Where to exchange money?

Old Jul 28th, 2003, 05:30 AM
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jon
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Where to exchange money?

Just wondering if it's better to exchange money in the US or to wait until you get to the country for better exchange rates. I know they're different everywhere, but generally, which is the best way? We're going to London and Paris, so we'll need pounds and euro. Thanks!
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 05:39 AM
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ira
 
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Hi Jon,

Almost everyone on this board recommends having one or two ATM cards and one or two credit cards and not bothering with cash or travelers checks.

I suggest exchanging $100 - 200 for pounds at your departure airport so as to have money when you arrive, others prefer to get their money upon arrival at a local ATM.
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 05:39 AM
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Exchange in the counry you are visiting. You usually get a better rate that way. Although, it might be wise to get some euros before you depart in order to pay for incidentals upon arrival (cab fare, etc.).
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 05:43 AM
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The best way to exchange money is: don't. Use your ATM card to withdraw what local currency you will need in London and Paris and use your credit card for all purchases where that is possible. There are ATMs all over the place. (You will find many threads on this subject here.) Exchanging in the U.S. almost always means a bad deal and cash-to-cash exchanges at currency exchange booths in airports, etc. are often a very bad deal, too. Talk with your card issuer about fees and PINs for use overseas. (Have a primary and a backup plan for currency.)
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 05:52 AM
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HI
I am one of those who prefers to get some foreign cash at my own bank before I travel--at least $100 worth. Allow your bank at least a week in case they have to order it. I'm willing to pay the higher fee/lesser exchange rate in order to have it in my pocket when I arrive. After that, it's ATMs and credit cards.
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 06:12 AM
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Hi elaine,

Do you get a better exchange or is it more convenient to get the money at your bank than at the airport?
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 06:16 AM
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Thanks for your suggestions. Here's the thing, I don't have an ATM card. (I know, it seems like I'm living in the dark ages, but I don't have to worry about being robbed and forced to withdraw all my money from an ATM.) So, what's the next best thing to do? I think it's good to have some cash on hand for small purchases.
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 06:20 AM
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hi,

elaine, with all of the airports now having ATM's, why would you need the money beforehand?

For me, I personally see no reason to worry about this before I leave anymore. I took 2 ATM cards and two visa's. I made sure all worked with 4 digit pins about a month before I left.

When I arrived in london, I hit the ATM 1st thing an withdrew the max. I didn't visit the atm again until I was under 50 pds. (the least amount of withdrawals).

This worked wonderfully for me and had no worries about conversion or checks etc.

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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 06:24 AM
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We just returned from Italy and are not ATM users, either. However, I strongly advise getting one (with 4 digit pin) because it's a whole lot better than having a lot of cash on you.

We brought two credit cards (in case one was demagnetized), and one ATM/debit card. We basically used our ATM card each day to obtain only the cash we needed for the day, and left the card in our apartment. We felt much safer only carrying the cash we needed for the day, in case we were pick pocketed.

The credit cards were just for expensive meals out, so we only took those along for the time we would need it. Hence, we never had virtually anything more 300 euros on us that could be "picked" at any given time and felt more secure.

You will get a lot of good advise on this board. Then, you can decide from there what will work best in your own situation.
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 06:26 AM
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I have brought American Express travelers checks and then tried to find the American Express office in the city I was in. They are in almost all major cities. In any city, there are exchange places but you need to watch what their fees are for changing money, sometimes it is per check and sometimes per transaction. You can also cash them all at banks and sometimes in the post office. I got the checks in all denominations, $20 - $100. With the Euro, that might not be as big of a concern now, but several years ago it was because I didn't want to change too much and then have to change it again in the next country. I still bring about $300 in Travelers checks when I travel, just for emergencies but I have never cashed them - they go into my checking account when I get home. You may want to consider getting an ATM just for the convenience when traveling but you can get by without one.
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 07:42 AM
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jon, would it help for you to know that you can't be forced to withdraw ALL of your money from an ATM, because there are limits on the amount you can withdraw each day?
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 08:12 AM
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I just got an ATM card from my bank--after years of taking only cash along with several credit cards! It has a Visa logo BUT I have a 6-digit PIN. Is this going to be a problem??
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 08:23 AM
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To Anonymous: that's interesting. I didn't know that about there being a limit to withdrawals. That doesn't change my mind about not having one. Just one less card and PIN to worry about.

Thanks to all for the suggestions. I hope the dollar value starts to go up!
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 08:39 AM
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Jane B:

Call your bank and have them change your pin to a four digit one. ATM's in Europe only take 4 digit pins.

Regarding the limit to withdrawals, it depends on your card and the machine. Our limit to withdraw was 800 euros, at times, last month in Italy. Our card, does not have a limit, although I tried to get one beforehand in case my card was swiped. The 800 euro limit was on the machines themselves.

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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 08:41 AM
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Jane B:

Call your bank and have them issue you a four digit pin. ATM's in Europe work on four digits.

As far as limits go, we found that our limit on ATM's was 800 euros, at times. Our card has no limit, although I tried to get one beforehand to avoid any problems if my card were stolen. The machines themselves had the 800 euro limit.
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 08:43 AM
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Sorry about the double post. My system locked up on me.
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 08:49 AM
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Managing finances is always difficult. Systems change. Check AAA, someone reported that they are issuing cards with fixed credit amounts. A variable "travellers check". Buy one for yourself and another for your SO.
Don't be afraid to stuff dollars in your luggage. You can always convert them to local currency. Today we can say the same about EUs. Don't worry about rates. If it is unfavorable, reduce spending! Skip a meal..Don't buy in Harrod's. Visit the South Bank at noon..
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 09:05 AM
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erinb
your "why would you" question sounds a bit challenging, but I'll bite

so that I don't have to look for an atm at the airport
so that I don't possibly have to wait in an atm or money exchange line
so that I don't have to find that the atm is broken, and trek to the other end of the terminal
so that I can request small bills from my bank and find that the taxi or shuttle driver can change it.
so that I can go straight to baggage claim and customs
just so that I have one less thing to think about
cheers
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 09:18 AM
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We bring about 200 euros for the same reasons, Elaine. I'd hate to arrive only to find the airport ATM is out of service, and I need to find euros for a cab.
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 09:31 AM
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A little clarification - you should have 2 ATM cards - ON DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS - and 2 credit cards - DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS - and preferably a Visa and a Mastercard.

Something else rarely mentioned is that you can go into a bank for a cash advance. Very simple but you will probably need to present your passport for ID.
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