Another USD/Euro conversion question

Old Sep 7th, 2010, 10:50 PM
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Another USD/Euro conversion question

Hello, all,

Before you get frustrated with me, please know that I DID do a search of the forums for both "euro" and "Euro USD conversion" before I posted this question!

I am leaving in 12 days (wow!) for my first ever, lifetime dream trip to Italy. Which means I am now down to figuring out the nuts and bolts of things like the best way to convert dollars to euros, fight jetlag, etc. Fodorites have been a huge help for planning the rest of our trip, and I appreciate all of the help you have offered over the course of the last year while we've planned our trip.

SO...in a nutshell, we will be flying into FCO, have a few hours layover and will then fly to Venice to really begin our trip. We will need to eat during our layover at FCO. Our local bank says to wait until we are in Italy and convert USD to euros at a local bank there to get the best rate. Fodorite forums discourage using a AAA travelers check card, etc. Local bank says to avoid using ATMs because they may charge more, or even eat our debit card in mistake. Internet searches say to skip local banks and just head to the closest ATMs. Needless to say, I am confused.

In your personal experience, what has worked best for you? Do restaurants/shops in the Rome airport even accept USD? Can we convert USD to euros at an FCO ATM for the purpose of eating during our layover?

Thanks in advance for your advice; very much appreciated!

Leslie
Scarlettdz9 is offline  
Old Sep 7th, 2010, 11:02 PM
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Use whatever plastic card that you have to pull Euro from an ATM.
Avoid taking paper money - USD.
While shops may take paper USD currency, the exchange rate would be lousy. (Would shops at JFK take paper Euro notes - I think it would be unlikely).
The exchange rate on paper currency is worse than for electronic exchange - paper money is a hassle.
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 11:05 PM
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Sorry, I forgot.

Have a great trip!
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 11:19 PM
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If your total bill is more than 10 euro, you probably can pay with your credit card and not worry about getting cash.
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 11:58 PM
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What works for me may not be relevant to you.

What you heard about ATMs are true; however, they leave out much details, namely the magnitude of the problems. While they do happen, they don't happen all the time.

You can take steps to minimize problems except for the type of the Debit card which is probably difficult to change in 12 days.

I use mostly my credit union debit card with 1% fee passed on by VISA. There are cards with 0% fee as well as ones with 3% plus $5/withdrawal (BA...) and may be even worse. The banks have gotten better in giving you better info in this area but only after they got class-actioned to disclose these fees.

After you choose a card, there are still more hurdles. The bank's fraud department needs to be notified that you plan to use your Debit card on foreign ATM machines. Depending on the competencies of staff handling this transaction, the debit card might still be non functional abroad. One time, the bank mis-coded my debit card as "lost" and disabled my card. I always test my card after this notification step.

Then, your debit card should be best linked to the checking account. While there are reports of ATM cards linked to savings card working, in my case, it never worked. It had to be debit card linked to a checking account.

Even after you this step, you might still not get cash for many reasons. If you try too many times, the card might be eaten. The obvious countermeasure is to bring multiple debit cards from different banks. If it is your bank's temporary problem, using a card from a different bank will solve the problem. If it is the ATM machine's problem, finding another ATM machine or an ATM machine from a different bank might work.

This is usually the extent of workaround I have had to do. I also carry US dollars in large bills in a unlikely possibilities that the ATMs are not functional such as when the union representing the ATM cash handlers go on strike.

Recommend going with a backup plan. If you are traveling in a big enough group, you group can probably rely on each other for backup solutions. I am usually the head of the family, so I need to bring my own backup solutions.

Some #$&! decided to clone one of my CC cards, and the bank immediately disabled my account and turned my CC into a worthless piece of plastic. It did not matter since I had 3 back up CC cards.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 01:25 AM
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Airport restaurants almost always take Mastercard and Visa, credit or debit. In my experience, airport shops and restaurants take dollars but usually at unfavorable rates. Use ATMs with the usual cautions of not letting someone stand close behind you, etc. They are by far the most reliable and cheapest way to get euros. For every bad experince there are millions of ordinary transactions.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 02:05 AM
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We have used our ATM on 20 or so trips with no issues. We bring several cards linked to different banks just in case. Always call the bank before hand and let them know where and when you will be traveling.

Why a bank would advise you not to use an ATM card makes little sense to me. Travelers checks are a rip off and cash can be a hassle, unless you find a rare location that does a good exchange.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 02:06 AM
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Use your ATM card to get euros from the nearest machine when you arrive. In Italy you may have to try two or three before you get money.

Never put a credit card in an ATM. Leave your debit card home. If you only have a debit card instead of an ATM card run to your bank and get an ATM card. That should take about 10 minutes.

Bring some greenbacks for emergency when all the ATMs refuse to cooperate. Since the introduction of the euro and ATMs there are few banks in the money exchange business.

Most credit cards charge 2% to 3% on all foreign transactions. Also most banks charge up to $5 for each ATM withdrawal. Find out what your charges will be before you go. My credit union VISA and ATM cards do not levy a fee in Europe. My Cap One CC does not levy a fee either.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 03:09 AM
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Check how much your bank charges for ATM withdrawal. On a recent trip to Mexico, I found out my bank charges $6 per withdrawal (on top of the 3% conversion fee).

I switches to a Charles Schwab account - no fees for overseas ATM transactions.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 03:35 AM
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>>

And I thought I did badly with a 1% fee per withdrawal
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 03:54 AM
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>>>>Our local bank says to wait until we are in Italy and convert USD to euros at a local bank there to get the best rate.>>Local bank says to avoid using ATMs because they may charge more, or even eat our debit card in mistake.>>While there are reports of ATM cards linked to savings card working, in my case, it never worked.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 04:08 AM
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It is good to realize that there will be fees charged for your ATM withdrawals abroad--by your home bank, not the bank in Europe. It is sort of the "price of taking a trip" unless you have already done the credit union thing.
At your departure, get some Euros at the airport--just for walking around money. We usually get $100. After that use an ATM, and get enough at a time so you are not getting pounded on the fees.
Take more than one credit card, and let your partner carry one, and you the other. Use your credit card for everything you can.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 04:09 AM
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Your bank is an IDIOT! By the way.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 05:14 AM
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I use a credit card whenever possible. I have capitalone and they charnge something like 1% of the transaction. If the place accepted credit cards it always worked.

Then we also went to ATM when we needed and withdrew the largest euros we could (around 250 euro) with our debit card because our bank charges about $5 of international ATM withdrawls.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 05:17 AM
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"such as when the union representing the ATM cash handlers go on strike."

er....I have never heard of that happening anywhere.....I doubt very much that such a Union exists
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 05:32 AM
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Scarlettdz9. I always take about $100 with me. On this trip I am also taking about E130 only because a good friend's daughter was in Italy and had Euro left over. She charged me the bank rate of the day. I helped her out and it didn't hurt me.

That being said. No matter how many times I go to Europe I always use an ATM to withdraw money. But there is always the moment of truth when you slide that card into a machine and think of what could happen. Even after more than ten years (I was a late bloomer to travel) I still hold my breath.
I have never had a problem, thank heaven. But that doesn't mean that you won't. I hope you do not.

It is just normal for you to be a little anxious. Take the best of the suggestions from the OP above. You are certainly trying to be prepared. That is all that you can do.

Call your bank and cc company before you leave. I was surprised that my credit union wants a two week notice, my bank locally only a few days. Make sure you have your card customer service numbers somewhere so that you can call them if you have a problem.
Have a wonderful trip and good luck.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 05:45 AM
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Your local bank, like most, has no clue what it's talking about. European banks do not charge a fee for an ATM withdrawal. European ATM machines do not eat your card any more often than US machines do, which is to say maybe once in a few million times. The only fee you'll pay to withdraw money from an Italian ATM is the one YOUR BANK imposes, and they should be able to tell you what that is. Let them know you'll be traveling, ask them to raise your daily limit if you think you'll need it. That's all you need to do.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 06:01 AM
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Obviously your local bank employees don't travel.
I travel with a portfolio of cards...two ATMs cards, VISA and AMEX. My last trip (London), I used my VISA once, just because I wanted to see of my chip and pin worked (does not apply to you!). My hotel and flights were paid beforehand. I would go to ATM and get enough cash to last me a few days (or the machine limit. My ATM cards are on Cirrus and Plus. Once I went to one bank and it did not work (wrong network) so I walked 50' and went to another bank where it did.

IMHO ATMs will give you the best exchange rate. By making larger withdrawals you mimimize the effect of any withdrawal fee.

Before leaving I had bought a few British pounds so I could get to my hotel without looking fo a bank.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 06:13 AM
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I also think your bank has a bunch of idiots on staff, however, as to this post above:

>


The idea that ATM handlers cannot go on strike (or that such workers do not exist) is not true. They did such a thing in France in 2009 and the ATMs did run out of cash. I think they also did it about five years earlier. I don't know how one would think the money gets put in the ATMs if not by people or that such people could not belong to a syndicate or union and go on strike. Now maybe the ATMs magically get filled in Italy without people, but Italy does have a lot of strikes, also. They had an ATM workers strike in Milan in 2003, for example.

I would not factor that into my plans to buy a cup of coffee in an airport, however.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 07:39 AM
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I have used the ATM at FCO and had no problems, in fact in about 20 trips to Europe I have never had a problem with ATMs. It is the only way I get money on trips. I always have a small bit of US currency just in case but always end up bringing it home.
Have a great trip and remember everyone has some pretrip anxiety (at least I do) no matter how many trips I take. But everything usually works out just fine.
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