year; in 2001 I found an ATM in the tiny village of Pienza, Italy, as well as in every hill town I visited.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you to everyone who gaveme euro advice and reassurance!

Posted by
228 posts

Listen to this, Sharon. We discovered that on cruise ships, the main front desk can give you CASH and place it on your final bill, which is paid by credit card at the end of your cruise. This means, you just got a FREE cash advance from your credit card, because it's shows up to the credit card company as a room charge! When we went to Martinique, we had no Euros and the American bill is not accepted. So the Front desk handed us 100 euros, posted it as a charge to the room, and we paid it later that month when we paid the credit card bill. This of that. Also, when we went to England and to France last year, we simply went to our banker and 'bought' european currency from them... and the exchange rate was great!

Posted by
29 posts

My husband and I were in Europe 3 weeks ago. We purchased some Euros from our bank before we left but wish now we had gotten them all from an ATM once we arrived. The exchange rate out of an ATM is so much better than getting them in the states. That being said, remember that you will get a transaction fee, depending on your bank so when you do withdraw via ATM be sure you take out enough so you don't have to go to the ATM two days later.

Posted by
296 posts

..the main front desk can give you CASH and place it on your final bill, which is paid by credit card at the end of your cruise. This means, you just got a FREE cash advance from your credit card, because it's shows up to the credit card company as a room charge! Sounds great but international credit card charges incur a fee. Most is 3%. My brokerage account does NOT charge a 3% currency fee conversion. Which is the common fee for such action. Also using another institutions ATM costs extra. Once again there are financial entities that have unlimited reimbursements on such charges. Obviously there are many charges that one can avoid if they plan ahead.

Posted by
719 posts

Don't buy here. Just use an ATM once in Spain. I withdrawal 250-300 euros at a time, then reload as necessary.

Posted by
23473 posts

All of the cruise ships we have been on bill the credit card from a US based location so there are no extra fees. Jerry's comments would apply if being billed from an international location but that is not the case with the cruise line. My only concern would be the exchange rate given by the ship for the Euro.

Posted by
2 posts

I actually went to my bank and requested an amount of Euros that I felt comfortable carrying with me. You get the best exchange rate this way. You get robbed at exchanges in cities, your hotel, and especially in the airport. It took my bank a week to get them to me, so I'd go there in a week or two, allowing 10 days before you go. You could call them and ask what the normal turn-around time is too. ATMs are a great option as well. I actually asked my credit cards if they charged a foreign transaction fee and the one that didn't was my card. The visa worked most everywhere, the american express card not as much. Finally, to piggyback onto everyone else, ATMs were the best option there as the exchange was more accurate in your favor.

Posted by
4535 posts

"I actually went to my bank and requested an amount of Euros that I felt comfortable carrying with me. You get the best exchange rate this way. You get robbed at exchanges in cities, your hotel, and especially in the airport." The first sentence is incorrect. The second sentence is correct and should include "exchanging at your local bank..." Banks charge anywhere between 5-10% above interbank rates for exchange - sometimes more. Just using an ATM in Europe costs between 1-4% depending on your own bank's fees and conditions. For small amounts, the cost is negligible. But for large amounts to be used for the whole trip, the costs add up fast. I too would be wary of what the exchange rate is on the cruise ship, as I have to believe they see it as a money maker.

Posted by
2788 posts

As I read all these stories about folks getting such good deals
when purchasing foreign currency here in the US, I always wonder why none of them ever say what the exchange rate they were given was plus what any additional fees were. I use a debit card attached to a checking account from a credit union which marks up the transaction by 1% for using ATM machines in Europe. That is the total charge I incur. When using most ATMs in Europe you get the international exchange rate at that very moment with no fees charged by the ATM owners. I wonder how many transactions for foreign currency here in the US can match that.

Posted by
40 posts

I guess we have the wrong bank and the wrong credit union for the international fees. Our CU says our debit card (visa) won't work in France. Our bank says the fee will be about six percent including exchange rate. I would really like to know which CU has the 1 percent fee, and a more consumer-friendly bank. I don't think I'm being greedy here...

Posted by
1178 posts

In regards to the last posting....Credit Cards (Visa Debit) DO work at most ATMs in Paris. They DO NOT work at the ticket machines for the metro (I know from experience) They DO work at most restaurants, They DO NOT work in some of the other shops....Again, I speak from personal experience within the last two weeks!! Seems as though we do not have the "chip"-no problemn anywhere in Spain however. Recommend you carry some with you to get you started, and then purchase via ATM from then on...may be a daily limit on them. and be sure to notify your bank before leaving.

Posted by
976 posts

Sharon, do not know which ports you will be visiting so am assuming you will need only euros and not any other currency? Have been on 2 cruises that offer euros ( Kroner,rubles, etc) at the front desk, but there was a service charge which was more than the 7% my bank charges for advance cash or the 3% the bank's ATM charges for foreign transactions. Also, my husband tried to get cash using only his debit but non-chip and pin -card did not work half the time, but my debit /VISA ( also nonchip-pin) card worked every time.
If you are going directly to the ship, then just get a few Euros from the airport ATM. At most ports you can use your credit card for big purchases, and there will also be ATMs if you really need cash for small purchases. I was just at Schipol Airpot in Amsterdam and saw 3 ATMs side by side- one was for US Dollars, one for Pounds, and one for Euros. Hadn't seen that before, must be more common than i thought.

Posted by
9363 posts

Same recent experience as HJ - no problem using either of my VISA debit cards for cash in ATMs (one is a small local credit union card, the other an online bank card) anywhere in Spain. I did not use my debit cards to make any purchases, however, even at restaurants. My credit cards worked fine everywhere, and I do not have chipped cards. Lindley, check with local credit unions for a cheaper card. Mine charges absolutely nothing when I make withdrawals from Europe. (VISA and Mastercard charge banks a 1% conversion fee, but my credit union does not pass that charge on to me.) My online bank, Ally, charges me the 1%, but that is all.

Posted by
4535 posts

Sorry to keep adding to this endless thread but... "Also, my husband tried to get cash using only his debit but non-chip and pin -card did not work half the time, but my debit /VISA ( also nonchip-pin) card worked every time." The above quote needs some clarification. A chip & pin has NOTHING to do with using an ATM. It's just that sometimes, a card won't work for a certain ATM or for a certain bank's ATM system. If you find that happen, just move on to a different one. My own experience is that about 1-2 times out of 10 my card won't work.

Posted by
87 posts

Doug, I'm happy you're here to correct us. I'll check with my bank, but 5-10 percent sounds too high. Then again, it could well be the case.

Posted by
56 posts

I bought 300 Euros a couple of weeks ago from my bank - I got an exchange rate of $1.3162 on a day when the xe.com rate was around $1.26. The bank charged a $5 fee, so it was just under $400 total. Including the fee, that worked out to be 5.8% above the xe.com rate. It was worth it to me, because I have never traveled outside of the US and wanted to have cash when I hit the ground for food, taxis, etc. without having to find an ATM as soon as I landed.

Posted by
3623 posts

Just an addendum to what Douglas said: We have had occasional problems with atms; and, as a result, we always carry at least 2 different cards, i.e., cards on different accounts. Sometimes there's no discernible reason why one card doesn't work, and another does. We've even had a card not work at the atm outside the bank; but, when we went in to ask for an interpretation of the message, the teller was able to get money for us from the machine inside. She shrugged and said it was a mystery to her.

Posted by
11 posts

Hi. We visited Europe last year and used BNP Paribas/Bank of America ATMs. I'd stress having FOUR DIGIT pin. Also got our Euros from BofA. Came home with about 35 euros in coins and found out that BofA will not take coins back. Luckily we're going back next year.

Posted by
4175 posts

We are in France right now. I have gotten from 300€ to 600€ out of any ATM I have used. I tend toward using the ATMs commonly found just inside the bank doors, but have had no problems with exterior ones. I most often use a MasterCard debit/cash card issued by BECU in Seattle and pay with cash. I haven't needed to use my backup (VISA) debit/cash card from a CU in Tucson at all. On this trip my non - chip / pin BECU VISA credit card worked in the 1st autoroute toll booth near Verdun just fine. It wouldn't in the second one but someone came and took cash and let us go through. The third one had the option to pay cash. I have used it for a couple of other purchases with no problems. I did get some Euros before I left just in case I had problems, but easily got more when we arrived at CDG. I probably don't worry about the charges because they are low and because they are a tiny percentage of the total cost of the trip.

Posted by
87 posts

If your ATM withdrawals are coming from your savings or checking account back home, be sure to ask your bank what the maximum is per day that you can take out. With mine, it's $500. Your bank may be able to increase the limit while you are abroad.

Posted by
2788 posts

I am not aware of any ATM machines in Europe that access ones saving accounts when using a debit card. At least I have never been given that option in the last 10 years.