converting dollars to euros

Old Nov 1st, 2008, 06:15 AM
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converting dollars to euros

Aside from using my credit card when possible, what is the cheapest way to convert my US dollars to euros so I can have cash on hand. A couple of my hotels advertise that the rpice is cheaper if we pay in euros, but with the service fee to convert, would it really be cheaper? We are leaving for Italy next week.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 06:19 AM
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Do you know what fees your credit card charges to convert money? Not all credit cards have the same fees. Some charge 3% and others 1%. You should use ATM's for cash.

I'm not sure what you mean by hotels advertising cheaper if we pay in euro. Do you mean they are giving a discount if you pay cash as opposed to using a credit card?
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 06:22 AM
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Just returned from Italy. Don't think it makes much difference if you use the ATM or credit card. Both have some fees and they get you either way. Do whatever is most comfortable for you.

We used ATMs so we would not be carrying large amounts of cash. I like to use the ATM and pay cash where I can. Just be sure to get receipts at hotels that show you have paid.

Try to get your money from the ATMs on a weekday. We noticed people were having trouble getting money from ATMs over the weekend at popular tourist spots.

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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 07:11 AM
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Use ATMs for cash. Credit cards are good for rooms etc. but fees for international transactions vary (as mentioned above). In my opinion, you have to pay some level of fee (probably 4.0% minimum).

Tell the card issuers your travel plans. This is important, the issuers typical anti-fraud practices will shut you off in Europe unless they are advised. Make sure that your PIN is 4 numbers.

Cash can get you discounts in some places. Hotels are the best example.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 08:10 AM
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Use you regular bank card to withdraw Euro direct from an ATM machine. That is almost always a better value than "converting" cash.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 09:14 AM
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Hi ez,

All CCs give 1% over the bank rate to MC/Visa.

Amex charges 2%.

Almost all CCs add a "3% conversion fee". CapitalOne does not.

European banks do not charge to use ATMs.

Your bank probably has a fee for "out of network charges".

I always suggest using a CC (make sure that you are charged in the local currency) for anything that you can charge, and an ATM card for cash.

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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 09:35 AM
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I was also wondering if what you really meant by the euro discount in hotels was simply that you would save money by paying in cash versus a credit card. That is the only thing that makes any sense, as the euro is the Italian currency, so they wouldn't be advertising a price in other currency, I wouldn't think. no one can tell you if it would be cheaper or not because we don't know what the discount is for paying cash nor the terms on your credit card nor the terms on your ATM card where you could get local cash. You'll have to find out these terms, and then it's just simple arithmetic to figure it out.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 10:19 AM
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Never "convert" dollars - it wil cost you 8 to 10% of your money.

Pay for all you can with your CC. Then pull cash from your checking account with an ATM card (this will usually cost only 1 to 3% - unless you bank has outrageous out of network fees).
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 10:38 AM
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Since your CC company will be charging you a percentage and your ATM charge will be a flat fee you really need to do the math before you make the decision to use a CC for as much as possible. For example if you get charged 3% for CC purchases it will cost you 12E to when you charge E400. If you withdraw E400 from an ATM you will probably be charged less than half of that.

I have found it best to use cash from the ATM as much as possible and use the CC sparingly.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 10:49 AM
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We got a discount in Istanbul for paying in cash rather than with a CC. That is what the OP may have meant.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 12:00 PM
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Schwab Investor Checking (a brokerage account is not required)

Debit/ATM fees:
Currency exchange markup - 0%
International Service Assessment - 0%
ATM withdrawal fee: $0
Annual card fee: $0
Other banks' ATM charges - rebated

Total cost to spend USD in Europe: None
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 12:22 PM
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Is there any way to buy euros in the US now? That way at least I know what rate I would be getting for my trip in April.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 01:33 PM
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Buying Euro on the U.S. now? If your bank is big enough, they usually provide a link on their web site to purchase foreign currencies and have them delivered to your local branch. Of course, you get hit with a 6-10% premium (bad exchange rate, transaction fee, delivery charge, etc) above what you could have gotten had you used your ATM card at the destination. Additionally, you are betting that the exchange rate is better for you now than next spring.

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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 06:26 PM
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excited_confused-
Sure you can order foreign currency thru most major banks or purchase it at Thomas Cook. But you will have to pay a fee on the transaction plus not get a very good exchange rate. It's the most costly way to obtain foreign currency.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2008, 09:21 AM
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I wouldn't buy euros at the bank ahead of time just to know the rate. As others have said, you would be hit with lots of charges, making the euros more expensive than they have to be - and then you'd be carrying around a bunch of cash on your trip.

We take some US$ with us - $300 or so - which we can convert upon arrival in Europe if for some reason we can't get an ATM to work. This is just a back up plan to have walking around money. Otherwise we just get money from the ATM as we go. Our bank charges a flat fee for forgein ATM withdrawls, so we take out several hundred at once to minimize the percentage we pay in fees.

We only charge large things like hotel rooms, car rentals, and sometimes train tickets. We pay with cash for food, incidentals, addmission fees, public transportation, etc. I think we come out slightly ahead on fees than if we charged everything and we just do better staying on budget when we use cash.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2008, 09:47 AM
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Thanks so much to everyone for the advice. We have a Schwab account, so I will have my husband look into that. And yes, what I meant to say is that the hotel charges less if we pay in cash. If we don't use Schwab, I will check with my bank on their fees and probably plan to use ATM's. Thanks again.
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