Best way to get US dollars converted to euros.

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by maestro55, May 14, 2009.

  1. maestro55 macrumors 68030

    maestro55

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2005
    Location:
    Goat Farm in Meridian, TX
    #1
    So I am planning my first international trip, and while it isn't until the third week in July I am über-excited and so it is on my mind. Not having traveled anywhere other than Mexico outside of the United States I have never had to exchange my currency (Mexicans in the border towns prefer U.S. dollars over pesos). So I need some guidance as to the best way to get US dollars exchanged to Euros.

    Obviously they do this at the airports, but I have heard the exchange rate at airports are not so good. Is this something I should do in the states before I go or will a bank in Munich be able to do the exchange for me and give me a better rate?

    I use an online checking account (for better rates) and so I do not have a local branch that I can go to. Will any bank be willing to help me for a charge? I know this might seem like silly questions, I just have never done this before and while Google might bring up results that tell where to go I am curious to hear what actual people have had success doing and what those world travelers here would suggest I do.
     
  2. CorvusCamenarum macrumors 65816

    CorvusCamenarum

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2004
    Location:
    Birmingham, AL
    #2
    Most banks I've dealt with will do currency exchanges for free, provided you have an account there. If it were me, I'd get either a parent of a friend to go to their bank and arrange it, since you don't have an account with a local bank. It can take some time - for me just getting $ turned into £ took about a week or so, and I had to pay up front.

    And yes, the Foreign Exchange will try to screw you, as they take a percentage going in and going out. But on the plus side, its easier to convert back into $ there than take it to your bank, where they pull out a big book of pictures of foreign banknotes and match up the pretty pictures before they will accept them. My local bank took my Bank of England notes no problem, but wouldn't take the Bank of Scotland notes as they weren't in the book.
     
  3. jzuena macrumors 6502a

    jzuena

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2007
    Location:
    Lexington, MA, USA
    #3
    What I do is go to my local bank and get the exchange done on the spot (less than $1000 in Euros or Pounds they will usually have on hand), but you don't have that option. You could call banks and ask if they will do the conversion for non-account holders for a fee. Another thing to think about is to check your credit card's foreign transaction fees. I do a fair amount of travel outside of the country so I got a second card with the lowest FTF I could find, and use that card exclusively when I am traveling internationally. My bank is also affiliated with Barclay's in Great Britain and BNP Paribas in France, so I could make withdrawals at local ATMs without extra fees. Their FTF wasn't quite as good as my "travel" credit card, but still better than my regular credit card. If your online checking account comes with an ATM card, you could see if they have a similar agreement with any of the German banks.
     
  4. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #4
    Depending on what fees your bank charges you for foreign ATM use, you may want to just get cash from an ATM over there, as ATMs generally have the best exchange rates. That's what I did when I went to London and Berlin (Bank of America has a deal with Barclays and Deutsche Bank so I didn't pay any ATM fees to use my BoA debit card at their ATMs)
     
  5. Signal-11 macrumors 65816

    Signal-11

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2008
    Location:
    2nd Star to the Right
    #5
    If you have a VISA ATM card, this is by far the easiest, most convenient and generally cost effective way to get local currency. When you get off the plane, go to the ATM and carry out your business as you would. Simple.

    Most US banks charge about a ~1% transaction fee, then an additional few dollars, depending on where and with whom you're banking. The exchange rate is current to that day so it's simply not worth goofing around trying to find a good exchange rate.

    FOREXes, banks, and traveller's check's when you're traveling exclusively within developed nations is waste of time and basically for old folks who can't figure out how to use an ATM. The rules change when you travel outside of the NA/EU/EA but you're going to Germany so I wouldn't worry about it.

    What you need to do is call your bank, let them know you will be traveling outside of the US, find out what their fees are and use your card normally when you get there. Well, maybe take out bigger chunks, but that's about it.
     
  6. maestro55 thread starter macrumors 68030

    maestro55

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2005
    Location:
    Goat Farm in Meridian, TX
    #6
    I certainly didn't think about having a friend who does bank locally going in and taking care of the business. That would be a fairly decent idea. The other of using a foreign ATM might be the most convenient. There is a 2% Foreign transaction fee on my MasterCard and then the $2.00 foreign ATM fee (and that isn't counting what the ATM in Germany will charge me). But I would be willing to pay for the convenience to just go to a local ATM and get out my cash when I get there and not have to worry about traveling half way across the world with a wallet full for euros.

    Thanks for the tips and advice. I am really looking forward to this trip, it is my gift to myself for my 21st birthday, and while it is still basically 9 weeks away I am extremely excited that I have decided to do this and that my friend in Germany has offered to let me crash at his flat for a week.
     
  7. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #7
    Just to clarify, good idea if it's a Visa ATM card. Bad idea if it's a credit card. With credit cards, ATM withdrawls are considered cash advances, and they typically have higher interest rates than regular purchases, and huge fees (one of my cards has a $15 fee for each cash advance, screw that!). Not to mention that with a lot of cards, interest on cash advances starts accruing the second the ATM spits out the money, so even if you pay off the balance before your statement due date, you'll still end up paying interest on it.

    If you plan on using a Visa/MC credit card at an ATM, make sure you have read the fine print in your cardholder agreement, and perhaps give your bank a call to make sure you understand all possible charges you'll be hit with.

    Also, Germany isn't like the US when it comes to credit cards. In the US, you can usually safely assume that anywhere you go takes credit. Not so in Germany, they are very much a cash society. Credit card acceptance is growing, but always have some Euros on you, never assume you'll be able to use a credit card somewhere.

    I did have some cash with me when I left the states (both US dollars and Euros...I got about 100 Euros from my bank before I left) and to be honest, that was the least of my worries. I figured if I fell asleep on the plane and someone tried to get my wallet out of my pocket, I'd wake up and fight them off, but if I was sleeping, someone could take my laptop, iPod and camera out of my bag in the overhead bin without me knowing.

    Fortunately, United's economy seats are so cramped and uncomfortable, you can't easily fall asleep so I had nothing to worry about :p
     
  8. maestro55 thread starter macrumors 68030

    maestro55

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2005
    Location:
    Goat Farm in Meridian, TX
    #8
    Yes, getting cash with an actual credit card is never a good idea. The card that I plan to be using is a Debit MasterCard. I just called my bank to verify, the transaction fee is 2% and the only fee they charge is $2.00 for foreign ATM use. I may be hit with another $3 or so dollars from the bank who owns the ATM in Germany, but not a huge deal.
     
  9. Signal-11 macrumors 65816

    Signal-11

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2008
    Location:
    2nd Star to the Right
    #9
    Yep, actual credit card cash withdrawals is strictly when there is no other option.

    None of my checkcards are on the MasterCard/Maestro network so I can't tell you for certain but in my experience, their network seems smaller than VISA. It's been a while since I've been to Bavaria but I don't think you'll have any problems if you're in the cities.

    One way or another, your check card is the way to do it.
     
  10. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030

    Macky-Mac

    Joined:
    May 18, 2004
    #10
    You'll find ATM machines in the airport when you get off the plane at your destination.....as others have said, that's your best bet. Carry a hundred dollars in cash with you and that'll serve as an emergency back up. Cards do get damaged, unexpected things happen, etc. so I usually carry a CC that I can use to get cash from an ATM in a pinch (even tho it's a bit more expensive)

    And let your CC and ATM bank card issuers know that you're going to be traveling, where you're going and when you'll get back......some of them will freeze your account for security reasons if they suddenly start getting unexpected charge from overseas.....so let them know before you leave since having your account frozen while you're traveling can be quite the hassle!
     
  11. Signal-11 macrumors 65816

    Signal-11

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2008
    Location:
    2nd Star to the Right
    #11
    I always carry 100USD, 50EUR and about 50GBP in cash as backup. That's a little overboard for most, but carrying a backup card and some cash in a separate from your main wallet is never a bad idea.

    And man, I wish my banks would freeze my accounts for strange activity. Last year, I had over a thousand dollars drained from my account and I didn't catch on for over a week. I called the bank and they told me that my PIN was being used. I had to argue with them that there was no way I could be in DC, Vancouver and Hong Kong all in the space of a few hours. I figure I was a victim of the mythical ATM card skimmer. I'm certain it had to be somewhere in Bangkok.
     
  12. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #12
    I would recommend getting some euros from somewhere (preferably a bank, but if you have to suck it up and use the exchange counter at the airport, I would do it) just so you have some of the local currency when you land. You never know if the ATM at the airport will be out of order, or if your bank, despite you telling them ahead of time decides to lockdown your account. It would be good to have some euros to get around and grab something to eat until you get that sorted out.


    Heh...you mean you can't teleport yourself? :D
     

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