$$$$$$$$ question

Hello fellow travelers, I was wondering if anyone had any tips for exchanging money. I will be in Paris, Belgium, and Amsterdam for 10 days. I alway use ATM's for money withdrawls when I travel, but recently I've had some problems with my bank so I can't use ATM's for money withdrawls. Does anyone have any recommendations about the best way for money exchange. Is it better to change the money here? Or should I just change it in each country? What are the best places to change money. I use BOFA, can I go to one of their sister banks and exchange money there without getting hit with a high fee? Thank You

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2685 posts

Hi Jessica,

I can tell you of my experiences using ATMs in France, Germany, and England for money withdrawals--never had a problem. One way to ensure this is to call up your credit cards' customer service tel. no.----prior to departure--- (these are the cards you 're going to use on the trip) and tell them of your trip, that you will be charging (dinner) and using it at the ATMs to get cash (in Euro), from when to when. This way the credit cards' bank will know it's not fraud when they see money being withdrawn from an ATM in Paris or a credit charge made in Paris, etc.

Using my Visa card in Germany and England, I never had a problem, but in France I did. Sometimes my card was not accepted by the establishment because the French credit cards are different from our American ones, whereas we have a magnetic strip on the back, they have a computer chip. And, I know in one instance--this was in ten years ago in Strasbourg--the waiter was faking me out because he wanted me to pay in cash instead of by Visa. We called the manager instead.

It is best to go to a bank to get cash, Credit Lyonnais or BNP, in regards to the rates. Don't do it at a hotel. Make it inaccessible to thieves. I prefer paying my credit card but have on me 80 to 120 Euro max., just in case.

Posted by Jessica
Falls Church, VA, USA
10 posts

I leave for Paris in 8 days so I won't be able to open a different account with another bank, and this snafu with my bank won't be fixed in time, grrr!!!

Posted by Andreas
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
2511 posts

In today's electronic world exchanging paper money is the most expensive thing to do. It doesn't matter if you exchange your US cash at a BNP bank, which is a BoA partner - they all charge high fees for the exchange. If you've got problems with your checking account consider using a prepaid ATM card from any other bank. You just upload your US cash to that card and once in Europe withdraw it from an ATM, something like wirecard.com (not sure if you can use it as a US citizen but I'm sure you've got something similar).

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

This is one case where I would also recommend a prepaid debit card. The fees and exchange rate for exchanging cash in Europe probably outweigh the fees associated with such a card, and you can carry your money securely instead of carrying a wad of cash.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7188 posts

Can you start another bank account specifically for the trip? If so, you can use Capital One or USAA (two of the better choices for overseas fees).

BofA has a partner in England whose ATMs can be used for free. I'm not sure about any on the continent or if there is a money changing break.

Posted by Jessica
Falls Church, VA, USA
10 posts

Thanks for the reply's guys. A friend just told me about a site(www.travelex.com) where they exchange money for trips. They are having a special where if you purchase money before 12/31 you get good exchange rate and no commision. Has anyone tried using them before? If so would you recommend using them?

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

I would NEVER use Travelex for any reason. They are notorious for high fees and bad rates. I would have difficulty believing that their "special" is, indeed, a good deal. Trust me, they are in business to make money, and they are getting it somewhere in every exchange. They aren't a charity.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

In France, I use my BofA debit card at BNP Paribas ATMs without fees. Deutsche Bank has the same deal with BofA, but I'm not sure if this works in all countries where they have branches. In Great Britain, it's Barclay's that has the deal with BofA.

If you go to Paris first, load up on Euros. I sometimes travel with hundreds of Euros in my moneybelt. When I was in Belgium I couldn't find a bank that would give me money without fees.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6828 posts

I've used Travelex a couple of times to exchange money via it's web service. Their fees are higher than a regular bank would charge, but you're paying for the convenience....which is what I wanted. Both times I used them, I was arriving in the country very late at night and I was more comfortable having some local currency on my person, and not risking the airport exchange desk being closed, or the ATM machines out of money. If you're arriving in Europe during the day you probably don't need Travelex. Using a prepaid debit card is good advice; if you must bring lots of cash, use a money belt.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17738 posts

Jessica,

When is your trip? If there's sufficient time you might consider opening a chequing account in another Bank so that you'll have an ATM card.

Is there any possibility you could resolve the "problems" with your existing Bank prior to your trip?

I've found that having two ATM accounts is a good idea as it's always good to have a backup.

Good luck!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11264 posts

You can buy Euro online from Well Fargo. They have the best rates I have ever found (currently $1.51/Euro). They will deliver it to your home, no cost for amounts over $1000.

Posted by John
Pantego, NC, USA
704 posts

Todays rate is: 1 Euro = 1.4315 U.S. dollars. Do you know anyone who belongs to a credit union. In NC, our state credit union would charge me the above rate for Euro.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11264 posts

What's your credit union?

Do they have an online service?

Posted by John
Pantego, NC, USA
704 posts

I belong to the NC State Employees Credit Union. You have to be a NC State Employee, a teacher, a policeman or work in some form of state, county, or local government to belong. That is why I was asking if Jessica knew anyone in NC that belonged. Cheapest way to get Euro. They charge a .50 fee to mail the letter. Not per Euro, just .50.