Help! Quick banking question

Jun 21st, 2003, 11:36 AM
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Help! Quick banking question

AUGH!! College daughter is in Europe, had her wallet stolen last night with ATM/credit cards, some travelers checks, all her ID (except passport.) Fortunately she had a few traveler's checks in her room and cashed them. She reports that she only got 70 Euros for a US$100 travelers check. This does not seem right to me, I know the dollar is weak against the Euro but not THAT weak. Where should she be cashing the traveler's checks for maximum value?

I cannot get a new ATM card to her as she is traveling and has no address. Plan B is for her to use a Master Card (she had a spare one that did not get stolen) to get travelers checks in Euros. I am worried that $1500 in US dollars is going to only get her $1050 in Euros.

Is it possible that she got hit with heavy service fees wherever it was that she cashed the travelers check? It is Saturday there, maybe she didn't go to a bank? Is there a better exchange rate at a bank?

I haven't actually spoken to her yet, only getting frantic messages on the answering machine. I want to be able to give her good advice next time she calls. There is a 12 hour time difference and it makes communication difficult.

THANKS for any suggestions.
vivi is offline  
Jun 21st, 2003, 11:51 AM
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Banks in the cities always give better rates than those in airpots, train stations, etc.
That exchange rate sounds wrong. Can you direct her to a local American Express office? They usually give good rates as well.
Good luck!!
EmilyC is offline  
Jun 21st, 2003, 12:25 PM
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I think your daughter (it being Saturday) had to cash her TC at a "bureau de change" who enjoy to slap customers with excessive fees. A bank rate would be around 84 Euro to US$ 100. The "bureau de change" typically would offer up to 5 Euro less and punish her with a 10 Euro fee.

Is her MC on the cirrus system? Then she might use it as an ATM card. Otherwise she should check a bank or American Express on Monday.

Hope this helps.

Phil is offline  
Jun 21st, 2003, 01:33 PM
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Thanks for the quick replies.

I am sure you are 100% correct, she probably panicked and cashed a check at some visitor's kiosk with a whopping service fee since it is Saturday. I was sure that she should be getting at least $82E for $100USD.

There is no American Express where she is staying this week but AmEx gave me the name of a local bank that will cash the checks without fees and I e-mailed her. Hopefully she can buy more checks with her Master Card (which has no PIN so she can't use it at an ATM.)

She has learned a very tough lesson. I equipped her with a gen-u-wine Rick Steves moneybelt AND a round-the-neck pouch. Every guidebook she read has a chapter called "Europe Is Full Of Thieves." She was lectured over and over by the university (and her naggy ol mom) to wear moneybelt, safeguard valuables, bla bla bla. I am hoping she will now heed all this advice which was very prophetic!
vivi is offline  
Jun 21st, 2003, 01:36 PM
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Vivi she should be using the credit card she has left as much as possible. It will be a better exchange rate than other options. She should go to an American Express office anyway to report the stolen checks. She should ask them what they can do for her. Amex usually has great service. They may be able to contact her bank at home. They or you should be able to get her a new ATM card delivered to an American Express office in her current or next stop. Also find out if her home bank has an affiliation with a particular bank in the country she's in.
mclaurie is offline  
Jun 21st, 2003, 01:45 PM
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We just got 20 Euros for US $25 at large city large US bank - that would translate to 80 Euros for her $100.

Agree with above poster - American Express are generally easiest to replace, but any should be replaceable for pick-up in any reasonably-sized European city. That is assuming she or you have "numbers" of travelers checks.

The spare Mastercard should be all she needs - if the credit limit is not high enough you can usually spend over the limit and it is not refused - you just have to pay an "over-the-limit" fee on the next bill. With competition such as it is these days in credit card industry, I guess there would be a reasonable chance you could get that fee waived if you explain the situation to the right person at the credit card company.

While I am sure this is very upsetting, try not to get too worked up over exchange rate she got - in actual money it is not all that much difference (less than $10).
gail is offline  
Jun 21st, 2003, 01:56 PM
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Hi vivi

You're lucky that she has no pin number for ATM/MC use. MC will chagre you as a cash advance and hit you with enormous finance charges as soon as she pulled out the money! Are you an AMEX card holder? They will cash a check for you if you/daughter are a card holder.

Lewis is offline  
Jun 21st, 2003, 02:03 PM
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Do American Express offices overseas still receive mail and hold it until a traveler picks it up? You could replace her ATM, and anything else that way if you knew where she would be in a few weeks or so, if they still deal with mail.
wren is offline  
Jun 21st, 2003, 02:04 PM
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I agree with the previous posters that 70 € for a $100 check is a very poor exchange. Unfortunately, such an exchange is indeed possible at a train station or airport "cambrio", "bureau de change", "Wechselstube", or whatever the closest clip joint calls itself.

And yes, I would expect a bank rate to be better than what you reported.

At that rate of exchange, I don't think you or your daughter would be any worse off if she used her credit card in an ATM slot and obtained a cash advance.
One usually pays for a cash advance rather dearly, but I don't envisage the damage to be any worse than what you just experienced!!

Most credit card issuers have weekend service. Could you not call your issuing bank and get a close approximation of how much you would pay for a cash advance? My guess is that per $100 you will net better than 70 €. It is worth a try.

I know from actual experience that the fee for currency exchanges at these airport/train station "windows" that the fees are high. For example, at the airport in Atlanta you pay about 10%.
But even that rate would yield more than 70 € on $100.

During the past 6 days the exchange rate has fluctuated rather wildly from about $1.185 for one euro to about $1.1575. Given the worst possible case of $1.185 plus a normal fee of about 5% to cash a check, I would have guessed no worse than 80 € in exchange for $100 at a bank.

The best case exchange would have been about 85 € for $100.

Getting travelers checks in euro form may not be a real improvement because to use them she must convert them to currency somewhere, and the conversion will not be costless unless she can make the exchange agency to agency such as with American Express.

Traveler's checks are not as widely or as readily accepted in Europe as they are in the USA. Therefore they may not be a full solution to the problem.

Let's hope that she figures out a way to talk to you soon. I know what these semi hysterical phone messages can sound like. I used to get them too, all too frequently.
Somehow parents are supposed to have the power to solve a major crisis that occurs 5,000 miles away in who knows where. Good luck.
bob_brown is offline  
Jun 21st, 2003, 07:43 PM
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OK, I think we are squared away, thanks a million for all the expert advice.

I was able to get a PIN for the spare Master Card she had hidden. I tried it at our local ATM and it worked. They are running a "no finance charges" special for the summer! Each ATM cash access transaction has a 3% service fee, not too terribly hefty.

I e-mailed her the phone number of AmEx in Spain, she will be able to replace her stolen travelers checks when she is in Madrid next week. (No AmEx in her town.)

And I implored her to wear the money belt for the rest of her travels!

Hopefully one of these days I will be home when she calles, we are 12 hours behind and have been playing phone tag.
vivi is offline  

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