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The Best Advice on Obtaining Foreign Currency


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I wasn't sure where to post this.....

 

Since we're going to Europe this summer on our cruise, I've typically just always used the credit card for purchases but now realizing it's good to carry at least some Euros with me.

So far, I learned that the currency exchange at IAD's rates are better than pre-ordering foreign currency even from my own bank, and, the rates are better. 

 

So, what is the BEST advice on getting foreign currency before departing? At the airport? Or, just extracting it from an ATM using the card?

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I live overseas and so travel to places with different currencies regularly. I always get money out of the ATM. Usually, there's an ATM surcharge, but my bank refunds those... and using the ATM I get the bank rate of exchange, which is almost always better than the rate offered at a currency exchange booth. 

 

(Some ATMs, especially in Europe, will offer to charge you in dollars. So, for example, you get 100 euros but the charge to your card is the dollar equivalent. Always say no to this... the rate is worse than the rate you'd get for your bank at conversion.)

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Getting your currency from an ATM in its country of origin is your best bet.  For the Euro that means any of the Euro countries.  If you use an ATM, especially at the airport, be sure it is a bank affiliated ATM and not one from a money exchange company as the rate will be quite different.  Also it is best for you if you have an ATM account that covers fees anywhere.

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2 hours ago, johnjen said:

 

 

So, what is the BEST advice on getting foreign currency before departing? At the airport? Or, just extracting it from an ATM using the card?

the BEST advice on getting foreign currency before departing is to get your foreign currency After Arriving....in the airport at a non-Travelex ATM.  Not hard to find, will only take as much time as entering your PIN and selecting the amount that you want.

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Great answers all. I deeply appreciate this. As for ATM's, like we have in the US, are there limits on amounts you can take out? Here in the US (at least with my credit union) the daily limit is $400.

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On 4/17/2019 at 9:27 AM, johnjen said:

Great answers all. I deeply appreciate this. As for ATM's, like we have in the US, are there limits on amounts you can take out? Here in the US (at least with my credit union) the daily limit is $400.

Generally the limit that you have here still holds.   I had a card with a $500 limit.  First night on a land trip to Spain I kept asking for €500 and was declined.  After third try,  my brain, dulled by too much time in the air, said ask for less and like magic €400 appeared.  So calculate what your max would be in dollar equivalents.

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On 4/17/2019 at 5:27 PM, johnjen said:

Great answers all. I deeply appreciate this. As for ATM's, like we have in the US, are there limits on amounts you can take out? Here in the US (at least with my credit union) the daily limit is $400.

The limit will depend on your card - and the ATM itself.  The figure you quote is fairly typical, but it could be lower.

 

Across Europe ATMs are widely available and the cheapest way to get cash - subject of course to the charging structure of your particular card.

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We always change a small amount of money into the currency of countries we are going to visit.

 

We do this before leaving home.

 

Exchange rates in airports, hotels and on cruise ships are definitely not the best.

 

We do not usually use ATMs but understand they offer good rates.

I do not want my card 'swallowed' in countries where I cannot explain what has happened.(Technophobic !)

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  • 3 months later...
On ‎4‎/‎17‎/‎2019 at 12:27 PM, johnjen said:

Great answers all. I deeply appreciate this. As for ATM's, like we have in the US, are there limits on amounts you can take out? Here in the US (at least with my credit union) the daily limit is $400.

If you are travelling with another person and they have a card, too, you can each withdraw up to the limit.

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  • 2 weeks later...

ATM with Charles Schwab Investor Checking account. No foreign transaction fee, will refund any ATM fees. It's worked flawlessly for me for years. I can't recommend it enough. Also note that if you are taking euros out of an ATM and it asks if you want them to convert it from USD to Euros for you say no.

Sent from my Pixel 3 XL using Tapatalk

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  • 2 months later...

On my tour around South America before we left home I went to  currency exchange and got about 200 US dollars worth of the local currency. For each of the ports of call including Mexico. I got denominations as close as I could to $10 US value.  It was great.  I could shop at the local markets and not really have to speak the language to purchase whatever.  Purchasing soft drinks or beer from the vendors was easy.  Ten dollar tip to the tour guide was always welcomed in the local currency.  The whole exercise was fun...  For major purchases I used the credit card.

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  • 1 month later...

I have ordered foreign currency through my checking account at Bank of America.  Their Euro/ Dollar rate today is 1 EURO equals 1.1748 US Dollar. 

 

They can mail it to you or you can pick it up at a local branch, and you can order whatever denominations you like. You can order pretty much any currency for any country you can think of.

 

The only fee is $7.95 delivery fee if you order less than $1000 in currency.  

 

Edited by Angela2017
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  • 3 weeks later...
1 hour ago, Voelfgar said:

Does using the ATM in the destination country still apply if it is say Mexico?

I just use  US Cash 

which I can get at my local bank 

I guess if you want to use an ATM there I would go into  a bank  & not use a stand alone ATM 

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  • 1 month later...
On 4/16/2019 at 10:37 AM, johnjen said:

I wasn't sure where to post this.....

 

Since we're going to Europe this summer on our cruise, I've typically just always used the credit card for purchases but now realizing it's good to carry at least some Euros with me.

So far, I learned that the currency exchange at IAD's rates are better than pre-ordering foreign currency even from my own bank, and, the rates are better. 

 

So, what is the BEST advice on getting foreign currency before departing? At the airport? Or, just extracting it from an ATM using the card?

We just withdrew money once we got to Europe.  Had some US dollars and used them as we could or needed to.

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  • 1 month later...

I had planned on getting some Euros from my bank before I went to Spain last fall.  I decided not to, due to the fee involved.  Hard to believe, but I had a hard time finding ATM's once I got there.  Amsterdam airport, only 1 place to get Euros...then in Barcelona, finally at one of the Metro stations...I had even asked several locals (the one they did point me to, unable to use due to the banking requirements).  I ended up spending more there than if I had purchased them here, due to foreign transaction fee and ATM fees.

Next time, I will just pay the extra here. 

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  • 6 months later...

I get currency at my local bank before I leave, they charge me a $10 fee, which is reasonable.  I use my bank's Visa card in Europe, since nobody takes American Express.  Cash is for small meals, tips, the occasional local tour operator. I usually take about 2 times what I think I'll need. Be sure that you get rid of as much coinage as possible before returning, banks will accept paper currency only when changing back to American currency

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  • 3 months later...
On 4/16/2019 at 11:51 AM, wheezedr said:

Also it is best for you if you have an ATM account that covers fees anywhere.

We have a USAA bank account (husband was in the Army in the 70s) that rebates ATM fees. We only use it for this purpose. And not just when traveling. Any ATM even here at home.

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I always try to obtain some local currency for wherever I am traveling.  My bank (Chase) is able to obtain it quickly--sometimes overnight--with a reasonable fee.  

 

I mostly use one of my Visa credit cards that have the no foreign transaction fee perk for purchases, but, I will also have some traveler's checks as a "just in case" I need more local currency and an ATM can't be found.  (Yes, it is difficult to get traveler's checks cashed anymore.  Merchants won't.  Banks usually will; even when I try to redeem American Express traveler's checks issued by Chase at a Chase bank, my most recent experience in doing so involved the branch bank's manager.  The teller had not a clue as to what she should do.  She had never experienced such a transaction.  (And, this was at a Chase bank in Fort Lauderdale.)  

 

Try to avoid ATMs overseas; too many stories of being difficult to use, "eating" debit/credit cards, or difficult to find.  

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I completely disagree with Rkacruiser's comment about avoiding ATM's overseas.   Prior to COVID we were generally out of the country about 6 months a year including 10 weeks when we live in Mexico.  DW and I are very independent travelers and seldom take tours or cruise excursions.  We obtain nearly all of our foreign currency via ATMs which are very convenient (available 24/7) and give us the best exchange rates (by far).   We carry several ATM cards (each drawn on a different bank and account) so we have adequate back-up and the ability to get larger amounts of cash (when needed) without being concerned about daily withdrawal limits (often set between $300 and $500 per day).  All of our ATM accounts are with backs/credit unions that charge no fees or extra foreign exchange fees.  This means we usually get the current wholesale rate of exchange minus a hidden 1% International Services Fee imposed by the system (usually it is Visa International who handles most international ATM transactions.   I should add that we have been using ATM cards for over 30 years (all over the world) and have only had one card eaten (a funny story) which happened near our home in Mexico.  In that case we easily got our card back within an hour.

 

I will also give another reason to use ATMs.  In many countries/places it has become difficult to exchange money at banks (many only do exchanges for customers with accounts).  This forces folks to use cambios (money exchange places) that will usually charge you 5-10% (this can be done through a lousy exchange rate and/or commission fees).  In Mexico it is a real pain to exchange cash because of federal money laundering laws that require one to present their Passport (this is not always enforced) and limits the amount you can exchange per month.  There are no limits on ATM withdrawals.

 

Hank

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Our experience is that foreign currency rates at home from banks are terrible.  Slightly less terrible at currency stores.   When I was in line at a local currency store I met a lady from my local bank branch who was getting FX.  Her comment.....even with my bank employee rate I get a better exchange on FX when I come to the store and a much better selection of bill denominations.

 

We spend about 4 months a year outside the country.  We have found that the very best rates are in country rates.  After that....the best rate is bank ATM's with a proviso.  You need to do a little research on sites like tripadvisor to determine which banks have the lowest fees or which banks your home bank has agreements with, and how much can be withdrawn on each transaction.    We pay attention to this because we often pay cash when travelling either because their is a surcharge for credit cards, a discount for cash, or the vendor will only accept cash.

 

If we are only stopping for day or two we do not care.  

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22 hours ago, Hlitner said:

I completely disagree with Rkacruiser's comment about avoiding ATM's overseas.

 

To each his/her own.  We are all comfortable doing whatever we do or we wouldn't do it.

 

22 hours ago, Hlitner said:

Prior to COVID we were generally out of the country about 6 months a year including 10 weeks when we live in Mexico

 

2 hours ago, iancal said:

We spend about 4 months a year outside the country.

 

Both of you are out of the country more often and for a longer period of time than I am.  What you choose to do would understandably be possibly different from what I would choose to do.  

 

2 hours ago, iancal said:

we often pay cash when travelling either because their is a surcharge for credit cards, a discount for cash, or the vendor will only accept cash.

 

I prefer, as well, to use cash for small purchases even though my prime credit cards do not charge a foreign transaction fee.  I don't want "to leave home without" some currency for the country that I am visiting in my wallet, if possible.  

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 11/20/2019 at 12:50 PM, Voelfgar said:

Does using the ATM in the destination country still apply if it is say Mexico?

We live in Mexico 10 weeks a year and get all of our cash (Pesos) out of Mexican bank ATMs.  But for cruisers visiting a few Mexican ports you can get away with using US Dollars and credit cards.  You will pay more when using dollars but many feel the savings from using Pesos is not worth the hassle.  That being said, most of us who spend a lot of time in Mexico do use Pesos.  

 

For folks who do use ATMs (in Mexico and many other countries) beware of "Dynamic Currency Exchange" which is akin to a legal scam used by most banks.  The ATM (or a charge machine) will give you the option of converting the transaction to US Dollars.  But the exchange rates with DCC are awful (sometimes as much as 20% higher then the current rate).  You do have the option to refuse DCC in which case the exchange is done the normal way (through the international banking system) at much more favorable rates.

 

Hank

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On 12/27/2020 at 3:01 PM, iancal said:

Always get billed in the local currency.

 

YES!  I learned the hard way.  I had a choice of paying for a woolen garment in New Zealand by charging it in USD or NZD.  I chose USD and discovered when I got home that an already expensive item became even more expensive.  (But, buying the item was worth it!)

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