Travel and $$

Apr 3rd, 2005, 06:54 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
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Travel and $$

Help needed! I'm budgeting for a trip to France at the end of the month, and wondering about money: should I bring cash to exchange or traveler's checks? I understand there's a fee for TCs in addition to the exchange rate, but they are good to have in case you lose them. I have looked on here before but found no hard "yes" or "no" when it comes to TCs. I get a paycheck on the 28th (and I'll already be over there), so I'm also wondering about the ATMs there, do our banks charge us to use their ATMS? How are the exchange rates typically (for the ATM)? Essentially, wondering what my best option is as far as money goes.

Oh, and if anyone has any advice on what to do in and around Lyon, it would be much appreciated!
dougferret is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 07:04 AM
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If you want to bring cash or TC's in US$ as a back-up to your ATM card, then do so, but do NOT plan on exchanging these unless something really strange happens where no ATM's are working in France. The odds of that are slim to none.

If you look at any thread on currency exchange you will see that the ATM is by far the best way to go. You will get a much better exchange and pay less in fees than by exchanging cash or TC's. The ATM there will not charge fees, but your bank might so call and ask that question. My bank recommends using a 4 digit PIN that doesn't begin with a zero. Also ask your bank if they have any agreements w/banks in France where you pay no fees. If your bank is Bank of America, their partner bank is BNP Pariabas.
P_M is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 07:10 AM
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TC's are old fashioned. Ust bring your ATM card and a credit card. BofA now charges $5 for every foreign withdrawal in France except if using BNP Paribas ATM's. Your bank might have other charges. Credit unions generally do not tack on a charge for ATM withdrawals, so it might be worth it to open an account with your local credit union.
Michael is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 07:17 AM
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I know some travel books still mention them, but TCs are as out-of-date as waiting in a line to get regular cash every Friday from a bank teller. It's still possible, but hardly anyone depends on that anymore. There's very little said here or elsewhere about a need to have TCs except, as mentioned above, for a very unlikely failure of both your ATM and credit card systems, or loss of both cards. Whether your TCs are in your own currency, or in euros, any exchange desk or bank in France will charge you an additional fee just for changing them into cash. They are pretty much lose-lose-lose in terms of fees and exchange rates.

To expand on info above, your own bank will probably charge you a transaction fee each time you use an ATM abroad, so find out what it is. It doesn't make sense therefore to repeatedly withdraw small amounts of cash. Take out a substantial amount each time so that you don't have to do this every day.

And, use a credit card for every purchase transaction possible, to reduce the need for cash. That will be your best exchange rate anyway.
elaine is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 07:19 AM
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Best way for cash is via ATMS. If you do get back-up TCs, get them in $. That way if you don't use them, you can just redeposit them when you get home without losing any value (of course get fee-free TCs). If you get them in euros, you will lose when you buy them (unfavorable exchange rate) and lose again you want to redeposit (exchanged again).

Once upon a time, you could get face value for the euro TCs. Now many places will charge a fee to cash them even though they are already in euro.
nibblette is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 10:34 AM
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In order of (my personal) preference:

1) Use your ATM card to withdraw euro upon arrival; the charge will be whatever your home bank's fee is for international transactions, and the exchange rate is favorable.

2) Buy euro from a bank before you leave. This is not the most economical method but some of us prefer to have 100-200 ready to go upon arrival.

3) Take U.S. cash which you will either bring back home with you or exchange at a bank if needed.

4) Charge card for major expenses such as your hotel bill or a very expensive meal.

5) Lastly, travelers checks only for extended trips (over a month), or if you need a large chunk of cash (for instance your hotel demands payment in cash only). Plan to go to a bank to cash them, not spend directly in a shop or restaurant.
suze is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 12:53 PM
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To: P_M; please let us know via reply to dougferret,if you are aware of a change in the rules for use of ATM card in France. We have used ours on 2 trips and had no problem with the zero beginning. Do we need to change our pin #? My daughter was unaware of the "no letters" on the pin pad and was unable to use her card, and we did not think to tell her, that made for some interesting transactions! What are parents for! Thanks, PC
Apr 3rd, 2005, 04:32 PM
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Hi, PCoggins. Some time ago I contacted Bank of America for information on the use of foriegn ATM's. One of their recommendations was have to a PIN that doesn't start with a zero. I do not know if this is a new rule or not, and perhaps it doesn't apply in every country. It might be a good idea to ask your bank.

Your story of the "no letters" rule reminded me of the first time my mom tried to use the ATM in Europe. Her PIN code was "troy." Unfortunately, all of those letters are toward the end of the alphabet, so we had a fun time trying to figure out which letter corresponds with which number. Luckily we guessed it right before the card got munched....
P_M is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 06:12 PM
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Is the BNP Pariabas the same as Barclays Bank in England? Bank of American told me that I could use my ATM card in London w/o incurring charges at home ($5.00 for each time you use it at other ATMs) but told me to check with Barclays regarding their fees.
Has anyone used their B/A ATM card with Barclays or BNP and not been charged on the European end of the transaction?
workerbee is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 06:52 PM
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Yes, I've used my BofA ATM card many times at Barclay's in the UK and at BNP in France -- never any charge at either end. Also Deutsche Bank in both Germany and in Italy.
Patrick is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 01:39 AM
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Since I'm not from the US I'm not used to this letters for pin numbers system. Could someone tell me what letters belong where ? And wouldn't looking down on your cellphone sort of explain what letter corresponds to what number ?

Cobos is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 04:18 AM
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Hi, Cobos. The letters on an ATM keypad are the same as the ones on a phone. Of course looking at your cell phone would help, but I didn't have one in 1995 when my mom was trying to use the ATM in the UK. Even today not all Americans have a cell phone that works in Europe, therefore they probably would not have it with them.
P_M is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 04:36 AM
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Workerbee, like Patrick I have used my ATM card at several of B of A's partner banks in Europe and never paid any fees.

When I was planning my trip to Spain I called B of A to ask if they have any partnerships with Spanish banks. They said they did not. However, once I got there I found Barclay's ATMs. I used those and paid no fees.
P_M is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 04:42 AM
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In the original post, you mention bringing cash...I assume you meant US dollar bank notes as I remember the story of a lady in an exclusive boutique in France being told something costs 7,000 French Francs looking at the clerk and saying how much is that in cash....(a true story sadly)

Having said that, use your credit cards everywhere they are taken for every purchase no matter how large or small...the metro takes credit cards for singles fares etc. Cuts down on the need for euro coins and bank notes. Supplement with withdrawals from ATM's as needed. Hopefully you will be aware of 2 other things from other threads...

1. Only use credit cards which do not put an additional fee on foreign transactions; sadly becoming fewer and fewer but they are still out there.

2. Get an ATM card which does not have the gall to charge you for accessing your money and not impose restructions such as which banks you can use (Bank of America) or add asinine fees ranging from 50 cents to as much as $5. Again there are lots of banks out there that do not impose fees. The ATM's of banks will not impose fees from the foreign bank as this is prohibited by the rules of the shared teller networks for out of country cards.

Finally do have a back up in the very very very unlikely event the ATM's are down. This could be a few TC's in USD or some nice greenbacks in $20 denominations. While exchanging USD bank notes is a losing proposition, it beats starving or dying of thirst.
xyz123 is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 03:10 PM
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Hi Dougferret. I would recommend taking more than 1 credit card. We've has 2 experiences over the years that required backup cards. Last year someone , probably a waitor at a very nice restaurant used our cc# to charge a E752 dinner. Our card was shut down. Fortunately, we had 2 others with us. We couldn't get a new card in less than 4 days and we weren't staying for that period of time at any one location. ATMs are great. We also had the AAA passport as a backup safety in case of a problem. We never used it and it didn't cost us anything. It's even safer than an ATM because you only fund a certain amound in it and no one would be able to gain access to your checking or savings account.
sha is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 05:20 PM
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Thank you for the info on Bank of America. Appreciate it much.
To Sha-
What is an AAA passport? Is it something from the Auto Club?
workerbee is offline  
May 12th, 2005, 03:37 PM
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Yes, it's from AAA. Unfortunately, their rules may have changed. Check them out. We received some info. recently but don't remember the changes. It was very worthwhile last year and I'll check it out before we leave in August.
sha is offline  
May 12th, 2005, 05:44 PM
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Wow ~ that AAA Passport/Visa TravelMoney Card doesn't look free any more. I can maybe see your point in having it as a last-ditch emergency backup, but I'd consider opening a separate checking account for the emergency fund and get an ATM card (or 2) assigned for that account rather than pay their fees for essentially the same thing.

AAA charges $5 for the 1st card, $2 for an additional card, $2.50 (US) or $2 (foreign) each ATM transaction, daily withdrawal limit of $350, weekly limit $850, $10 cash advance fee (limit $350), $15 cash out fee, AND 7% conversion fee: 1% Visa & 6% for whoever - MBNA (issuer), AAA (seller), and/or Interpayment Services Ltd.(owner) - now that's a steep conversion fee!

Their terms expressly allow them to suspend your card if they detect excessive, suspicious or potentially illegal activity which protects the balance, but puts you in the same predicament as credit card suspension.

Its such a shame we have to spend so much time and energy preparing so many layers of contingencies isn't it?
Rookie is offline  
May 13th, 2005, 02:13 AM
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Everyone does it differently....For me, in ALL my years of travel, I have done it the same...partially, probably because of habit..
Depending on how long I am going to be away, I exchange funds BEFORE leaving from my bank for a large amount of Euros...maybe 2000...I get FREE US travel checks in $ from AAA, for any
"big" emergency that might occur..have never used them....I take 3 credit cards, which I have called to tell them where I was going and the dates that I would be gone. I guess I have the ATM card with me..I have never used it while abroad. I rarely use it when at home.
I never have a problem using up the Euros. Your hotel, or if rental car is not prepaid, they are good place to use the final amounts. I always like to bring some home to have for next trip.
That is my way..and it has worked for me for a great many years!!
gracejoan is offline  
May 13th, 2005, 05:44 AM
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>I exchange funds BEFORE leaving from my bank for a large amount of Euros...maybe 2000...<

I estimate that that costs about $150 more than using an ATM card and paying "out of network" fees.

ira is offline  

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