Using American Based ATM Cards in Europe

Old Dec 14th, 2006, 12:58 PM
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Using American Based ATM Cards in Europe

Is this a good way to convert American money to Euro's? Is there a fee if I find an ATM my bank uses?

I called them and they told me to check to see if there are ATMs in their network in the area where I will be visiting. Well, there are. Do you think that means that putting my card in and requesting money will give me Euros with no additional fee? Who has used these services?

I confess to being more than a little naive because
a. I have never used an ATM (I've never had the need) and
b. I've never been to Europe.

I will be going to Amsterdam in the Spring and I feel like we got ripped off exchanging American Dollars for Canadian Dollars last time we left USA soil. Trying to avoid this especially since we seem to be choosing the most expensive (euro/dollar ratio) time monetarily to travel.
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Old Dec 14th, 2006, 01:14 PM
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Yes

Probably - ask your bank

Yes

In short even if you pay a fee to your bank (unless your bank makes Al Capone look honest) for withdrawing money it's going to be cheaper than any other way of getting foreign currency.

Note that we are talking DEBIT cards which take money from your CHECK account.

You cannot withdraw money from a Savings account from a European ATM.

And you never - except in case of dire emergency - use a Credit Card to get money.

Also do a search as this has been asked a couple of times before.
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Old Dec 14th, 2006, 01:17 PM
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Yes to all Alan says - need a 4-digit PIN number and you should tell your ATM-issuing bank which countries you're going to so they don't put a security block on it - i always tell them these are the only countries i'm going to - redolent of the problem last year in Italy with someone miscreants getting ATM card info from machines and processing withdrawals from Romania.

Very best possible rate of exchange, can get up to $250 or so a day unless you arrange with your local bank for a higher figure. there are ATMs at Schiphol Airport right where you come out of Customs.
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Old Dec 14th, 2006, 01:30 PM
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Thank you for the suggestion of the Fodor's search. Why do so many of us think no one else has even had our problem? Sigh! You have given me enough answers/conditions that I will be educated when I talk to the MM acount ATM issuing bank later. (NO! NO! NO! I will not be using CC for cash advances. When those checks come in the door, I can't get to the shreeder fast enough!)
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Old Dec 14th, 2006, 01:39 PM
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There are perhaps thousands of posts on Fodor's forums and on the www.tripadvisor.com forums since about Apr '04 when the sharks in banks started their screw the client agenda.
Please do a search and/or google those.
Avoid any "Dynamic Conversion" tambien.
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Old Dec 14th, 2006, 04:03 PM
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You have NEVER used an ATM? I am amazed! My bank's hours are so limited I would never have any money if I had to go in to get money! I am always shocked when I go to an ATM at a Bank and it is actually open!
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Old Dec 14th, 2006, 06:04 PM
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pollyvw, the following site has much info on how best to use your ATM and/or credit card.

http://tinyurl.com/pzhp4
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Old Dec 14th, 2006, 06:52 PM
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Just in case you haven't thought of this, use your ATM cards several times here before you go. You don't want to find out the magnetic strip is defective over there!
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Old Dec 14th, 2006, 07:07 PM
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Here's a link to an excellent article on changing money in Europe: http://tinyurl.com/k3vy6.

There are lots of other helpful articles in the Travel Tips section of the above site.
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Old Dec 15th, 2006, 02:43 AM
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Hi P,

If you are going with a spouse, it is a good idea for each of you to have your own ATM card in case one doesn't work or if you need more than your daily limit.

If you are going alone, it is a good idea to open another account and have two cards.

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Old Dec 15th, 2006, 07:51 AM
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Fodor's people are THE best. TY all for the time required to make these wonderful suggestions.

LOL @ saltymuffin! True...I have NEVER used an ATM. I have a home based business and my husband is a retired teacher. Even when he was working full time, he could easily stop by the bank drive-in window on his way home. ATM card has just never been something we need. In fact, until now, I have refused any banks offer to send one to me.
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Old Dec 15th, 2006, 08:47 AM
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So, every time you go to the grocery store you write a check or use cash? How quaint!
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Old Dec 15th, 2006, 09:15 AM
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I think if you have a lot of free time, I can understand why that could be possible. You don't have to use an ATM card at the grocery store, I never have. I use cash or a credit card at the grocery store (I don't write checks there, but some people still do). I don't even know if I could use an ATM card at the grocery store, but why would I. My ATM card is for the ATM, not to buy things, it's not a debit card.

I resisted having an ATM card for a long time because I figured it was one more chance for things to go wrong (not getting the right amount, etc.), and I worked very near my bank so I could easily drop in there to get some money when I deposited my paycheck. I did that every couple weeks, so it was pretty easy to have enough cash for a couple weeks if I used credit cards for a lot of things.

I finally realized it really was convenient to be able to get cash another way and started using one, and have actually never had a single statement error from ATM use in 15 years.
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Old Dec 15th, 2006, 10:04 AM
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One other thing to be aware of...many of the ATM's in europe don't give you the option to have the funds withdrawn from either checking or savings...they default (at least we found) to checking. So, make sure you have adequate funds in both or the ability to transfer funds easily if need be.
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Old Dec 15th, 2006, 10:17 AM
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polly - you may have already come across this in your search, but most credit unions offer a better deal on foreign use of ATM cards. When checking, you need to ask about both fees for using a non network ATM and any additional fees levied for use outside the country. It is only within the recent past (last year or so) that those greedy banks have started tacking on an additional charge (usualy about 3%) on top of all the other fees.
What I have done is obtain an ATM card (linked to my CU checking acount) that I use overseas. I can go online and transfer from savings to checking as needed while traveling.
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Old Dec 15th, 2006, 10:35 AM
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DH and I each used two different ATM cards in Switzerland a few weeks ago. My bank is different from his (he's with Wells Fargo). I'm with a small local bank. I noticed that his fee was $5 per ATM withdrawal and my fee was only $1 each time. You might ask your bank what their fees will be.
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Old Dec 15th, 2006, 11:50 AM
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TY again! Still researching all this info you have shared with me (and others).

Trophywife, there is life (a very good one, in fact) without an ATM card. Everything I buy (except for the nickle and dime stuff) goes on a credit card which gets its balance paid off at the end of them month; various other money management techniques allow me to meet my responsibilities and write very few checks each month. Life is good!
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Old Dec 15th, 2006, 12:03 PM
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We also use a credit card at the grocery store. In fact, for everything we possibly can as we get rebates ranging from 1 to 5% depending on what type of business it is.

I probably used my ATM card more on our 9 day trip to Prague and Berlin last month than I do in 2 or 3 months at home.
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Old Dec 15th, 2006, 01:59 PM
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With regard to talking with your bank, my experience is that everyone you talk to will give you an answer, but a substantial percentage of those answers will be wrong. A fact of life is that most people who work at the local branch of a bank aren't asked about foreign currency transactions very often, so they are not fully informed.

Your bank does provide you with an accountholders agreement, many pages of small print that few of us bother reading, and the correct answer is buried in there.

I would look for a bank that doesn't impose a fee on using a foreign ATM (many impose a fee on using a "foreign" ATM, and define this as one that is not in their network) and that does not charge more than 1% for the currency conversion (the network charges this; many banks pass it on; many supplement it with their own charge). However, the difference in cost between using the most expensive bank's ATM card, and the cheapest, is not that much, so you want to consider whether you want to do a lot of research finding the least expensive bank to save, perhaps, $30 on a short trip.
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