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Apartment balance due on arrival: Order € before or no?

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Mar 2nd, 2011, 12:51 PM
  #1
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Apartment balance due on arrival: Order € before or no?

Our trip to Italy is getting ever closer! We're scheduled to arrive at FCO on a Sunday morning in May, and will (somehow) make our way to our apartment near Piazza Navona. We're renting through Sleep in Italy, so our deposit is already paid via PayPal. For our five-night stay, we'll owe €580 when we check into the apartment. Since we're flying straight to Rome from the States, we'll have to either take that cash with us or withdraw it from an airport ATM, I guess. My question is - what would you do in this situation?

Normally I'd never order euro before I leave; I know we'll get a better exchange rate at an Italian ATM. However, that's a big chunk of cash that we need immediately, so if anything goes wrong - the bank forgets we're gone and cuts off the card, our daily withdrawal limits aren't high enough - we're in a bad spot, jet lagged in a foreign country. So that's why I'm wondering if it would be a better idea in this one case to order them beforehand (not that I'm crazy about keeping up with that much cash either). For those of you who have done this, what would you recommend?

In case it helps, we're two unmarried women, so two separate accounts. I'm with Bank of America (I think my friend is with Regions?).
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 01:19 PM
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Up your limit to a $500 withdrawal from your U.S. bank. Warn your bank that you will be doing withdrawals in Italy. Have your friend do the same. There may be a euro limit (250?) to each transaction, but just go to another ATM and withdraw again so that you have your half of the rent.
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 01:38 PM
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okay, 580 euro is around US$800 now, right? I'll tell you what I did in such a situation as I tend to be overly cautious (but I have only done this in France, not Italy, so don't know any peculiarities to their ATMs and your cards) -- I had two ATM cards and got it at the airport ATM upon arrival. I needed more than you, actually, around 600-700 euro.

For backup, I knew it would cost a fortune but I could get cash from an ATm with a credit card (this is if you think your ATM card may be an issue). However, since I'm cautious, I also brought with me US$1000 in travelers checks. I knew if I had to, I could cash them at the airport exchange desk from about a 10-12 pct markup (I know that for CDG in France, don't know Italy's deals but every international airport I've been in has an exchange desk where they take TCs). I get them free from my bank because I'm a premium customer, so this was no cost to me. I get big bills as if I have to cash them, I don't want to write my name so much -- so about 10 $100 bills. DO NOT GET EURO TCs, as you will pay to get them in euro and them you'll have to pay to cash them anyway.

Then, if all goes right, which it did, I just put them into my bank account when I got back home, so it cost me nothign to do that.
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 02:16 PM
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We had a similar issue in Florence, but as we were staying for 2 weeks, our balance was considerably higher than yours. We contacted the owner, explained the situation, and he allowed us to prepay the balance with paypal. We had to pay an extra amount (about 30 euro from memory) to cover his credit card fee, but it gave us peace of mind.
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 02:25 PM
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Thanks for the ideas, everyone! Christina, I hadn't thought about the TC possibility at all. I'll have to think that one over - I tend to be overly cautious as well! Michael, thanks for the reminder that we can up our withdrawal limits - I'd forgotten that.

PRLCH, PayPal would certainly be more convenient all the way around. Did you have any misgivings about prepaying before you had seen the apartment? Sleep in Italy is a reputable company, but I do wonder about paying all the money before we at least check things out.
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 02:36 PM
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"Did you have any misgivings about prepaying before you had seen the apartment? "

The vast majority of apartments require full payment long before arrival. Usually 6-8 weeks ahead.

Just have your bank raise your daily limit to $800 or $1000. You will have to make multiple ATM withdrawals -- but the fees would still be less than buying € at home.

I personally wouldn't faff about w/ travelers checks. Many banks won't cash/exchange them.

BTW -- if you and your husband each have ATM cards on the same acct. you each can withdraw up to the daily limit.
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 03:13 PM
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It's just something I did as I don't want to have to worry about things. Nothing went wrong in my case, but I knew if it did (ATM card not working, ATM down, which certainly does happen, etc.) I would have some way of getting euro with the TCs. It was just one less thing to worry about.

The point isn't for a bank to cash them, but an exchange bureau. I said you would go to the foreign exchange bureau at the airport which is where they snare travelers with TCs. At CDG in Paris, it is run by Travelex, I think. In any case, as I said, all major international airports I've been in has such an exchange bureau for TCs, even if the rates are not good.
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 03:54 PM
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janisj made the most salient point: The vast majority of apartments require full payment long before arrival. Usually 6-8 weeks ahead.

Every European apartment we've rented (about 8 now) has required full payment well before our arrival date. No problems at all. Just do your research on the agency and read any available reviews of the apt.
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 04:07 PM
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This may be slightly off-point but every apartment we have rented, the landlord almost always introduces to the dwelling and leaves without asking for payment. This has been in Italy, France and Spain and we have to find them again to make the cash payment. They understand the issues and we have already made the deposit payments. I would guess that as long as you let them know, they will give you time to get the cash.
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 05:47 PM
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I actually can see doing the TC thing that Christina did if in a pinch, but I think I'd prefer to send the owners an international draft in advance, which costs about $5.00 at any bank, and be done with it in advance. If the owners have to pay a fee to accept the international draft, which they well may, heck, just hand over the 20 euros or whatever it is on arrival.
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 06:24 PM
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janisj, no husband. Just two free-wheelin' 30-year-old ladies. We'll both be responsible for half, though, so the withdrawal limit shouldn't need to be too much higher than it already is for both of us.

This is the first apartment I've rented for a vacation, so the point about most of them requiring prepayment hadn't really sunk in. Sleep In Italy gets good reviews as far as I've. I think I saw a few reviews of this particular apartment on SlowTrav, but they all run together after awhile, so I'll double check. Asking them if we can prepay would probably be the most convenient and cause us the least amount of stress!
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 06:29 PM
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*as far as I've SEEN... obviously.
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 08:32 PM
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jent103, remember in Italy to use a Deutsche Bank ATM because they are part of the Global ATM Alliance with Bank of America and you won't have any ATM fees except the conversion fee BOA charges.

When we have a large rental payment to make we let the person we are meeting know that we will be stopping at an ATM before arrival. They can usually tell you where the most convenient ATM is located. We also try to prepay before leaving the states with a credit card but that doesn't always work. Have a great trip. Deborah
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 09:05 PM
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remember in Italy to use a Deutsche Bank ATM because they are part of the Global ATM Alliance with Bank of America and you won't have any ATM fees except the conversion fee BOA charges.

If that is true, it is a change in policy. The original policy was that the fee were waived only in the country of origin of the bank; thus Barclays in the UK, BNP Paribas in France, and Deutsche Bank in Germany.
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 10:05 PM
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I've done this in Rome before a few times. I think each time I've done it a bit differently but it has never been a big deal. I've never bothered with TCs or prepayment beyond the deposit for apartments in Italy.

€580 is not that much split between two people with two separate accounts, $400 each or so? I think I'd call the bank, ask them to up the withdrawal limit if necessary, arrange my car service with prepayment by CC ahead of time (if that's how you're planning on getting to the apartment from the airport), plan to pay for dinner that night with a CC and then also take about €100 with me. Not a ton, just enough to cover incidentals if the bulk of what I take from my ATM is going to be gobbled up by the apartment rent that first day. I usually have about €50 from other trips anyway.

I don't order the Euros, though, just go into my bank and get them. Do you have a really small branch or something? Even considering that I'm getting reamed at my bank, buying €150 is only costing my about 7.50 more than at an ATM in Italy. Your mileage may vary, of course. This is just what I've found to be most convenient for me.

Then I'd get the rest of the Euros at the airport in Rome. If one ATM happens to be out of order just try another. There are a gazillion of them, including one (or more?) in Piazza Navona if I remember correctly.

Have a great trip!
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 10:44 PM
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"I don't order the Euros, though, just go into my bank and get them. Do you have a really small branch or something?"

I live in a large city and almost no local banks deal in foreign currency at all. Wells Fargo and BofA do -- but none keep them on hand and one must order them. Years ago the main branches kept some foreign currency but not for the last 8 or 10 years. There were two AMEX offices that did foreign currency --but they closed long ago.
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Mar 2nd, 2011, 11:10 PM
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Really, what city? I live in San Francisco and bank at Wells Fargo, no need to order. I've gotten Euros at the Wells by my office in Oakland too. I had to order Kenyan shillings though. Euros are on hand.
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Mar 3rd, 2011, 08:12 AM
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Leely2, I haven't talked to BOA yet, so I'm not sure. I'm in Nashville, so I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't keep as much foreign currency on hand as your bank in San Francisco. I haven't gotten any foreign currency in the US since my study abroad semester in 1999 (always used ATMs after that), so I'm rusty. I think I actually got that at AAA.

Michael, my understanding was the same as yours about the BOA arrangement - I've taken advantage of that with Barclays in the UK, but didn't think it covered Italy. DeborahAnn, have you had personal experience with that? I'll check with the bank.
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Mar 3rd, 2011, 08:26 AM
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Barclays Bank, which is part of the Global Alliance, says that only Detsche Bank ATMs in Germany and Spain offer no-fee withdrawals, other than exchange surcharge of 2.99% over interbank/wholesale money market rates.
No ATMs in Italy are listed.
I doubt BOA has a different arrangment, as Global Alliance operates on the basis of mutuality.
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Mar 3rd, 2011, 08:44 AM
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As a Plus member of AAA they bought Euros for me and I was not charged a commision; I paid what a US Bank pays when they buy Euros. I ordered at my local AAA Office and a week later I had the Euros; no extra fee, no commission.
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