converting dollars and exchange rate

Sep 9th, 2010, 12:59 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 16
converting dollars and exchange rate

Is there a best place to convert my dollars to euros? I will be in Italy traveling to several cities, some small. and know I may not have access to an atm or be able to use a credit card. Also, are there better days to do this? I was told my local bank would be a bit more than just waiting until I get to the airport. Any advice will be helpful.
salsac is offline  
Sep 9th, 2010, 01:58 AM
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salsac...what makes you think you will not have access to an atm? They are everywhere even in small towns (after all the locals need a bank) you might not expect one. In my travels in Italy, I have never been in any situation where an atm is not nearby.

Don't let anybody tell you differently. The difference between using an atm to withdraw euro against exchanging cash is very very substantial...on the equivalent of a $100 withdrawal, it could be as much as $10 (ouch)...what you do have to watch out for are the fees associated with atm withdrawals. The rules of the shared teller networks prohibit a bank from charging a fee for a withdrawal with an out of country card (debit or vanilla atm card) it is only your bank that can rip you off. There are many internet banks which issue debit and atm cards for free which do not charge for withdrawals from foreign atm's. What I have done is open such an account...I keep $1.01 in the account until I travel to Europe (or anywhere else) at which time I transfer whatever I need from my main account and when I get home transfer the excess back...

But in many places, the acceptance of credit cards is catching on. Many many places you frequent will take credit cards.

Why people worry so much about this and why people would prefer to walk around with cash, be it euro or dollars, in all due respect, is something I just don't understand.
xyz123 is offline  
Sep 9th, 2010, 05:16 AM
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You won't have any trouble finding an ATM, and you will get the best rates. I use a Capital One debit card when I travel because they don't pass along the ATM fees to their customers.I travel quite a lot for business, and even in small towns, have never had a problem finding an ATM. Ask at your hotel, or just ask a local.
jewela is offline  
Sep 9th, 2010, 02:52 PM
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Hi S,

Buy about $100 worth of Euro at your departure airport. It will cost you about $4 more than waiting until you get to Italy.

use a cc wherever you can. Use ATM for cash as needed. The only need for USD or traveler's checks is as emergency backup.

ira is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 06:52 AM
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ira--your departure airport has better exchange rates and fees than mine does. But, still, it can be comforting to have enough euros on hand to pay for transport to your accomodations and a meal, just in case you have trouble with the ATMs for some reason when you first arrive.
Paul1950 is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 08:54 AM
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I don't know what Ira is referring to, perhaps the difference in exchange rate at airports, which could be true, as all airports charge a lotnce. In Europe, they charge about 10-12 pct markup, it seems to me. I know where I live in the US, the international airports (BWI and IAD) charge a 13 pct markup. I just asked them, right now they are charging $1.47 per euro (and the rate is under $1.30 officially). They said the rate was the same in either airport. They "only" charge $1.44 per euro they said if you buy at least $1000 worth. ha ha

So it is about a 4 pct different for airport rates, but of course, not compared to an ATM.
Christina is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 10:46 AM
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Every lodging reservation I've made (apartments and B and Bs in Rome, Florence, Venice)and walking tours accept only cash. I've read stories of having credit cards copied at restaurants and stores which are used by thieves. I've never had a problem in other countries, but for some reason travel books and forums about Italy mention these problems. I plan on calling my bank to see what banks, if any in Italy, they have reciprocity agreements with for using ATM machines. For instance, when we were in Edinburgh and England, we used Barclays ATMs. Check with your bank about fees, etc. Before I leave I plan on using my bank to order plenty of currency to pay for my lodging and first couple of days in Rome to get me started. My husband and I divide up the money and are extremely careful with our papers and money. I will check with Capital One to make sure they don't start compounding interest on cash withdrawls immediately.
Dixietrout is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 10:59 AM
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DixieTrout: " Before I leave I plan on using my bank to order plenty of currency to pay for my lodging and first couple of days in Rome to get me started. "

Sorry -- but that is not a very good idea. If you really mean a LOT of money, you will lose big time.

Even w/ ATM fees, getting your cash in Italy is a much better idea.

If you need a lot of cash the first couple of days -ask your bank to raise your daily limit.

"I've read stories of having credit cards copied at restaurants and stores which are used by thieves."

Sure - that could happen, but it could also happen at your local neighborhood gas station or restaurant.

Ordering a ton of money from your bank only benefits . . . your bank.
janisj is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 11:09 AM
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What do you mean about Capital One? They absolutely start charging interest from the date you withdraw money if you are talking about a credit card. All credit cards do that I know of, but I know they certainly do as I have one. They do that anywhere, taking out cash with a credit card is basically taking out a loan. There are large fees on top of that interest rate, also, for doing that.

No debit/ATM card does that I know of for ATm cash withdrawals, and Capital One certainly does not as I actually have a Capital One debit card as they are my bank.

I suspect you are talking about taking out cash with a credit card as Capital One doesn't have any reciprocity agreements with any other bank that I know of. At least my branch doesn't, neither in the US nor abroad, for the ATM fee. I don't have to pay one anyway as I'm a Platinum account holder, but regular account holders do at any bank that isn't Capital One (you get two free a month or something at other banks).
Christina is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 11:29 AM
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And as Christina says -- never EVER use a credit card to get cash unless it is an absolute emergency. That is an even worse idea than ordering a lot of currency ahead of time.
janisj is offline  
Sep 10th, 2010, 03:30 PM
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If you read the Australian press, you would see that a bunch of criminals have been arrested for “skimming” aka copying credit cards in my home town, Melbourne. It is not just an Italian thing. It is a good idea not to let your credit card out of your sight, and to conceal the PIN when you enter it.
Best exchange rates will be obtained at Italian ATMs. Worst rate will be at currency exchange booths.
Peter_S_Aus is offline  
Sep 12th, 2010, 04:03 PM
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ATM's way to go. Italy has more than anywhere have been. Only problems u might have is some of the small regional banks in small towns like bellagio might not be on a international net, but just go around the corner and try the next on. And in popular places like Pantheon the ATM's might run out of money on the weekend and again just walk around the corner.

You need to call bank and give dates and places of travel. Call credit card companies too. You PIN must be 4 digits. Unfortunately none of the US banks have an alliance with Italian banks so ur US bank will charge u, but is much cheaper than changing money or using travelers checks.

have fun and never ever pass up a WC
charlesg is offline  
Sep 12th, 2010, 04:07 PM
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charlesq...don't be so quick to bank does not charge me to withdraw from European ATM' a matter of fact, although it's not an issue as the European bank is not allowed to charge a fee, when in the USA, my bank rebates the fees banks charge for having the audacity to use their machines for a cash withdrawal.
xyz123 is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 02:52 PM
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What I usually do is get one day's worth of foreign currency at home, so that I can get to my hotel, get some food, pay for transportation (subway, taxi, etc.), all without having to worry too much. This way, in case I miss the ATM at the airport, or it's out of order, or I'm suffering jet lag and I forget, or... or... or..., I'm covered for Murphy's Law.

After that, I will hit the ATM every now and then and withdraw the max amount I can, and divide the cash into walking around money (small bills like €10 or €20) and big-purchase money (€50's and €100's). I tap the big-purchase money on an as-needed basis and keep the rest in the hotel, preferably in a safe. Divide and conquer.
tdyls is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 04:04 PM
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Dixie -- your plan of action is daft. Use the ATMs when you arrive in Europe, don't buy foreign currency at your local bank and get reamed from their substantial markup. And what's a "cash withdrawal" -- if it's from a credit card, yes, CapOne will charge interest from the moment you finish the transaction. That would be idiotic and it's why every one of these posts has someone somewhere (see Janis above) telling folks NOT to use credit cards for cash.

If the "cash withdrawal" is from a savings/checking/money market account you have with CapOne, then it's your own money that you're using, not theirs that they are loaning you on credit, so they won't charge interest (unless you really spit the bit and overdraft).

I haven't bought foreign currency in the US in more than a decade and had no problems at the airports. Any international arrival terminal in Europe will be large enough that it will have more than one ATM so tdyls' fear of Murphy's Law hasn't bit me in the rear to date.
BigRuss is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 04:46 PM
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ordering "plenty of currency" from your home bank (paying a fee and/or getting bad exchange rate) and then carrying wads of cash on the plane ride with you is pretty much the worst plan i can think of.
suze is offline  
Sep 14th, 2010, 01:37 AM
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When these threads are posted and they seem to show up fairly regularly, it appears that visitors to Europe think that smaller towns here are backward and still using barter as a system of exchange and purchase.

Please note: there are ATM's all over the place, from Finland to the toe of Italy and all points East and West in between. Your bank will always try and sell you expensive currency, they make a fortune out of it! Use an ATM, raise your daily limit if you need to, don't use a credit card for cash, don't use Traveller's Cheques, every airport has ATM's as you arrive for a small amount of taxi fare/coffee money/tips, thenfind your bank's equivalent bank with whom they have no charge agreements.

Never accept the ATM's urging to change your currency into euros or £'s at a fixed rate. Decline the offer, the rate you'll get is much better.

You'll also hear horror stories about cloned cards, PIN thieves etc. and whilst I don't dismiss the possibility it's a remote one if you use basic common sense. Shield your PIN and keep your card in sight when you pay. Most places have handheld terminals these days. If the waiter wants to take your card to the desk, go with him.
Lifeman is offline  
Sep 14th, 2010, 10:18 AM
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As others have pointed out, there are banks in the US that don't charge you anything to use any ATM anywhere in the world. I use PNC bank and have never paid an ATM fee. Though it's not of much importance in Europe as the banks there don't charge a fee for using their ATMs anyway.
Paul1950 is offline  

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