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Help! 2nd guessing about exchanging currency

I was talking to a relative about my trip. i told her i was going to get cash from the atm once i arrive to nord du gare from london. she laughed at me and said that i shouldnt rely on the atms taking my american debit card. she told me that i should get euro from my bank or to get travelers checks. is she right? she travels a lot but the rs guide mentions just to get euros or pounds from the atm.

Posted by
8293 posts

Your relative is wrong. Your American card will work just fine in ATMs and Travellers Cheques are less than useless now. No one will accept them and if you find a bank that will (and the bank is open!) you will pay a hefty fee for the pleasure of getting some cash. I suspect it is some time since your relative has been to Europe.

Posted by
984 posts

Your relative is a twit. Unfortunately, you can't choose relatives. Note - you should inform the finance houses of your atm and credit cards where you are travelling if you have no history.

Posted by
3201 posts

You can just laugh right back at her. If she buys euros at the bank before the trip, she pays too much in conversion fees and bears the risk of carrying around lots of cash all at once. Travelers' checks are useless these days. You have to find a bank that will cash them and again pay high conversion fees. ATMs work just fine. Everyone here uses them as the best way. Just be sure to inform your bank of your travel dates and where you are going so they don't think a fraudster is using you card and block it. Same with your credit card.

Posted by
11507 posts

She uses travellers checks,, how old is she, I am 50 and haven't used them for Europeon travel in over 15 years! So few places take them, you generally have to find a place to cash them and there are fees attached to that ,,sometimes high ones. Your relative really has no idea.. the ATMS have no problem with American Debit cards,,she is confused perhaps thinking about how some ticket machines and self serve gas stations do not accept non chipped American Credit cards,,this is not the same issue at all. And getting euros from your bank,, seriously,, when was the last time this well travelled relative went to Europe? And btw ,, its not just RS guides that recommend the ATM route,, EVERY GUIDE that I have ever read , and every forum ( there are many you know) recommends the same thing,, and has for years. So,, thousands of us can't be wrong,, and your relative is just trying to act superior ( she laughed at you,, nice) I do like to have a bit of local money on me when I arrive, I usually bring 50-100 euros from home,, in case I feel like crap and just want to go straight to hotel. Then I get rest of money out next day from an ATM.

Posted by
1633 posts

In addition to what the previous posters noted (I love their responses), you might want to increase your daily withdrawal limit. Also check with your bank to see how much they charge you to make ATM withdrawals overseas. After numerous rate increases with our banks, we changed to a Schwab money market account for overseas transactions. Above all else, make sure you are using your money belt to stash your cash.

Posted by
11294 posts

Ditto everyone else. If she told you to get traveler's checks, she obviously hasn't traveled for many years. It is now extremely hard to find a place that will take them. Instead, follow the advice of those of us who have actually been to Europe recently:
1. Call the number on the back of each ATM card and credit card you already have. Tell them the dates you're traveling and which countries. Ask about what it will cost you - fee per transaction, percentage of transaction, or both. 2. If you don't like the answers (for example, Chase charges both $3 per foreign withdrawal AND 3% of the withdrawal amount to use their ATM's abroad), get an account with TD Bank before you leave. Their cheapest checking account (only $100 minimum to avoid monthly fees) only charges $2 per withdrawal, and their fancier account ($2500 minimum) charges $0 - with no percentage surcharges. I've used them in numerous counties without any problems (as long as I notified them first). And, they give you an ATM card on the spot when you open the account, so you can check it immediately, even if you're leaving soon. 3. Opinion is divided about getting a small amount of local currently before you leave. If you want to, you can do so at Chase bank branches in Manhattan (don't know about the Bronx) or at JFK or Newark airports. The exchange rates are about 7-10% higher than you will get out of a European ATM, but for 100 euros/pounds or so, it's not a big deal. Others just hit an ATM upon arrival. 4. It is a good idea to have some backup cash, in case you need money and all the networks are down. But, this can be dollars, euros, pounds, or whatever, and there's no need to go overboard. I usually bring my leftover euros from my last trip (often 300 or so), or about US $200 if I'm going to a non-euro country.

Posted by
14580 posts

Mel, I would not say that Travelers Checks are useless but limited in use compared to 20+ years ago or more. At Gare du Nord there is a Thomas Cook outlet...very convenient for you to cash your travelers checks. You won't be the only person standing in line at Thomas Cook. Where you are going London and Paris, the Amer. Ex. offices are still located on Haymarket and Rue Scribe, where they have always been. Yes, you can get Euros and GBP from your bank here, but it has to be a central bank that deals with this sort of exchange. In the summer of 2008 when the exchange rate for Americans relative to the GBP was absolutely terrible, almost 2-1, I went with a traveler to the Wells Fargo in downtown SF where the person turned over $200 or so and got back 100 GBP. I don't recall the exact amount in exchange but the bank clerk handed over what the traveler wanted...British money in cash. That's what you have in mind in New York?

Posted by
86 posts

thanks every1 for ur responses. my relative is always travelling all over the world and i guess she just sticks to what she knows. lol she really thought i wasnt a good idea to show up to a different country without having local currancy on hand.

Posted by
23464 posts

I give her one small point. We are in the camp of show up with $100 or so of local currency in your pocket. Just one less thing to do or worry about on arrival. After that we depend totally on ATMs. And have for 10, maybe 15 years. Maybe someone else will not say it, but I will, "Travel checks are total worthless." No even useful for emergency back up cash. Has your relative traveled the world on her own or part of tour groups? Big difference. I cannot believe that anyone with more than three weeks of travel experience anywhere would offer that kind of advice since it is so inaccurate. Our son and daughter-in-law went on a 6 month, around the world honeymoon on the cheap and were totally dependent on ATMs from Japan, Vietnam. Cambodia, Middle East, Turkey, and finally Europe. Not once did the card not work nor any problems finding them. After all the locals like the convenience of ATMs as much as American tourists.

Posted by
10344 posts

Ceidleh just made a very good point in another thread about not withdrawing money in a train station. It is better to get it outside and a few blocks away.
Someone else has mentioned several times that you can withdraw euros from the bank machine at the London station before leaving for France, which contradicts the above advice about not withdrawing money in a train station, but oh well. I think I'd get a few before leaving London and then load up once checked into the hotel in Paris and not carrying around luggage.

Posted by
2916 posts

While I agree about avoiding ATMs at train stations, once you leave the Gare du Nord you'll probably find banks w/ATMs within a matter of minutes, if not seconds.

Posted by
86 posts

@bets
what wrong with withdrawling money from a trainstation?

Posted by
23464 posts

I personally think that stand alone ATMs typical of train stations, airport, etc. have a great risk of being tampered with. There are devices that can be added to ATMs that capture your numbers and codes. Second train stations tend to be a magnet for pickpockets etc., and crowded. Most conditions that I try to avoid when withdrawing cash. For those reason I prefer to use ATMs attached to banks during open hours. But have uses train station ATMs. Just be extremely careful and recognize that there is some greater risk.

Posted by
14580 posts

Mel, This may help you prior to arriving in Paris. The only place I know for sure in a London station where you can get Euro (and GBP naturally) from an ATM is at Paddington, way in the back where the left luggage facility is located. All the other ATMs at Kings Cross/StPancras or Victoria only give GBP...unless I missed them, also a likely possibilty. Don't know about Heathrow.

Posted by
55 posts

Hi Mel, we just returned from France and we used our American debit card at several ATM's. No problem at all.

Posted by
1010 posts

We always use our Capital One credit card for purchases overseas. There aren't any transaction fees. We alo go to the Travelex store by our home. We get equivalent of about $200 in their currency for taxi's, drinks at the airport, etc. Then we also have Travelex load our debit card with a specific amount of the local currency, such as pounds or Euros. Then we just go to an ATM in Europe. Travelex is very convenient. They are also located at airports and train stations over there. If we lose the card, we are insured for the total amount. We have used Travelex for Australia, Tahiti, France, Italy, Switzerland. We are going to use them again in two weeks, as we are going back to England and onto Ireland in June.

Posted by
23464 posts

While a Travelex card may be convenient and useful, it is still more expensive than regular debit cards. Travelex is charging in the range of 5 to 10%.

Posted by
989 posts

My mother must be extremely lucky. She still takes only travellers checks to get cash. Last trip she exchanged in Vienna, Budapest and Regensburg. We walked into a bank and came out with cash.....first attempt in each location.
Maybe not state-of-the-art but somehow she gets them to work. Maybe no one will say no to an 84 year old lady.

Posted by
2916 posts

One comment about debit PINs. Every once in a awhile I read a comment about making sure you have a 4-digit PIN. I have 2 debit cards, one with a 4-digit PIN and one with a 6-digit PIN, and have never had a problem with the 6 digit one at any ATM in France, including a recent one-month trip.

Posted by
2916 posts

Elaine, I'm amazed your mother was able to exchange travelers checks so easily. A few years ago I was stuck with 100 Euros in TC that I had planned to mail to France for a deposit, and had no luck in cashing them (or using them for purchase) at any banks in France. I was finally told to go to a post office, and they did cash them -- for a hefty fee. And those were Euros, not Dollars.

Posted by
9855 posts

Mel. -- one important thing is before you leave the states, make sure that the PIN for your card is four digits.

Posted by
11507 posts

Elaine, you posted that before about your mom being able to walk into banks and cash travel checks no problem, but a few of our German resident posters said German banks do not accept them anymore and explained what she thought was a bank was a currency exchange( but it has the word bank in the title so perhaps confusing to a forienger) ,, but that means their was undoubtly generous fees attached to those exchanges.

Posted by
989 posts

They were BANKS, (in Vienna it was our nephew's branch near his flat in the 5th district) and I didn't question her about the fees, but she didn't seem too upset by them, and she is as tight a person as I know.....except for maybe Lee. ;-) I am not advocating their use, but am just pointing out that YES, there are a few people out there that still purchase and "cash" TC. And, Robert, I said she might just be very lucky, or it might be her age (No one seems to ever say No to my mother, including me)...... and, also, we weren't in France.

Posted by
2916 posts

Maybe Austrian banks are still more willing to accept TC's than French banks. And I'm no youngster either. Also, one of the banks appeared to be willing to cash it if I had an account with them.

Posted by
117 posts

For a little peace of mind check with your bank or credit union in advance to make sure your atm card will work in a foreign country. Then about a week before your trip notify your bank and credit cards with the dates and countries you will be visiting. Occasionaly they will ask for the cities. Used my credit union atm card all over europe, mexico, peru for over 12 years with no issues. Travellers checks not worth the hassle. Usualy carry 30 euros leftover from previous trips.