ATM vs Currency vs Traveler's Checks

Old Mar 1st, 2001, 09:23 AM
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ATM vs Currency vs Traveler's Checks

We're going on a two week trip to Europe next month and are having debates about how to handle the money situation. I thought I've heard over and over again that Traveler's Checks are's better to use the ATM's in Europe, as they are convenient and give you a better exchange rate. Others in our group are saying to get some European currencies here from a bank before we leave the US. Which is best? Also, if we do go the route of ATM's, are they as readily available as they are here? I realize we need to bring both a VISA and a Mastercard (Plus/Cirrus) to be prepared for either. Another concern is that we're traveling over Easter...if we can't find ATM's for that Sunday/Monday, banks will be closed. Another gas stations over there take cash only, or do most take credit cards? What about grocery stores?

Old Mar 1st, 2001, 09:29 AM
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I should have been more specific in my post...countries visited will be France (one night in Alsace), Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Thanks.
Old Mar 1st, 2001, 09:34 AM
wes fowler
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Travelers checks are indeed becoming more and more obsolete. Best exchange rates are from ATMs. European banks don't charge for ATM withdrawals though you're bank may. Even so, you'll invariably come ahead on the exchange. You might want to bring $100 or $200 dollars in travelers checks in the event of an emergency. If not used, simply redeposit them in your bank account. It does pay to purchase a small quantity of foreign currency for your first stop in Europe. For the least unfavorable rate secure it from your bank, not one of the currency outlets at your airport. Eliminates the need for searching out an ATM for money for cabs, coffee and the like.
ATMs are increasingly popular and as readily available as in the states. Service stations do not take gas company credit cards. Some take Visa/Mastercard. In Switzerland, you'll find fuel dispensers that will take paper currency and dole out fuel to the currency value.
Old Mar 2nd, 2001, 12:26 AM
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ATMs are everywhere, and in general I would say that there are more than in the States. You'll have no problems ever finding cash machines. Just make sure you have a 4 digit pin code.

I have never been to a gas station in Europe that does NOT take credit.

Also , virtually everywhere will take both Visa and Mastercard. Less places take AmEx due to the high charges.
Old Mar 2nd, 2001, 12:29 AM
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I forgot to add, almost all shops and restaurants will take cards as well, unless they are very small family run affairs. Look for the Visa/Mastercard stickers on the doors.

I tend to use cash only to pay for taxis and purchases from market stalls (although even some of these take credit now).
Old Mar 2nd, 2001, 04:31 AM
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mr/ms traveler
On our most recent trip to Belgium and France (november 2000), we did not cash one traveler check. We used ATMs only for all money needed. We took some traveler checks as a backup but since ATMs were everywhere we never had to cash one. This is better as the ATM will give you a much better exchange rate and the fee charged by your bank and the ATM system will no doubt be less than the commission charged by the money changers. In our case, our bank charged a flat fee of $1.25 per transaction, and the international fee of the network they are attached to was a flat $1.25, total $2.50, regardless of amount withdrawn. ATMs are common everywhere in France and Belgium, even in the small villages. There was only one time when I found a machine empty in a small town, and there was another just down the road that had money. On previous trips we used combination of checks and ATMs (Germany, Switzerland, Austria), and on earlier trips than that exclusive use of checks. Based on all of these, I prefer the use of ATMs.

You might consider getting a small amount of the currency of the first country you visit from your local bank to avoid having to find ATM or exchange counter in the airport so you can get on with your trip. However, if you don't you can use ATM in airport upon arrival.
Old Mar 2nd, 2001, 04:57 AM
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Another useful machine I've found (often in bank lobbies) is one that converts one curreny to another. So, any paper currency you have left over can be passed though the machine and changed to the one for your next destination. No idea what the exchange rate is, but.....
Old Mar 2nd, 2001, 05:02 AM
Mary Ann
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I would agree with most of the above.
1. Plan to use ATMs, they are everywhere in the countries you are visiting. We never had any problems but we always take 2 cards for 2 different banks. The other couple we were with did have random problems with their single card which meant looking for another machine.
2. One of our cards is with Fidelity. They provide 50 free accesses a year. As a result, we were only charged on the one side in Europe and not the other.
3. Do take travelers checks in a small amount as a backup. We did do a purchase in one country where the very small shop did not want to take VISA, we did not have enough local currency and they would take the Travelers Checks.
4. We usually do take a small amount of currency for the first country we visit. Our local bank gives the current exchange rate (we have an account there)and we just ordered it 5 days in advance. It provides the option of not having to find an ATM immediately after a tiring flight, for snacks, gas, restrooms, tips, etc. It just took some of the pressure off.
5. Do check with your credit card company to determine if they will charge you a transaction fee for each charge in Europe. The Northwest frequent flyer Visa now charges 3% and Chase also charges that I am aware of. We recently got back from OZ and NZ and the other couple was charged over $80 in transaction fees unexpectedly.
Old Mar 2nd, 2001, 06:41 AM
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Some have reported problems in that as soon as their bank sees withdrawals from Europe they auomatically cancel the card!
Some kind of anti fraud measure....
ATMs are best, but call your bank first.
Old Mar 2nd, 2001, 08:27 AM
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My husband and I always use a combination..just in case. We get a couple of hundred dollars of local currency before we depart,(nothing worse then having to pay for a taxi, or metro or bottled water and not having any pocket cash) we use our Milage plus card to pay for our hotels and train tickets, (it has a lot of benefits like international assistance and of course Frequent Flier miles) then use our ATM card for everything else...but make sure you have funds for your trip in your checking account, since sometimes you can't withdraw from your savings at an ATM also... one time our ATM card became demagnetized during a bank holiday weekend in Wales and we were very VERY happy we had a regular Visa and some cash to get us through the weekend! I've brought traveller's checks only once and that was to pay for a security deposit on a yacht in Greece (we had to carry around a substantial amount of money for a week beforeour yacht charter) IMO they are a pain! I would not take them unless I had another situation like that one.

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