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Germany - travelers checks, ATM or what for expenses?

Germany - travelers checks, ATM or what for expenses?

Old May 9th, 2011, 11:24 AM
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Germany - travelers checks, ATM or what for expenses?

My son is going to be spending over a month in Germany for a study abroad. I am trying to figure out the best way for him to carry money for his expenses. We do not have any ATM or debit cards. I don't know if I should get him one. I like to pay for everything in cash but with him being gone so long I don't want him carrying much on him.
Is it better to get traveler's checks? Is it better to just use a VISA card?
One of my concerns is that if he is out eating with his school group that they may not want to split bills for each individual person so he will need to carry some currency.
How can he get more Euros if he needs them?
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Old May 9th, 2011, 11:26 AM
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an ATM card is by far the best way -- and that is paying cash.
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Old May 9th, 2011, 11:29 AM
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Get him an ATM card - that's what 99% of people who travel use for local currency. It's the cheapest way to get cash. He will need some cash always for buying bus/train/tram tickets, a bottle of water, a snack, etc.

TCs are a thing of the past - he'll have trouble cashing them and may pay a fee if he does find a bank to cash them.

If you send him off with enough Euros to cover a month you will be paying a hefty exchange rate when you buy them at home.
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Old May 9th, 2011, 11:29 AM
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Are there any US banks there? I was worried that there would be large currency conversion charges and things like that if we got him an ATM card. Are ATM machines readily available?
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Old May 9th, 2011, 11:33 AM
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ATM machines are on every street corner in Europe pretty much. Getting cash from an ATM is by FAR the cheapest was to exchange money. Travelers' checks are dinosaurs, difficult to cash and use, and the fees are high - even if you can find someplace to cash them. ALL he needs is an ATM card. If you want to get him a cc for large purchases, if there will be any, that's your call.
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Old May 9th, 2011, 11:38 AM
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One last question - he'll be spending 4 days in Denmark which is not on the Euro. Are ATM's there as well?
I appreciate all of the help you've all been giving. Unfortunately, I've never had the chance to travel to Europe so I have no idea what to expect.
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Old May 9th, 2011, 11:41 AM
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There may be more ATMs in Europe than in the US. If you buy euros in the US, you pay a conversion fee greater than you pay for ATM withdrawals.

Open up a new account for your son at a credit union. Get him an ATM card that's part of an international network, like Cirrus or Plus. Make sure the card has a 4-digit PIN number. And make sure the credit union only charges the standard 1% currency conversion fee. Tell him to only use ATMs in banks.

Such a card will work in Europe or all over the world just like at home. Except for the conversion fee.

Maybe you ought to consider an ATM card for yourself. It doesn't cost anything and allows you to get cash at any hour. So you can pay in cash without carrying a lot of cash on you, a good idea at home as well as on a trip.
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Old May 9th, 2011, 11:46 AM
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"Are there any US banks there? I was worried that there would be large currency conversion charges and things like that if we got him an ATM card. Are ATM machines readily available?"

He doesn't need a US bank - but if you bank w/ Bank of America, they have a partner in Germany. European banks don't charge fees to use their ATMs. Your own bank probably will (most, but not all, do). But if you are w/ BofA, there are no fees at Deutche Bank. Even w/ fees though an ATM is the best/cheapest option.

ATMs are all over Denmark too (no BofA partnerships though)
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Old May 9th, 2011, 11:47 AM
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Thank you so much!
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Old May 9th, 2011, 11:48 AM
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to clarify >>He doesn't need a US bank
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Old May 9th, 2011, 12:04 PM
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He should be prepared to use cash more often than in the US.
Especially eateries, cafes, pubs in a budget-oriented range that students may visit more often than the affluent word traveler rarely take CCs.
Regular stores, any department store, stores in malls, McDonalds, regular supermarkets, most tourist-oriented enterprises all (usually) take CCs (though some may have a minimum purchase of €5 or 10).
But as others have said, he will find ATMs at (almost) every corner in Berlin. Not only in banks, but also in the streets (i.e. not part of a bank building), malls, subway stations, gas stations, and on campus obviously - not so much in bars or restaurants, though.
There is no need to carry more than €50-100 in cash around.
The German word for ATM is "Geldautomat", by the way. There will be several already at Tegel airport.
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Old May 9th, 2011, 12:52 PM
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Even if his bank does have an ATM charge for using a foreign ATM, it's still going to be the cheapest way to obtain money, what is the alternative in this case? nothing, it appears. Even if you could use TCs, their rate would be higher to exchange them. for the US banks that charge a foreign conversation fee (my old bank used to be one of them, I think it is fairly common nowadays), the norm seems to be 3 pct. I've never heard of any charging over 3 pct.

Of course this is a question one can ask their bank and you might get an accurate answer (might not). My old bank had clerks who claimed they weren't charging the fee, the foreign bank was. I knew they didn't know what they were talking about, and of course, they didn't. It is amazing how that can happen, as they weren't just making it up on the spot, someone at the bank had told them that so that became the official party line to tell customers. But 3 pct is a safe bet, no one has ever posted on Fodors about more than that, to my knowledge.
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Old May 9th, 2011, 01:00 PM
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If he is not old enough to open a checking account, you will have make him a joint account owner on your account you set up especially for this purpose.

My daughter did a term abroad. She had a joint checking account with me. I also had an account on my own at the same bank so the cash transfer would be immediate. I created the same set up at another bank so if her first ATM card got lost or the account blocked and card rendered useless, she had another card on hand without having to wait weeks for a replacement card to reach her.
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Old May 9th, 2011, 01:09 PM
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When our daughter was abroad for a year, we opened a bank account in her and her mother's name.

Each had an ATM card. Mom could put money into the account in the US; daughter could take it out abroad.

Side benefit: mom knew how much daughter was taking out.

With email, it will be easy to coordinate to make sure money will be there for large expenses, i.e., tickets, doctor bills, etc.

They actually kept the account open until she got married and ran our wedding contribution through it. Any student going away to university would benefit from this.
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Old May 9th, 2011, 09:39 PM
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The only places in Germany where you can cash Travelers Checks are the money exchanges located in airports and some large train stations. Here, he would pay quite a hefty fee for this exchange, plus get a crappy rate.

Banks in Germany will no longer cash them.
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