Converting dollars to euros

Sep 25th, 2007, 06:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,271
So much misinformation around so here goes the correct information...

1. ATM withdrawals, in general, are covered by visa (plus) or mastercard (cirrus) rules regarding foreign currency transactions. Visa/mc uses the interbank rate which is the rate you see in the newspaper and adds 1% as a service fee...the transaction is then forwarded to your bank which has the option of ripping you off with further fees...citibank is one of those rip off banks which now adds an additional 2% to ATM transactions at non Citibank ATM's. According to cirrus/plus rules, the foreign bank is not allowed to charge for using their ATM's...only your bank does.

Different banks have come up with different ways to rip off their customers....some banks add a certain percentage, like Citibank does, to the 1% vusa.\/mc surcharge, some like Wells Fargo charge you $5, some likes Bank of America don't charge you if you use one of their partner banks, some do combinations of both.

Bottom lines, there are lots of internet banks you can use to accomplish the same thing. They allow you to open up an account, keep $1 in the account and give you a debit card where they do not charge and only charge the 1% visa/mc fee. Just before travelling, I fund it for the trip (can do this via the web) and after I get back, I put the money back into my main checking account. I wouldn't allow Citibank or Wells Fargo or Bank of America to rip me off the way they do and you shouldn't. It's so easy to do.

2. Regardless, leaving the per transaction fee aside, it is always far far far better to use ATM's than exchanging cash. I don't believe the person who claimed there is a cash exchange that gives in the interbank rate...most cash exchange places charge you 10% about interbank rates at the very least plus they levy transaction fees of all sort. Unless you are stupid enough to use a bank that charges a per transaction fee for foreign ATM withdrawals, you will always do better with an ATM even if you have to pay the 3% rip off fee by such near criminal banks as Citibank.

3. Yes I agree, you should never rely on just one card...I always do bring my Citibank ATM card which I can use if my internet bank card doesn't work; has never happened of course but it's always there in case.

Plus with a debit card, you can always go into a bank branch and request a mastercard/visa cash advance which in the case of a debit card when it clears your bank simply becomes a withdrawal from your checking account and depending on your individual bank policies can range from free to whatever they feel they can rip you off with. This is especially useful if you are an American in the USA...if you need cash don't use an ATM where you will be charged by the bank (and Bank of America, the near criminals they are) has just raised the fee for having the audacity to use its machines to $3 per transaction...go into the bank during business hours with your debit card and request a mastercard/visa advance...the issuing bank is not allowed to charge you for this and again depending on the policy of your bank, you will pay them a fee ranging from what it should be namely nothnig to whatever they feel they can rip you off with.

4. Personally, I wouldn't use a debit card from my main bank anyway, only the internet bank which is used only for travel. If the card should be compromised, thieves can empty your account in a jiffy. Yes for the most part you will be able to get your money back but it akes time; it also means new account number with the inherent problem of changing all your direct deposits and automatic bill paying....if they compromise your traveling debit card, well you don't have to worry about any of your checks turning to rubber.

5. Personally, I don't bother much with cash anyway. I use credit cards everywhere they are taken for whatever. Ungfortunately, the rules visa/mc have in the USA to protect consumers namely that merchants cannot establish a minmum amount for use of a credit card and cannot surcharge credit card transactions are widely ignored in Europe but in some countries they are not. When I travel, for the most part, I don't want to bother with cash so I credit card everything and there have been times I can get by on one €20 withdrawal for days at a time (and since my internet bank does not charge me for ATM withdrawals, I can and do withdraw €20 at a time).

6. Incidentally, another piece of misinformation in this thread...Capital One uses the interbank rate for credit card purchases and does not even pass along the 1% mastercard/visa charge! Again, you have to check your credit card's individual policy regarding foreign transactions which range from what they should be (pass along visa/mc 1%) to as much as 3% (near criminal banks such as Citibank, Chase, Bank of America).

7. Finally, don't believe what you are told by customer service reps, especially at banks like Citibank. In most cases, you are not speaking to somebody in America who has any familiarity whatsoever with the language, customs and whatever. Citibank has outsourced much of its customer service stuff to India where they simply have large computer screen in front of them and read the most cases they don't have a clue of what you're talking about.

I have even heard such idiotic things as somebody I met on a plane going over to London who was told by their bank's customer service rep that the only currency they would need is euro and not to worry that everybody in London will take euro....

The information above is 100% correct at the time of writing.
xyz123 is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 06:55 AM
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xyz. You are of course entitled to your opinions, but please don't call them FACTS (or "correct information") as you did above.

You say:
"Unless you are stupid enough to use a bank that charges a per transaction fee for foreign ATM withdrawals, you will always do better with an ATM even if you have to pay the 3% rip off fee by such near criminal banks as Citibank."

HUH? Most SENSIBLE people would withdraw at least $300 at a time. That 3% fee is $9. How is that better than a $5 fee that many banks (including BofA) charge? Even allowing for the 1% plus the $5 if not a partner bank, you've still saved $1 over the Citibank charge.
Take out $500 and the savings with BofA (if you didn't use a partner bank) would be $5! If you did use a partner bank, your savings would be $10 over the Citibank one.

It's fine that you think BofA is a criminal organization, but please don't insult our intelligence by suggesting that a $5 charge from them is worse than a $9 charge from Citibank.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 07:13 AM
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I think what xyz is saying is that Bank of America charges that $5 fee in ADDITION to the 3%. I (foolishly) have used BofA in the past. They are crooks!

nukesafe is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 07:37 AM
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No, that is NOT correct. BofA only charges 1% on foreign ATM withdrawals, plus the $5 charge at non affiliated banks. They may charge 3% on CREDIT CARD charges, I have no idea. I don't use a BofA credit card.

If that is what xyz meant, then the information was even MORE wrong.

Crooks are people who take things illegally. You are entitled to think they charge too much (they make it up to me by providing me with hundreds of dollars of free services annually), but "crooks" is a bit absurd, don't you think? And of course, you are entitled to not use them, so you were wise to discontinue them if you didn't like their charges. But since you've just shown that you don't even know what they charged for ATM withdrawals, I question how "logical" your decision was. If I mistakenly thought they charged three times more than they actually do, I might consider dropping them too, but instead, I found out what their actual charges are.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 08:50 AM
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hey everyone this is all very interesting and informative but
no mention of AMEX -we called our bank last nite and got nowhere (wells fargo-CA)
at best we were able to determine that there was a 3% or 5.00 fee which ever was lower plus a bank charge from the ATM.
jaimeenid is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 09:02 AM
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On my last statement BofA charged only 0.33% when using a member bank.
Michael is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 09:17 AM
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I just called Capital One because of poster josep55 who said that they had charged them a 1% transaction fee. I had ordered the Cap One card because of forum people saying that they were the only ones who did not. The person I just spoke with told me that I would NOT be charged a separate transaction fee on my card charges.

I will take the card along with AMEX and a couple other cards. I always take my euros with me. My bank does not charge a delivery fee for them..can usually pick up the next day or two. The exchange rate might be a bit higher than the lowest rate out there, but, hey, I prefer to pay that for my convenience!!

Whatever you do, be sure you call your credit card to ask for the fraud dept. (Cap One advised me of this..gave me direct #)and give dates and countries you will be travelling in. A a 2nd time, waiting a few days, to check that it has been noted on your account..they have been known to slip with the documentation.

Have a good trip...I am heading to Paris on the 14th of Oct. myself........
gracejoan3 is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 09:23 AM
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That Capital One charging 1% or not argument rages back and forth. I suspect that the charge may depend on the type of Capital One card or account you have -- as there are a number of options. I spent some time calling them to get the specifics about that as well as some specifics about cashing in miles to see if I wanted to get their card, but after an hour or more a couple of times on the phone and still not getting a human to talk to, I decided their "no hassles" policy was too much "hassle" for me.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 09:28 AM
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I always dread calling any of them..the long waits..I was very surprised..after listening to all the options I got the live person immediately..very surprised.

He did indicate that all cards were not the same. He said that mine would NOT have the 1% charge! I don't know that I am going to feel 100% confident of that being so!!I will report back following my trip.

gracejoan3 is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 09:34 AM
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I suspect josep55 doesn't really know Capital One added one percent, he just thinks he calculated that and is assuming it. I have a Capital One card and they don't add one percent (which would be about the best you could do anyway, so if you wanted another credit card, it would still be the best you could do).

The exchange rate they used probably varied up to one percent just based on the date compared to the one he checked. I don't even know which exact one they use or how it works, as online you can only get averages for the day or high/low or something. However, you can't predict exactly which rate they will use on exactly which day and what time of day to make assumptions at a small level, I'd say.

On my card, the exchange rate they use is just a little bit higher (or worse from my point of view) than what I find for the average for that day, using the date of the transcation. But, it is not as much as one percent higher, either. I also have them showing to very slightly different rates for two transactions made on the same date, so I know it isn't that static.

If there is a markup, it is more like one-half of one percent--on my card it ranges from 0.3 to 0.5 percent on my last bill, in comparison to oanda's interbank day for the date.
Christina is online now  
Sep 25th, 2007, 09:39 AM
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Every time we go to Europe, I start at zero to research how best to convert USD into Euro because there's usually something that changes. For our last trip a couple of years ago, I determined that using our USAA credit card (I'm not sure if it's Visa or MC) was the best way to pay for items and hotels. USAA doesn't aff any percentage and refunds the one percent charge imposed by Visa or MC.

The best ATM card was the one connected to our Schwab One account. No charges for withdrawals at any ATM worldwide and no percentage added.

I'm not sure if any of this is current, but maybe the info will help someone out there.
Betsy is online now  
Sep 25th, 2007, 10:14 AM
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If you want to criticize me, it is a free country and you have the right to do so...I understand libel law and I don't think Ireferred to any bank as run by a bunch of crooks...I did refer to what I consider near criminal actions when referring to the extra fees banks tack on for foreign transactions as they have nothing to do with the currency conversion and some of them even levy the charge for dynamic currency conversion transaction when no currency conversion is performed.

You are right, however, if a bank chooses to charge a $5 withdrawal fee and only passes along the 1% shared teller network charge, you are better with large withdrawals...I will conceed that point...I believe the break even point is around $160 or something like that...also I believe I did mention correctly that Bank of America does not charge for ATM withdrawals from banks with which it has an agreement...but those banks are not always available, now are they.

You are welcome to continue to bank with Bank of America...I think their recent action in raising the amount they charge non customers to use their ATM's to $3 for a service that might cost them 5 is near criminal understanding full well that I don't have to use their ATM's but luckily I have found many banks that refund this rip off fee so that is not a problem.

But to each his or her own...I believe on the basis of my travels that the best way to travel is with a credit card from a bank such as Capital One (interbank rate on foreign currency transactions) or USAA (1% visa/mc pass along on foreign currency transactions) for every transaction no matter how large or small wherever credit cards are taken supplementing with cash at those few places in the civilized world where they are not (and even in London more and more places are taking credit cards..most of the pret a manger's I buy lunch in now take them!)...supplementing with small ATM withdrawals as necessary...I rarely take out more than $30 to $50 at a time and that can last me for a week in most European cities in this day and age! (and in that case, a $5 fee would be a rip off to me!) but I don't think you can quibble with anything else I wrote (and again if you want to criticize, criticize correctly!)
xyz123 is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 10:29 AM
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Betsy, USAA might offer different plans, but my M/C credit card charges a 1% currency transation fee at the time of purchase, but at the end of the year, they refund 1 1/4% of all purchases on the credit card, so the currency transation fee becomes basically a wash. I'm not sure how their the debit card works.
Budman is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 10:32 AM
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How much is it worth to be able to convert USA dollars to either Brit pounds or Europe Euros? How do you decide what the USA dollar is worth? How much is your time worth? Do you prefer standing in line in the bank or using an ATM to save $2? Rates are clearly (at least to literates) posted. University after University bemoans the fact that many freshman can neither read or write at an acceptable entrance level. Perhaps credit card users and debit card users be tested for proficiency before letting them loose in the world.
GSteed is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 10:49 AM
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Since I have not ALWAYS been given bad information (and didn't say I had in any of my posts), and have a personal connection to the guy at my neighborhood Citibank, (who travels often in Europe), I can't imagine NOT taking the brief amount of time to ask my questions before every trip. As Gsteed says, it is important do ask smart questions, and to know how to ask them.

And I also can't imagine why I shouldn't post anything I hear on this forum.

If you feel it's a waste of your time (you did claim to know more than all of the CS reps you have ever talked to), then of course, you shouldn't bother to make any calls. But I will continue to make mine.

Alloro_beata is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 11:02 AM
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Budman, I didn't realize that Schwab refunds 1 1/4 percent. That makes it even better than I thought.
Betsy is online now  
Sep 25th, 2007, 11:12 AM
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Jam Just came back from Paris last week. All literature is suggesting the use of ATM cards and credit cards while in Europe. I had nothing but problems with both besides the high conversion rates. My ATM card with Cirrus participation would not work at with considerable funds in the bank. Also credit cards would not work in automated ticket machines, etc. although would work at all restaurants, shops, etc. This problem appears to be present due to the fact all European banks have gone to a chip in the card plus PIN #.
guumshoo2 is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 11:22 AM
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We just got back on Sunday. We thought we were being smart in buying Euros and American Express Travelers Checks in Euros for our trip. We were and we weren't. Taking Euros worked really well but not many places wanted to accept the American Express Travelers Checks even though they were in Euros. We found service charges ranged from 6% to 9% just to cash the Travelers Checks. We finally went to American Express Office and cashed all of them. Next time no Travelers Checks just Euros.
flhusker is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 11:33 AM
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Good points all..

Third world sorry magnetic strip USA credit cards do remain valid in all restaurants and as a matter of fact anywhere there is a human being to carry out the transaction (includes all RATP stations) but many automatic machines now require a pin and chip card.

Don't hold your breath waiting for the USA to join the rest of the world in would suspect the US banks have done a study and found out it would be more expensive to them to change all cards over to chip and pin and replace all the merchants' terminals.

Also as the poster has shown, traveler's cheques are pretty much a thing of the past even in euro.
xyz123 is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 11:37 AM
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Betsy, sorry you must have misunderstood, but I didn't mean Schwab. USAA offers several different plans -- cash back (1 1/4%), rewards, etc.
Budman is offline  

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