Should I exchange $s for euros in the US or use ATMs in Spain?
If you get your Euro from an ATM machine in Spain, then the cost to you will be about 0.8% more than the exchange rate that the ATM network charges, plus any ATM fee imposed by your bank (European banks do not impose a fee) if you don't have a bank such as Capital One or Schwab or others that do not charge fees. If you exchange your $$s for Euro here, then you could be paying as much as 10% more by way of a bad exchange rate, even if there is no specific "fee".
That is because with an ATM machine you are withdrawing money from your account, while with an exchange here, you are buying Euro. Your choice.
Here is a page of Rick's excellent money tips. Read all the links, and you'll be an expert: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/money-travel-tips.htm
Exchange a little, if it makes you more comfortable to have some in hand before arrival, but then use ATMs. Just make sure that your bank is aware of your travels so they don't block your card. I was just in Spain last month and used ATMs in several different cities without a problem.
I always get some in the US for traveling money but then use ATMs. I have used ATMs in Italy, England, and Scotland without a problem.
We often pay for our rooms in cash as well and often get a better rate for doing so. These offers are often listed in r steeves's books but sometimes it doesn't hurt to "just ask"
Cliff, just an fyi and comments. youre not going to win in any case. someone somewhere is going to make $$$ off you. this is what i found out on my trip im on now. when making ATM withdrawls, its alike a "cash advance" or think of it as buying money. on my VISA card in the USA i can pull $$$ out of my Savings OR Checking account. over its its like i just bought something but it was cash and it goes against your credit card limit. there is a limit (or my bank or someone else has control) over how much you can withdrawl. i was only able to pull 300 euros out at a time and approx with in a 12 hour period. at least thats the way it felt to me. now charging is a different story, that works just like in the USA. im sure there will be variatiions and corrections, but thats what i just experienced. also, i did bring Euros with me too. happy trails.
Everyone has their own way of managing this stuff, but I have never personally acquired local currency prior to a trip, ever. If I have something left over from a previous trip, I'll bring it, but I don't go out of my way to procure any first (Euro in this case). If I need to make a purchase at a connecting airport en route, I use my credit union debit card like a credit card. I've never had a problem doing this. I've also used my credit card, but that's not typical for me (foreign transaction fees, etc.). Upon arrival at my destination, I'll use an ATM machine in the secure area of the airport, but you'll find ATMs in both secure and non-secure areas. Then, I'm all set with cash for transportation into the city and for the next few days. When I need more money, I go to an ATM. You'll find ATMs in Spain at banks like Santander. Often, the ATMs are on the wall outside of the bank itself. Just follow all of the regular safety precautions for accessing your account and handling your money in public. If you're concerned about skimmers, read up on how best to foil skimmers on ATM machines. As already mentioned, call your own bank before you go and ask them to raise your daily limit for how much you can withdraw in a day (to account for exchange rate and how much you can access). They'll need to know the countries you'll be visiting so fraud triggers don't kick-in and prevent you from using your card. Don't forget to also call your credit card company for the same fraud reason. I couldn't follow what Ray was saying...using an ATM is not like getting a cash advance on a credit card...it's basically just like using an ATM here. Don't sweat this stuff too much...just go and get money at the airport there. It's really not that much different from here.
I don't follow that either about using the VISA card over there is like using credit.
If you are using a VISA credit card to get cash then it is making a purchase. Yes, credit cards can be used to get cash from an ATM by cash advance against your credit line, and at exorbitant interest rates effective upon withdrawal. Use your bank ATM card to withdraw your own cash from your own bank account from an ATM machine. Just as you would do at home.
If you are getting cash from an ATM with a credit card, it's not "like" a cash advance, it is a cash advance, with immediate accrual of interest and probably a per-use fee. Only use an ATM/debit card in an ATM. Use credit cards for purchases.
Use a DEBIT CARD tied to a CHECKING ACCOUNT to get local currency from ATMs that are all over Europe. I have never had a problem getting local currency at whatever was my destination airport thus I do not take European currency from the US where the exchange rates are not as good as in Europe.
Since we're discussing ATMs, credit cards, etc. I'll share what we do that provides a little extra security. We bank at Key Bank (live in Washington State), and we have a separate account not tied to our checking & savings accounts. This separate account has money loaded into it, and we receive an ATM card with NO credit card logo and our name is NOT on the card. So, if the card was accidently lost or stolen, no worries. We've used it in Italy and two trips to France with no issues. I pay for our hotels ahead of time (Expedia) and use this card for cash. We don't use credit cards overseas.
I found Rays statements a bit confusing. I withdraw money from my chequeing account using my debit card, it is nothing like a "cash advance". I also went to my bank and had my withdrawal limit raised, so I can take out more then 300 euros at once, usually I take 400 out at once and that lasts me 3-4 days. I put hotels on my Visa credit card.
I usually bring about 100 euros cash on trip to start off, sometimes its left over money, sometimes I get it at my bank. I never use exchange bureaus or take cash advances on my credit card.. ever.
There is no reason not to use a credit card overseas. A credit card is the most protected type of transaction. If there is fraudulent use (and you notify your lender in a reasonable time) you are on liable for $50 (by U.S law) and most banks wave that fee. Use bank debit cards to get cash from ATMs, use credit cards to shop and pay for meals (when possible), hotels etc. I don't understand all this paranoia.
Lisa, the credit card use that people are warning Ray about is using a cc to obtain cash from an ATM. I didn't see anyone saying not to use credit cards at all, although there are places that don't take them.
Lisa was referring to the post above hers. The thing is, some people don't use credit cards overseas, either for personal or perceived safety reasons. There is nothing wrong with that choice, though there is no major safety reason not to use them. Some of our long-time posters here don't use them, though I think it is for personal reasons, not perceived safety. For some people with cards that have foreign transaction fees, it can be cheaper to just use cash (which also can score you some discounts too).
Yes, I saw the post above Lisa's, but I took it that the poster was just saying that they didn't use credit cards, not that no one should use them. I didn't see any paranoia in her statement, just a statement of what they do.