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I was (partially) wrong about debit cards vs. cash

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I don't have a debit card and really don't want one. My wife and a cousin had huge sums of money drained out of their checking accounts due to debit card fraud, and it didn't simply get put back in overnight. It was a big multi-week hassle. In addition, my wife had her debit card eaten at an ATM in Italy, and if I hadn't had a goodly amount of cash with me our vacation would have been ruined.

My policy has been to pay a three to five percent premium and simply buy euros before going to Europe. This is cheaper than many debit cards. In addition, I've always taken a good chunk of U.S. currency as backup.

Well, on my most recent trip I found that outside very major cities it is virtually impossible to change currency in Europe. In Colmar, France, for example, no one will change money except for the Postal Bank. They told me I could leave the money and come back in 10 days to get my euros (no joke).

Make no mistake, I will continue to take a pocket full of euros with me to Europe. I'd rather have them in hand when I arrive and not have to depend on airport ATMs which might or might not work. But before my next trip I'm signing up for some type of debit card, maybe through Paypal or elsewhere. I don't want one connected to my checking account.

I don't like the idea of relying solely on ATM cards because of the hassle of trying to find a machine that works and accepts my card. But it's even a bigger hassle to try to find a place to change currency. So in the future I'll still have my wad of cash money, but I'll also have a debit card handy.

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