Currency Exchange

I am going to Germany for 2 weeks in 29 days. My bank, Wells Fargo, said that I can exchange my money for Euros before I go without them charging me. Is it best to do this before I get to Germany? If I use my Debit card at the ATM they will charge $5.00 and if I use it to purchase they charge 3% of transaction. If I exchange some money here in the states how much should I exchange? My aunt lives there and we will be staying with her and mainly eating at her place. We have plans to visit castles.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

Unfortunately, you bank with one of the most expensive banks to use abroad. Check the exchange rate they are giving on the euros you could get ahead of time. If it is comparable with the going rate you can find online that might be the best way for you to go since you won't need a lot of spending money. If you ran low, you could still use an ATM.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3580 posts

Stephanie, definitely get some Euro before your trip; WF traditionally has had the best rates for buying Euro. FWIW, my WF has always asked what types of bills I wanted, so do get some smaller ones like 5, 10, and 20€. Once there, take out as much Euro per transaction that particular ATM will allow. To me, the amount charged is just not enough to get to excited about, but some people do. I've had a WF acct for decades; in Europe, I've paid for that privilege :-( I buy a guidebook, I pay way more than at home for a coffee, beer, or a plate of pasta. It's just a cost of doing business and taking a trip. It's NOT like a car payment. If you're staying with your aunt for 2 weeks, and just doing a bit of sightseeing - and have no transportation costs, nor many food costs to be concerned about, then you might only need to use an ATM twice...perhaps less depending on how much Euro you're comfortable carrying with you in your moneybelt. Maybe you'll pay for some of her meals while out visiting castles, but unless you are planning on doing lots of shopping you won't need nearly as much money as most people. I can't advise you on how much money to change; I don't know you nor your particular needs. At least a few hundred; maybe more if it's cheaper to change more (no fees, etc.) and you're comfortable carrying the money. Remember - it's roughly $3 per $100 you charge on your credit card...for a 2-week period in your life...In Germany! I certainly wouldn't suggest that you apply for a new credit card or something like that ;-) Don't forget to let WF know when and where you'll be, or you won't be charging nor using your ATM card At All :-(

Posted by Stephanie
Albert Lea, MN, USA
2 posts

Thank you so much for the information! It is much appreciated! I am going to Wells Fargo tomorrow and put in my order!!

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10868 posts

Understand that WF will charge you about 5% by using a higher exchange rate. That is more expensive than using a debit card at an ATM in Europe.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7971 posts

Ouch! I live off of foreign ATMs six months of the year. I try to keep a little of the six or so more common currencies on hand as starter money. If I'm out, or forget to grab some, I don't even think about it. It's just not a stinking factor. Worst case, is that I loose five bucks grabbing a hundred dollars worth of currency at a non-bank facility until I find an ATM a half hour later. Only once was I flat broke walking out of the airport. When we got into town I paid back the guy who'd funded my bus fare.

Posted by Richard
Gresham, OR, USA
9 posts

As one of the earlier posters recommended, get some Euros in small bills (a few 5-Euro notes are nice)before you go, but you can use your ATM like a credit card and to get walking-around money while you're there. (As someone also said, if you take cash from an ATM, get the max, usually 300 Euros). Make sure you have a 4-digit PIN for your debit card. If you can find a coin shop near where you live, ask if they have some Euro coins they will sell you. This may be a long shot, but it can be handy to have some coins right off the bat for a baggage locker Don't throw/give your coins away when you come back. You'll need then for you next trip!

Posted by Brendon
Auburn, Washington, USA
497 posts

Do what Rivk Steves does. Take a debit card and take larger money withthdrawls but fewer withdrawls. It will save you a lot of money that way.

Posted by JHK
Palo Alto, California, United States
101 posts

You should check with Wells Fargo to be sure that they are not charging you a 3% foreign transaction fee on ATM withdrawals outside of the US. I have a Wells Fargo account (which I use as one of two back up accounts for cash when outside of the US) and was told that there is both a $5 out of network fee on each withdrawal and a 3% foreign exchange fee on withdrawals so I would pay $8 to withdraw the equivalent of $100. In addition, the Wells Fargo per day cash withdrawal limit that was told to me is significantly lower than my other banks.

Posted by Chip
Tipton, Iowa
329 posts

Wells Fargo is a leader in fees. Your banker may have been ignorant of the 5% to 5.5% markup that Wells Fargo charges for euros, but the transaction is not without cost. $2000 worth of euros would cost you $100 to $110. JH has the correct figures for Wells Fargo debit card use in an ATM. Wells charges 3% plus $5. Withdrawing the equivalent of $100 costs you $8 or 8%, $200 costs you $11 or 5.5%, $300 costs you $14 or 4.7%, $400 costs you $17 or 4.3% and $500 costs you $20 or 4%. Have Wells Fargo raise your daily withdrawal limit and withdraw as many euros as you can at a time.

Posted by Crystal
Marion
21 posts

Cary your debit card only for emergency cash. Figure out how much you are likly to spend and then go Travelex.com. They do not charge you an exchange fee for exchanges over $1000, and they will exchange back any money you have left. Exchange before you leave and cary the extra money in a money belt hidden on your person. I have traveled to Europe 5 times and this process has worked well. I suggest $750-1000 per person per week you will be gone. You may have extra, but better safe than sorry. I hope this helps.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

Travelex may not charge "fees" but they get you with a lousy exchange rate (and an even worse one when they change it back). Take 100 euro with you and hit the ATM once you arrive - simple.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10868 posts

Everyone has their own travel style and comfort level with money. But as Nancy pointed Travelex has extensive fees buried in their exchange rate so Crystal's recommendation would be very expensive. This morning, the interbank rate is $1.28 which means at the ATM the exchange rate would be about $1.30, 1.31. The worst debit card rate would be 3% and maybe a $5 withdraw fee. My credit union charges nothing as do many others. The Travelex site this AM will sell me Euro for $1.43. That is a mark up of 12%. Let's take Crystal's $1000 and see what the real difference is assuming you made two $500 withdraws with a poor debit card. You would pay two withdraw fees ($10) and 3% ($30) for a total of $40 and you would have had 760 E in your hand. If you bought $1000 from Travelex you would have 698E in your hand or a difference of 62E or nearly $80. And, of course, it you were not changed any fees, as many credit unions do, you would have an extra $120. Going through Travelex rarely makes good sense or cents.

Posted by JHK
Palo Alto, California, United States
101 posts

The hypothetical person actually spend $1,040 to get the euros. The exchange rate is still better than with Travelex but not by as large a margin as the hypothetical suggests.

Posted by Nestor
Fairfax
44 posts

Stephanie,
Check with your bank to see if they have agreements with foreign banks not to charge ATM fees. Ours had it with Deutche Bank and we never got charged. Also, there are other banks that offer credit cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees. Do what everyone else suggested and take out the most when you use the ATM. Have fun