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choose your ATM wisely plus foreign transaction fees

I just returned from a lovely three week trip to Sicily. I know I had read Rick's advice regarding ATM machines but somehow it didn't sink in when I was selecting ATM machines. ATM machines in front of a bank are the best. The two I used in front of a bank did not charge any conversion fees. The amount of euros I withdrew was equivalent to the dollar amount that is shown when you check what the dollar to euro conversion rate should be when you check currency conversion online. The two ATM machines I used that were part of the Euronet system helped themselves to a 15% fee! For example, when I withdrew 150 Euros from a Euronet ATM, my checking account should have deducted $168.33 but instead deducted $194.00. In one case, in a small village, I don't think I had another option but in cities you have choices, so choose carefully. I used a Chase Visa card with no foreign transaction fees and that worked well. I found credit cards to be widely accepted even in the small village with only a few exceptions. So make sure you carry a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and look for ATMs associated with banks.

Posted by
8293 posts

Lots of information and warnings on the internet about the Euronet ATMs, including advice from Rick Steves' own travel tips.

Posted by
21867 posts

The common refrain has always been ---- a bank owned ATM. Was there any screens indicating the withdraw rate or any other

Posted by
6951 posts

And don't think that Travelex and American Express will be fair to your pocketbook. It's not hard to figure out which ATM machines are bank owned.
Another concern is your ATM company service charges & fees. My main checking is at Wells Fargo because they have great computer systems. But they charge $5.00 plus 5% discount on any foreign ATM cash withdrawal--excessive profit. I also have a credit union ATM card I use only for foreign travel without all the big discounts.
I try to avoid using so much foreign cash by charging everything possible, including rooms, car rentals and restaurants, on a Capital One card that pays back 2% toward travel. It essentially gives me one free flight to Europe yearly.

Posted by
34 posts

I am responding to Frank's comment. Yes, I don't recall exactly now the wording but it listed the exchange rate for 1 USD as .7935 Euro and asked if I accepted that. I said yes as I didn't realize I had a choice by looking for a bank affiliated ATM. I didn't realize that is where they were getting their 15% as 1 USD should be .8911. I knew the one Euro to 1 US dollar conversion but not the other way around. There was also a transaction fee (on 150 euros it was 3.95 euros). My math of 15% may be a little off because I am combining the conversion rate plus the fee. Rick Steves did warn about this and as I said above, his advice didn't sink in, but Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide do not make this warning. This is not my first trip to Europe so I should have been more of top of things but I wasn't and want to make sure other people who are traveling understand how to save a not insignificant amount of money.

Posted by
3479 posts

Double yikes!! What a shocker. Good advice. BTW I loved your trip report thread!! ;)

Posted by
21867 posts

I am sure that it is a private ATM. Have not heard of the Euronet system but doesn't mean much either. Sometimes you get trapped and you have no choice but to pay the fee. We were in Peru last year and desperately need some cash. We were a little off the beaten path so hadn't see a bank in a couple of days so finally used a stand alone ATM in a tourist cafe. Checked it carefully for any additional attachments and then insert the card with fingers crossed and asked for a hundred. It warned me that it was going to be expensive -- about ten dollars on the hundred. But I needed it so I punched OK. It worked -- nothing bad happened.

Posted by
175 posts

Piggybacking on this - I will be flying into Glasgow Airport from Paris, and I have looked at the Glasgow Airport website and I have looked at Google Streetview images inside Glasgow Airport. I only see Travelex ATMs in the Glasgow Airport. Does anyone have firsthand knowledge about this?

Posted by
11292 posts

"it listed the exchange rate for 1 USD as .7935 Euro and asked if I accepted that."

That's how more and more ATM's are functioning in Europe now - and not just the free-standing ones like Euronet or Travelex. This is Dynamic Currency Conversion in another guise. It almost got me in the Zurich airport in September 2017, for two reasons: I was jet lagged and tired, and in September 2014 the airport ATM I used did not have this "extra feature."

Any time you see US dollars in Europe, run. You should only see local currency.

Posted by
5697 posts

What Harold said about DCC -- if the ATM asks you to agree to an exchange rate, just remove your card and walk away. FYI, I ran into a few Italian banks that specified a €3 service charge per transaction. Since I use Schwab, the fee was reimbursed on the next statement.

Posted by
4958 posts

Yep - this was DCC, not an "ATM fee." Your bank will take care of the conversion rate unless you are using DCC.

Posted by
13026 posts

I have run across those ATMs in Germany or Austria telling me what the conversion rate is for that day relative to the US dollar, then there is a follow-up question. That was the DCC. I always hit "NO"....not interested in "their" conversion rate.