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We are starting our Best of Europe, 21 days, on September 16, and I know I have seen what I want to know but have forgotten it, and now can't find it. For cash withdrawals at atm's, do I do the exchange rate there, or take local currency and have my bank do the exchange? Please help.

Posted by
8889 posts

Choose to pay the amount you actually take out of the machine, in the same currency. And not a penny/centime/Rappen more. The exchange will then be done by the card company (Visa, Mastercard etc.), NOT your bank. This will be at the interbank rate.
If you choose to charge your card in your currency, it is a total lottery what exchange rate is used, but you can 101% be sure it is advantagious to the ATM operator, and not you.

Same rule applies for paying with credit card, if they attempt to charge you anything other than the amount on the bill in local currency, refuse to pay until they change it.

Posted by
581 posts

Definitely take the local currency. Otherwise the ATM owner will use whatever exchange rate is better for them, charge you for the privilege of exchanging your money and thank you deeply for doing it.

Posted by
7081 posts

I do not agree with Nestor. He does describe correctly the careless selection of a non-bank ATM in a grubby convenience-store. But he is completely wrong about international banking companies at physical banks in developed countries. Nivea, if you use the search box top center, you can verify that the same answer is given each month of the year, when someone asks this question again: Use your bank ATM card at a bank-owned ATM (or a labelled bank ATM at the airport) for the lowest total costs of exchange.

However, YOUR bank may extract punitive percentage fees and fixed charges for using another bank's ATM. ONLY you can answer that question, by going to your bank or to its website. When Bank of America started charging me 3% in Europe (to get my OWN money ... ), I opened an account at a Credit Union that promised zero fees for foreign ATMs.

A tiny number of American banks offer a good deal for currency in advance. Most charge punitive fees for that service. Unless you have made a recent internet overseas purchase (say, the deposit on your hotel, or an advance-purchase train ticket) you have no way to see just how good the VISA or MC network conversion rate is. It's better than any retail customer can get.

Edit: I have received a PM suggesting that my advice could be better. The OP mentions "take the exchange rate there", versus a home-side physical banknote exchange. It is true that some ATMS offer TWO "rate[s] there", when they slyly offer Dynamic Currency Conversion, which is a term that will NOT appear on the screen. My post only discussed what I consider the "normal" foreign ATM withdrawal, where you do not accept a dishonest offer to conduct the entire transaction in dollars.

While the referenced Rick Steves advice, , parallels mine, he also warns about Dynamic Currency Conversion.

Posted by
26480 posts

My (considerable) experience agrees with Nestor: There are definitely bank-owned ATMs that offer DCC (always at a bad rate, though the degree of badness varies). That can be avoided by paying attention and declining to have the withdrawal recorded in dollars. There are also bank-owned ATMs that assess usage fees which can only be avoided by canceling the transaction and going to a different ATM.

Perhaps these practices are not happening in every country, but both appear to be spreading. They are so frequent that I no longer remember where I encountered them, but DCC is alive and well in London, to give just one example, and even two years ago there were lots of fee-charging ATMs in Barcelona.

It is a mistake to think that if you go to a bank-owned ATM, you don't have to worry about anything other than fees charged by your own bank.

Posted by
8329 posts

As reported by others here on the forum, US ATMs make the same offer to foreign visitors to the US.

Posted by
581 posts

Tim, I was referirng to that "dynamic conversion rate" that ATM's offer versus taking the local currency and letting the banks deal with the conversion rate. It seems to me that every time I travel to Europe banks come up with something new to try a get your money.

Posted by
13681 posts

My experience on the 21 day Best of Europe is that your guide will also tell you where local ATMs are for each place you stay. Hopefully you'll arrive in Haarlem a night before you start your tour? The reception at the Ambassador will also direct you to the nearest bank-owned ATMs to the hotel so you can get some starting money.

DO contact your bank/credit union today if you haven't already, to let them know you are traveling. Also notify your credit card companies.

You'll use the Euro for all of the trip EXCEPT your time in Switzerland which uses the Swiss Franc. Your guide will give you suggestions on how much Swiss currency to withdraw from the ATM so follow his/her advice. I've found they've been right on target and will probably stop in Lauterbrunnen at the ATMs there for people to get cash.

Have a wonderful, wonderful time on this trip! It's just fabulous and ranks as one of my very favorite tours. As another guide told me, you'll see blockbuster sights every single day!!

Posted by
19026 posts

It is a mistake to think that if you go to a bank-owned ATM, you don't
have to worry about anything other than fees charged by your own bank.


I know for a fact that Reisebank, in Germany, tries to get you to take DCC, and they do it in such a subtle way, that it is not obvious that they are doing it or that you do have a choice. They got me the first time. I know about DCC; I just didn't think German banks would do such an unethical thing. They show you a page that just looks like a routine summary of the transaction, but the percentage discount on the exchange rate is shown, which they would not know. The obvious button at the bottom just said "continue" or something innocuous like that, but if you pushed it you accepted the DCC. There was another, less obvious button that rejected the DCC, but they made it sound like if you selected it the withdrawal wouldn't go through. The next time I used that ATM, I pressed the other button and still got the money, with the only fees being the ones from my bank. Oh, well. As I remember it only cost me about $10 for a valuable lesson learned.

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks to everyone who replied. Will take all advice in hand. We are already in England for a short visit with family before heading to Haarlem a day before the tour starts. So close now.