best place to exchange currency?

Mar 22nd, 2011, 01:51 PM
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best place to exchange currency?

we are about to travel london/paris. what are the best places to exchange some currency to get the best rates?
greyhavns is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2011, 02:00 PM
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Don't exchange one currency for another. Just use your ATM/debit card to withdraw local currency in UK or France just as you would at home. (There are numerous threads on this topic here; a quick search using ATM will get you a wealth of advice.)
kayd is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2011, 02:01 PM
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you know people are going to tell you to use an ATM.

However, if you must exchange currency for some reason in Paris, I find the best rates at a change bureau inside a travel agency on bd Montparnasse, at the corner of rue Stanislas. There is also a place on rue de Rennes near McDonalds (south end of rue de Rennes) that has pretty decent rates. Some places on rue de Rivoli or Champs-Elysees actually didn't used to have that bad a rate (although I haven't used them in ages), you just have to know what the interbank rate is and figure it out to see. I think the bureaux de change in St Germain and around Sacre Coeur are the worst.

IN short, I think those are the best but I wouldn't go out of my way to change there as I would only do that in a pinch when you needed a little due to some weird ATM issue. And in that case, it doesn't matter that much for a little. The top rate is about at the airport for a cap, I think it's about 12 pct over interbank at CDG. Actually, I don't know if that's the worst, the places around Sacre Coeur and St Germain could be. But generally airports and train stations and places like that are the worst.

not up on London, haven't been there in years but I don't know if you have alot of choice on this. Last time I was there some years ago, there was an exchange desk inside Selfridge's that was pretty decent.
Christina is online now  
Mar 22nd, 2011, 02:07 PM
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There is an ATM on just about every corner in Paris and London. If your card does not work in one, cross the street and try another. Of course, prudent travelers keep a hundred or so in their home currency to exchange in an emergency, but it hardly makes sense to travel across town for the cheapest rate if that is going to cost an hour of your vacation time and 10 dollars taxi fare.
kayd is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2011, 02:11 PM
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ok, sorry, guess i should clarify. yes, not exchange, but withdraw cash from ATM. does this even matter then?
greyhavns is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2011, 02:21 PM
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If you are withdrawing cash from an ATM, the rate should be the same from any ATM. The ATMs in Europe will note add fees, but your own bank might. Some banks (notably Bank of America) insist that you use their partner banks if you don't want to pay a fee. Most banks add foreign currency fees. Capital One does not. Charles Schwab does not.
Nikki is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2011, 02:24 PM
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If you have a credit union account, they tend to charge less (or none) as compared to charges/fees from a bank, although banks vary widely too. Good idea to have 2 accounts for debit/atm use anyway, so if one card won't "work" you can try the other--so might look into a cu account if you want.
texasbookworm is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2011, 03:11 PM
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There is an exchange outlet on rue Castiglione, in the 1st, that caters to the International business community; rates are generally very good.
oakglen is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2011, 11:56 PM
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There's no Wal-Mart in currency conversion. It's just not true, as inexperienced travellers sometimes think, that small dealers are invariably cheaper or dearer than major banks. An individual dealer will make decisions the same way a fruit seller in a street market will: he's just as likely to slash prices on a product to clear extra stock ($10,000 is no use stuck in a shop safe) as to put them up if he thinks he'll get away with it.

It rarely makes sense to bother with this anyway, since ATMs are everywhere. With serious amounts of cash, (ie over the amount Americans have to declare when leavng the country), just shop around (remembering it's not meaningless phrases designed to fleece the unwary like "no commission" that matter: it's how many pounds you get, net for your dollars)

In Britain, those post offices advertising exchange outside and Marks&Spencer have a reputation for consistent good value on forex. But this is for the serious business of selling foreign currency to Britons: I honestly don't know whether that policy extends to the relatively trivial business (most consumer forex is sold to Britons heading abroad) of buying tourists' cash.
flanneruk is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2011, 03:10 AM
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>>I honestly don't know whether that policy extends to the relatively trivial business (most consumer forex is sold to Britons heading abroad) of buying tourists' cash.<<

You can't sell what you haven't bought or borrowed from someone (unless you're a dodgy banker, of course).
PatrickLondon is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2011, 06:36 AM
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There are reasons why someone might need more cash than what he can obtain from an ATM, paying for an apartment rental is one. Some people are paying excessively for the privilege of using an ATM, charges levied by their local banks, so cash exchanges can ultimately cost only marginally more.

If someone needs to exchange cash, these locations in Paris typically charge 2% to 3% (ignoring all of the no fees hype) which is about what many people pay to use their credit cards:

For those needing to send cash for any reason, here are two places which are reliable and usually much cheaper than executing a bank transfer:
Sarastro is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2011, 06:58 AM
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Don't bring travelers' checks. They're difficult to cash; a lot of banks won't take them, let alone hotels or restaurants. And if you're planning on exchanging money, that means you must carry cash. Much better (more secure) to just draw small amounts from ATMs as you need it. And ATMs are all over the place, even in the smallest towns.

Re: apartment deposits. You can usually gather enough money by making multiple withdrawals from multiple ATMs. Ask your bank to raise your daily withdrawal limit before you leave.

If you want a small amount of local currency for when you arrive, there are foreign exchange offices at most large international airports. But likewise practically every European airport has a bank of ATMs by the exit.

If you're American, I highly recommend credit unions. For ATM withdrawals (and credit card charges), their exchange rate is 1% over the interbank rate.
Mimar is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2011, 07:56 AM
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I should like to emphasize Mimar´s point about using smaller banks and credit unions. One cannot avoid the 1% currency conversion fee charged by Sirrus or Maestro (owned by Visa and MC). However, credit unions and smaller banks simply pass this cost along to the customer.

Larger banks such as (well you know the names) add to these fees. Sometimes they add a percentage, sometimes they add a fixed fee, sometimes they add both, and sometimes they add both and then let you save the fixed fee if you use a certain ATM network as a bonus to their loyal customers. These fees add up and there is no need for US banking customers to pay them.

Support your local bank and credit union.
Sarastro is offline  
Dec 27th, 2015, 09:03 AM
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I agree with all of the posts above re: ATMs are the best option for getting money abroad. Two caveats: My ATM card was once "eaten" at a machine in Paris, so have a backup. Find out what fees your bank charges for such an exchange. My credit union charge $3 a pop, so if you're doing many small withdrawals, this can add up.

We always get some cash in advance just in case. Yes, airport exchange gives the worst rate ... I worked for one of them, shall remain nameless, for over 10 years ... It's about an 8% differential plus their service fee. So for $100 in currency, you're paying about $13-15. If it gives you the security of having money in your pocket when you land, it may be worth it to you.

Other money-related tips: Keep your money in various places. We were both pick pocketed in Barcelona, but luckily my husband had money/credit card in a spot other than his wallet. Also, we now carry separate credit cards and separate debit cards (we have money in two separate credit unions), so that if we need to shut down one card, the other one is still available while we wait for a replacement card.
BarbaraMH is offline  
Dec 27th, 2015, 11:36 AM
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I use a money belt, where I keep big money and my credit cards. My sister once gave me her passport and her ATM card to put in my money belt--the only time she ever did that. I think her guardian angel must have whispered in her ear, because shortly thereafter a clever thief made off with her purse. In Barcelona.

I have a duplicate ATM card, just in case.

My bank, Wells Fargo, charges $5.00 per foreign withdrawal, so I generally charge the maximum, usually the euro equivalent of $500.
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