What Money to Take

Old Mar 22nd, 2005, 12:20 PM
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What Money to Take

I'm visiting Italy and France for a couple of weeks from the US and am wondering how to handle the money situation. Do I take a large amount of US cash with me? Do I instead take a large amount of Euro with me? Do I take just a small amount of cash? Are credit cards readily accepted? Can I easily exchange US dollar for Euro? Is US dollar easily accepted? Can I easily pull cash out of an ATM? Am I hit will heavy exchange rate premiums by withdrawing from ATMs? Any help you can give on how to deal with mone is much appreciated.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2005, 12:48 PM
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ATM cards hooked to checking account are best way - best possible rate of exchange and only what your local bank charges usually - ask them about fees. Carry some traveler checks in US dollars as a backup - in dollars so you can cash them in when you get back home because you probably won't need them. I've gone the ATM route now for years in Europe and always worked - but have some traveler cheques or charge cards in case it doesn't. Discover card is worthless in Europe; Visa MCard taken everywhere. There have been many posts on this subject here so a search will yield many insights on the situation. But the ATM card is the way savvy travelers go - no doubt about it. Not a good idea to carry a lot of cash in my opinion - Italy does have a rep for pickpockets and scam artists in heavily touristed locals - beware the Gypsy kids who may surround you - they are playing! And a thousand other scams perpetrated on tourists - such as spilling something on you and then wiping it off whilst apologizing as their accomplice rifles your stuff.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2005, 01:31 PM
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Like the other poster said, I wouldn't take any US money. The exchange rates/fees are ridiculous. I would use your ATM card to withdraw cash (euros) as you need it. Check with your bank to find out their fees and how they do their exchange rate. Some use the daily exchange rate and some use the monthly average for credit cards. Yes, CC's are readily accepted. However, there are plenty of shops and street vendors that only take cash. You will also need the cash for transportation.

Have fun!

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Old Mar 22nd, 2005, 01:43 PM
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Hi mitchm, one thing I do take to Italy is with me is some US money so when I return home to the US I have some US money with me. By the time I get off the plane I am jetlagged enough that I do not want to look for an ATM.

But then again I do take some Euro with me when I fly to Italy. Evidently most people do not.

Personally I do not bother with traveler checks anymore.

We all have our own comfort levels. So do what works best for you mentally.

BTW, make sure your ATM card has a 4 digit pin number in numbers not letters. The ATM's do not show letters on their keyboards.

If you are relying on ATM's I would stronly suggest having two checking accounts and two ATM cards. Just for backup in case something happens to one of the ATM cards.

I prefer to use the ATM at the banks and when the banks are open so if there is a problem you can walk inside and get some assistant.

BTW, my stock brokerage ATM/Debit card is at this moment only good for ATM's in Italy, it can NOT be used as a debit card until further notice due to fraud in Italy with debits from ATM cards. Thought that was interesting.
LoveItaly is offline  
Old Mar 22nd, 2005, 02:28 PM
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We always take some US cash with us for the airport and trip to and from same. (We drive to Boston from upstate NY, about 3 hours.) We always take about 25 to 30 Euros, which we save from the previous trip, just so we have a little local cash on hand. The rest of the time we use the ATMs for cash as needed; our bank does not sock us with big fees.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2005, 03:25 PM
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My method:
An ATM card to w/draw euro

200-300 USD (exchange only in an emergency at a bank, use for to/from airport at home)

200-300 euro (purchased from my bank which incurs fees and not very good exchange rate, simply for mental security)

Credit card for large expenses

Yes you can easily pull cash from an ATM most anywhere in Europe, the fee is imposed from your home bank, and the exchange rate is usually favorable.

I only use credit cards for the hotel bill and expensive meals but that's simply my preference. Most places (except very small business or way off the beaten track spots) will accept CCs.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2005, 03:48 PM
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1. US currency is almost worthless for everyday use in most of Western Europe...it is almost insulting to ask if they accept US currency. Put yourself in the position of being a clerk in a boutique in NY and what you would say if somebody came in and asked if euro were taken.

2. Credit cards for everything no matter how small. No worries about exchanging etc. But only use credit cards from banks such as Capital One, MBNA, USAA. Do not use credit cards from near criminal banks such as Citibank, Chase, Bank of America, Bank One (soon to be part of the Chase family) as these institutions charge an extra 2 or 3% for supposedly converting foreign charges when they have nothing to do with converting foreign charges.

3. Use an ATM card to pull out the euro you will need in those very rare instances where credit cards are not taken (and it is becoming rarer and rarer).

4. Some US currench preferably in small denominations as a back up in the very very unlikely event the ATM's are not working at a particular time and you really need euro. Of course if you are following rule #2, you will rarely need much euro. (perhaps for using the toilets and for drinks at a small cafe or at a 7-11 type establishment but you do realize that in the USA 7-11's take credit cards for all purchases!

No need to start looking for euro before leaving, at least in my very humble opinion.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2005, 04:25 PM
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I follow Suze's method, but don't take quite as much US cash. We usually only take $50 US (for purchases in the US airports usually). A note about getting Euros from your bank: our bank has to order them, so we usually do so about a month ahead of the trip to give them plenty of time. Hope that helps! - h.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2005, 04:47 PM
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mamma mia!I think I'll fall over if there is a whole 24 hour period in which someone does not start a new thread about this!!lol
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Old Mar 22nd, 2005, 04:51 PM
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I pay for everything possible - hotels, car, air, train, most restaurants, musumes, sights etc by cc. Visa/MC is taken almost everywhere of the above - AMEX slightly less.

For walking around money pull from your ATM - but it must be linked to your checking account and it may be a problem if the secret code is not four digits (no letters - pads in europe don't have letters).

For back-up I take about $150 in US cash in case of emergency - but usually use this only after I get home (taxi etc).

US dollars are not accepted in europe - except in airports (duty free, snacks etc) - at a huge premium.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2005, 07:49 PM
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I noticed in the Amsterdam airport, Schiphol, that any major currency was taken at one shop. This was pre euro days, so I don't think anybody knew what the heck they were paying. Most did not seem to care.

I figured it up on one purchase wherein a man paid $50 in a nice crisp new US bill. The exchange rate was something like 20% against him.

So in addition to the profit made on the chocolate, there was an extra 20% in the exchange!!

Of course those folks were happy to take anything major. The Netherlands is a trading nation and banks keep stocks of all major currencies. I am sure Japanese yen, Chinese yuan, American dollars, and British pounds were readily exchangeable at a local bank in Amersterdam. Heck, the banks probably own the airport.

I would happily stand there with a handheld computer or whatever it was and make 20% on the daily cash flow anytime plus normal retail profit. It sure beats the stock market.

This outfit had 5 or 6 attractive Dutch blonds handing out free candy samples and 4 or 5 more were raking in the loot.

I bet the perfume earned a king's ransome in profits!!

So yeah baby, show up with that folding green and exchange it. It may be weak, but it is not dead!! The foreign banks love the commission on the exchange.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2005, 08:23 PM
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Uhm, those of us that take US dollars to Europe do this so that when they RETURN to the US they have some US dollars. It is not with the idea to try to spend US dollars in Europe.

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Old Mar 23rd, 2005, 05:00 AM
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Like LoveItaly, we take enough $ for use in the US on our way to and from the airport. Since the advent of the Euro, we save the few Euros we have left at the end of a trip for our next trip. Right now, I have about 60 Euros which should get us from the airport to our hotel in Florence on our next trip. Keeping Euros saves the cost of changing them at the end of the trip, buying them from your bank before departure and getting them immediately upon arrival.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2005, 06:44 AM
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Yes, what LoveItaly said, the U.S. is for taxi to airport in home city, spending at airport, taxi home from airport at the end of the trip... and yes emergency fund.

I would never attempt to spend U.S. directly but you could exchange a small amount in a bank at the very end of the trip, should the need arise. If you return home with it all, nothing lost on exchange fees.

One observation I have made on people's varying methods- is often it mimics what they do at home. I am a "cash" person, not a credit card spender and this carries over to how I handle things when I travel. Yes I use a credit card for a large expense but am not whipping it out in every gift shop along the way. Not right or wrong, just the way I prefer to budget my funds.

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Old Mar 23rd, 2005, 06:53 AM
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We have a couple reservations in Italy for this May. They specifically require cash or euro travelers checks for payment. Both are for apartments. We have concerns about withdrawing a lot of cash from the atm's and I understand that the machines have limits as well. Does anyone know of a low fee euro travelers checks. Any advice would be helpful! thanks
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Old Mar 23rd, 2005, 08:54 AM
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If you belong to AAA you can get Euro travelers checks through your local branch. You can also order euros there. A coworker recently told me that the AAA Visa does not charge any fees or foreign transactions.

For what it's worth, I always like to carry a little bit of foreign cash on me for things like tips, espresso, etc. The last time we landed at CDG there was only one ATM working and it was not in the same terminal.
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