HELP! Is my bank gouging me on Euros?

Apr 26th, 2006, 09:52 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2006
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HELP! Is my bank gouging me on Euros?

Here is the situation: I read on here somewhere about getting some foreign currency before traveling so that one does not have to deal with money exchangers at the airport and can just get a taxi and settle in right away. So, I went to my bank and started to arrange to have some Euros and Arab Emirates Dirhams ordered for my trips. I had checked the exchange rate for Euros (1.24 today from bloomberg) and Dirhams (3.67 pegged to the Dollar). When the teller was telling me how much USD they would draw for the money I wanted they said $527 for 400 Euros. Thats 6% higher than the listed rate, plus I was paying a 7 dollar transaction charge (which is ok). I asked how they got the figure and they told me that maybe in the 10 minutes it took me to walk to the bank the rate had gone up that much. Yeah right. So then I said I might wait for an ATM in Europe to get Euros as it is a $5 charge per transaction only--no percentage pad. I was going to continue with the Dirhams as it is pegged, so there is no possibility for the BS 6% increase in 10 minutes they claimed with the Euros. They were going to give me 1000 Dirhams for 301 USD, plus the 7 dollar charge. The pegged rate is 3.67, meaning the exchange for 1000 Dirham is about 272 dollars. Again a huge difference. I have trouble believing a money changer in the airport will charge 9%! Shouldnt it be better to order here than to draw from an ATM in another country? I could probably talk a taxi driver into taking my dollars for less than 9%. The bank manager tried telling me that it is a business and that I shouldnt expect low or no padding on an exchange. He didnt know what to say when I asked if they weren't multiplying my checking account to loan to other people at huge profits I thought some things like this were part of bank's services.

Somebody with experience changing money please help me! My bank is Bank of America if that makes a difference. Any advice on how I can get money at better rates before I leave? Or is my best bet just ATM abroad?
thefirstme is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 09:57 AM
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Personally, I wouldn't get any euros in advance, but would take the 1 minute it will take to find an ATM at the airport and get some that way. I am obviously not as dazed after a flight as some of those who claim that is much too mind boggling after a trans-Atlantic flight to "search and deal with an ATM".

But if you insist on having some euros in hand, then pay that $35 or so for the convenience of having them. You can play around and maybe do a little better, but why?

Sorry, I don't have a clue about Dirhams.
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:14 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
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Also, what exchange rate are you checking???
That 1.24 you are quoting is NOT what you and I get. Right now 1.24 is the trading rate. That's for big volume currency being traded not for consumer purchases... is showing 1.29 for a cash exchange and you are giving up a little more at a bank that doesn't do this often.

I would imaging the Dirhams work the same way. The rate you and I pay is not the "offical" rate.
CarolA is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:17 AM
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How do you think the banks stay in business? By selling the foreign currency to you for the same price they buy from other countries?
FainaAgain is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:22 AM
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The bank manager is right - they are providing you a service and asking you to pay for that service. If you don't like their price, go elsewhere.

But like you, I hate spending money when I don't have to, so I always use an ATM upon arrival and take a couple hundred US just in the very unlikely case something goes wrong and I have to use the exchange booths at the airport.
Brian_in_Charlotte is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:26 AM
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Neopolitan, when we fly from the westcoast it is a looooong flight, about 12 hours overnight, not counting stopovers. By the time I reach my destination I just want to run out of the airport w/o stopping. This is why I take euro with me. Others may have other reasons.

I would shop around, thefristme, for better rates if you have the time and inclination.

SeaUrchin is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:31 AM
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I can't say about other cities, but I know in Vancouver and Toronto it's quite possible to go to certain currency exchange bureaus (not all), and get an exchange rate that is 2% over the interbank rate quoted by and, with no further fees. Someone posted a long time ago about a place in NYC that was similar, but charged 4% over the interbank rate.

In any event, the bank is expensive when it comes to currency exchange. If you post your city, maybe someone can suggest a currency exchange bureau that is not exorbitant.
WillTravel is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:36 AM
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SeaUrchin, yes, that is exactly what I said. I am personally not that dazed after a flight. Others are, and they have every reason to pay extra money to get some cash in advance if they feel the ATM "search" is too much hassle for them. Is it worth it to ME to pay $35 or so to avoid spending a minute or two using an ATM? NO. Is it worth to others? Obviously yes. We all have different tolerance levels and different ways we spend money. My comment was not to imply that my way is the best -- except for ME.

CarolA, I know nothing about Oanda. I follow the rates, and invariably that is exactly the base rate I pay on my credit cards and what I get from ATMs. Today's rate there is 1.245. If I were to take out euros in an ATM or if I were to charge something in Europe today, that is the rate I would get.
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:40 AM
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Me, too. And I would add that taking cash from the first ATM one encounters carries the risk of it not working and eating your plastic.

I use plastic to get to a bank ATM (where I can talk to a human if anything goes wrong) and carry a few hundred USD as "mad money" in case I can't. I've always returned home with the cash intact. In short: you don't need to take local currency with you.

If anyone wants to test their transactions against bank rate, run the calculator at
Robespierre is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:41 AM
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thefirstme, the taxi driver would be more than happy to take you by an ATM to get Euros on the way to your hotel, especially if the airport ATM is out of order or out of money.

I wouldn't get Euros in advance. It would be nice to have about 20-30 Euros after your trip just for the next time.
Budman is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:41 AM
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WillTravel - do you know which curreny exchange bureaus to go to in Vancouver? I will be needing to get some Euros this fall, and it would be helpful to know which ones to go to when I go.
lmlweb is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:51 AM
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You can count on getting gouged if you buy foreign currency in the U.S. It's way better to take an ATM card from a bank that charges low or no transaction fees from partner banks in the country you're visiting. Wait until you're there and you'll save a lot of money.
brotherleelove2004 is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:53 AM
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LMLWeb, I go here:
Vancouver Bullion & Currency Exchange
2576 Granville Street
WillTravel is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:55 AM
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I use Bank of America (BofA) too. Before my trip I not only did NOT get euros from BofA, I withdrew several thousand dollars in cash and deposited it in my credit union checking account (which I don't normally use because there aren't many credit union ATMs in comparison to BofA ATMs) because my credit union only charges a $1 foreign ATM fee while BofA charges $5/foreign ATM use (both charge the 1% conversion fee for all the money you get out at an ATM). It was so easy to find an ATM in every single airport we went to--they're right by the front door. It felt good knowing that I could go to the ATM five times as often for the same price by using my credit union instead of Bank of America.
youngandrestless is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:56 AM
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I agree it's nice to bring a few euro home if you plan to return in a year. Yesterday, I had to put some things in my safe deposit box at the bank, so pulled out my two little envelopes of euro and pounds since we're leaving in two weeks. It was like a little surprise bonus. I actually have 120 pounds and 70 euro to start this trip with -- more than I remembered.
Apr 26th, 2006, 11:02 AM
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I have yet to arrive at an international airport that did not have a functioning ATM. Even through the haziest of jet lags I have been able to find an ATM and withdraw money with no problem.
Carta_Pisana is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 11:02 AM
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I wouldn't call it "gouging" but rather the cost of doing business. Anyway you get foreign currency at home will cost you something.
suze is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 11:21 AM
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I am also an airport ATM fan. I know there is always a first time but I have never had a problem yet.
I actually hit the ground running so I never let jet lag affect me until I fall into bed fairly early the first night.
MarthaT is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 11:25 AM
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I did have a problem with my ATM card working the first time I tried it on a European trip (although it had worked the previous year on a trip to the UK). Luckily my son also had a card (on my account!) that worked. In any event, I would never take it for granted that an ATM card is going to work, and I'd have a range of strategies to cover that possible problem. One of these includes getting Euros before I go (at the good rate I mentioned above).
WillTravel is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 11:34 AM
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In a worst case scenario, do a small ~$50 transaction at the airport currency exchange (many located within customs area, so do it during the wait for luggage) and once in town and "relaxed" get to ATM machine. I really don't know why people still have this problem in the 21st century?
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  

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