Visa or Cash in European Countries?

Aug 22nd, 2007, 12:08 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 15
Visa or Cash in European Countries?

Generally speaking, is it worthwhile to exchange our money into Euros or British Pounds instead of paying with Visa or Amex? I understand we'll need cash for small items, but for meals, shopping, local transportation, tours, etc. what is the best rule of thumb? Thanks!
BuddyD is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 12:10 PM
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I'm better off paying with Euros because my credit card charges 3% conversion fee. Although for convenience and safety, I still use credit cards a lot.
scatcat is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 12:13 PM
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rule of thumb 1= use ATM to withdrawal euros or Pounds.

rule of thumb 2. Use credit card for larger purchases so you don't have carry around large amounts of cash.

Bank ATMs in Europe do not charge a transaction fee, so check with your bank if they do (can range fro $0 to $5 per transaction. If there is none (as with my credit union) then you best exchange rate is always with ATM - even better than my credit card by 2%.

do not change cash
do not use travelers checks
J62 is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 12:15 PM
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you cannot make a blanket statement that it's better to pay with Euros than credit card. It all depends on the method/cost to get those Euros.

do not exchange cash
do not use TCs
do not use a home bank that charges you $5/per transaction - that's 2% added cost on a $250 withdrawal.
J62 is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 12:35 PM
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Capital One does not charge the 3% foreign currency conversion fee. It's well worth having that card for anything that will be drawn on a foreign bank - including hotels, shops, restaurants, cruise or other out-of-country travel fares. (Most airlines, even foreign ones, do not draw on foreign banks, so you don't have to worry about that.) We generally use another cc for everyday purchases for which we get plenty of air-miles, but for anything foreign, including Europe, Canada, Mexico, etc. we use our Capital One M/C.
scdreamer is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 12:46 PM
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If you can get a CC with 1% or less currency conversion fee, and no transion fee - I would use that CC for everything that you can - except for getting cash at an ATM. Use an ATM or Debit Card for cash.

Even if you earn FF miles on a card with 2 or 3% conversion fee, a card with 0% makes a lot more economic sense to me.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 12:47 PM
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In Italy an excellent place to change dollars or pounds into euros is the post office. They charge a nominal commission and recently in Florence had the best rate of exchange.
canyonjane is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 12:59 PM
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Hi B,

Get a CC that doesn't charge a "conversion fee".

Charge everything you can.

Use ATMs for cash.

Enjoy your visit.

ira is online now  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 01:51 PM
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Another rule of thumb: You cannot expect all hotels, restaurants and stores to accept credit cards, no matter which brand. Even some big chain stores don't. Carrying some cash is useful. Use ATMs to withdraw what you need.
quokka is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 02:03 PM
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Do you belong to a Credit Union? If so, use that card at an ATM - there's no fee.
TuckH is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 02:06 PM
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Can someone tell me the names of credit cards that do not charge a conversion fee?
I have Citicard and Bank of America and they both charge. I went to Capital One site, but there are several different types and I can't find the info concerning conversion.
scatcat is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 02:44 PM
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My credit Union CC does not charge a conversion fee. However, Visa does, and it is listed separately on my monthly bill.
Michael is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 10:41 AM
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Scatcat - you should just call Capital One - they must have an 800 number - and see what they say. Ours is a basic M/C with no annual charge, but it does give us "rewards." The one we have doesn't charge the conversion fee for foreign transactions.
scdreamer is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 10:46 AM
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Thanks scdreamer. I will call.
scatcat is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 11:24 AM
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Hi S,

>I went to Capital One site, but there are several different types ...

I have the Platinum No Hassle Cash.

No conversion fees, and 1% refund on everything.

ira is online now  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 11:27 AM
Join Date: Mar 2006
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In Europe, Mexico and S. America we used to always use our credit cards as much as possible. We stopped using traveler's checks years ago when we got stuck in London with no cash for the tube fare and nobody would cash even small TCs because so many were fake. We use our Capitol One card w/o problems and few costs, plus it gives us points toward our next plane fare refund.
In the last few years we have started to use ATM withdrawals a lot, it allows you to get money in the local currency at a lot less than what the exchange places charge. Three things to consider: +not all the ATMs are in English so learn enough of the other language to get thru the prompts, + be careful which machine you use. It is possible for thieves to hook up fake keyboards or stroke recorders to record the info you and the card put in, then use the info later to hit your account. We usually avoid isolated ATMs (it is physically safer anyway) and focus on machines at banks when the bank is open or at the hotel. We saw an ATM near Harrods in Sloane Square with a warning about the danger of using the machine at night. With a reasonable amount of caution, you can use the ATMs safely and conveniently. + keep cash on hand as there are times when the card companies and banks may freeze access to the internet accounts when they are worried that security may have been compromised or there is an internet problem. I think it was AOL or Fodor's travel that had an article about this last year.
atp2007 is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 03:10 PM
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Rule #1 for traveling in Europe - Use your credit card for every purchase large or small preferably with a credit card that doesn't charge a foeign conversion fee (Capital One) or one that just passes along the 1% visa/mc conversion fee (USAA for example). Do not use credit cards from such near criminal banks as Bank of America, Citibank, Chase which add an additional 2% or more to the 1% visa/mc conversion fee for providing no service as they have nothing to do with the foreign conversion; it is done by the international visa/mc system.

2. For those places that don't accept credit cards, or perhaps put a minimum purchase amount for use of a credit card (that practice, BTW, is a violation of a merchant's agreement with visa/mc in the USA. Unfortunately this protection is not universally available in countries outside the USA so some merchants set minimu purchase amounts) can be supplemented by ATM withdrawals preferably with a card that doesn't impose a fee (several are available on the internet such as USAA or E Trade Bank) and only pass along the shared teller network's 1% foreign currency exchange fee. You can easily open up an account on the internet for many such banks, keep $1 in the account and use the internet to move money into the account before you travel and back to your main bank account after travel.

It is easy, it works, and it saves you a lot of money.
xyz123 is offline  

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