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Euro conversion
Old 03-13-2015, 10:18 PM   #1
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Euro conversion

Plan to travel to Paris / Rome in a few weeks. No prior Europe travel. Is it wise to convert some cash to Euro State side or should we convert in Paris (first stop). Is it better to pay for items in Euros or use our Amex card / Mastercard ?
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Old 03-13-2015, 10:34 PM   #2
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Get euros at atm (not currency conversion) once you land at CDG; best rate and cost. We have a Fidelity ATM card and never a fee and great exchange rate.

Marc
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Old 03-13-2015, 10:38 PM   #3
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There are several discussion threads in this Travel Info Forum on Europe 2015 travel and on chip and pin for travel in Europe. Look for those active threads - tons of useful info.

You want a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees to use in Europe. Be sure to notify your bank that you will be using the card in Europe and give them your travel dates. Don't bother taking your American Express - rarely accepted.

Most people use their bank ATM card to get cash when they arrive in Europe. 4 digit pin (not longer) and a VISA or MasterCard or Pulse logo ATM card may be required. It's crtical that you notify your bank of your travel plans for your ATM cards too.

It's quite expensive to buy Euros in the US.

I like to get over there with some cash on hand. I usually have some cash left over from a prior trip.

There is usually a tourist information desk at the arrival airport. They can help you find out where things are, and sometimes even sell you metro or bus tickets, or even tickets to major attractions.
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Old 03-13-2015, 10:41 PM   #4
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We plan to use our new Fidelity ATM card on our next trip. Finally an ATM card without outrageous foreign fees!

CDG airport only has the HSBC ATM machines, right? I thought I read they had an exclusive franchise.
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Old 03-14-2015, 06:53 AM   #5
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A person on Bogleheads uses transferwise.com. I checked out the site. Looks like about the best rate you will get while still in the US. They basically pair up buyers/sellers.

But, I agree with above posters to wait until you arrive and use an ATM. Schwab also has no fees. It is the only reason I opened the account!
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Old 03-14-2015, 07:19 AM   #6
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The Schwab setup is tempting!

People here who have foreign accounts generally use xe.com.
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Old 03-14-2015, 08:53 AM   #7
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Plan to travel to Paris / Rome in a few weeks. No prior Europe travel. Is it wise to convert some cash to Euro State side or should we convert in Paris (first stop). Is it better to pay for items in Euros or use our Amex card / Mastercard ?
We go to Italy every year and usually bring home between 100-200 euros, which we save for the next year. That gets us from the airport to our hotel on the first day. After that, we get euros from the Bancomat (ATM). Our bank does not charge us a separate fee for the conversion, although I'm sure we don't get the best conversion rate.

Truth be told, though, we don't really use a lot of cash in Italy -- generally just entry fees for museums and the like. We charge all of our purchases, meals and hotels on our PenFed credit card, which has no foreign transaction fees.

This last part is really important. Regular Amex cards charge a 2.7% fee for every transaction (I think. You should check their website) and most of our other cards charge 3%. The PenFed card is the only one we have that doesn't charge anything.
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Old 03-14-2015, 08:53 AM   #8
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Good advice above. I think XE and Transferwise are only useful for transferring money to a bank account overseas, I don't believe you can get euros in hand before you travel using those sites.

Since it is only a few weeks before you leave you may be pressed to get a new card without foreign transaction fees. Check what your Mastercard charges in foreign fees, and definitely let the card issuers know that you will be traveling aboard.

I also like to carry some US $ in case of emergency.
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Old 03-14-2015, 09:09 AM   #9
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FWIW, you can do better than the PenFed VISA overseas, because you can get a rewards card with 0% foreign transaction fee.

I take my PenFed VISA for the very rare occasions I need a chip and PIN card to buy tickets from a machine. Otherwise I use my 1.5% BofA Travel Rewards VISA (chip and signature).

The Fidelity AMEX 2% rewards card charges 1% foreign transaction fees. But that still makes it a 1% rewards card when used overseas. The problem is that overseas acceptance of American Express is not high.
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Old 03-14-2015, 09:36 AM   #10
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Get euros at atm (not currency conversion) once you land at CDG; best rate and cost. We have a Fidelity ATM card and never a fee and great exchange rate.

Marc
+1

Later, Try to find a bank that is a partner to your US bank. Often they wave some ATM charges. Your local bank should be able to tell you if they have a partner in the country you are visiting.
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Old 03-14-2015, 09:43 AM   #11
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+1

Later, Try to find a bank that is a partner to your US bank. Often they wave some ATM charges. Your local bank should be able to tell you if they have a partner in the country you are visiting.
If you use the Fidelity or Schwab ATM card you don't need to worry about this aspect either as they reimburse you for all ATM fees.

The finding a partner bank thing can be a real hassle.
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Old 03-14-2015, 10:04 AM   #12
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FWIW, you can do better than the PenFed VISA overseas, because you can get a rewards card with 0% foreign transaction fee.

I take my PenFed VISA for the very rare occasions I need a chip and PIN card to buy tickets from a machine. Otherwise I use my 1.5% BofA Travel Rewards VISA (chip and signature).

The Fidelity AMEX 2% rewards card charges 1% foreign transaction fees. But that still makes it a 1% rewards card when used overseas. The problem is that overseas acceptance of American Express is not high.
I have to admit that I didn't really shop around that much for a no foreign transaction fee card. We have our mortgage through PenFed and it was just convenient to sign up for their credit card as well. We only ever use it overseas.
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Old 03-14-2015, 10:13 AM   #13
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I have to admit that I didn't really shop around that much for a no foreign transaction fee card. We have our mortgage through PenFed and it was just convenient to sign up for their credit card as well. We only ever use it overseas.
If you travel overseas often, it might be worth it.

I got a PenFed VISA just to have a chip and PIN card. The 5% gas rewards is sweet!

I've only used that chip and Pin feature once. Tried twice. The first ticket machine didn't accept it and I think that's because DBahn chooses not to accept foreign credt cards in their ticket machines. The Vienna Metro accepted my card and PIN just fine.
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Old 03-14-2015, 10:16 AM   #14
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I have an ETrade debit card to get cash from ATMs. There is a 1% fee but the exchange rate is good and there are no "outside network" ATM fee. I can also get up to $1,000 worth of foreign currency if desired. As a back up I carry the debit card of my local bank. I seldom use it because it has a 3% fee.

I only use credit cards at hotels or for rental cars. Avoid using your card if it will ever leave your presence. Since the US is technically backwards, chip and pin credit cards are next to impossible to get. Chip and signature are not really any better than what we have now.

Some people are obsessed with have local currency when they get off the plane. If this is you, convert about $100 worth at a currency exchange booth either before leaving or after arrival. You will be ripped off for a rate about 10 to 15% worse than you will get with an ATM. There are ATMs at CDG. A taxi from the airport to the center of Paris is about 60 to 70 euro. There are several bus options and RER service can get you where you want to go for less but these are difficult to use if you have more than one smallish suitcase & backpack. If you have more than this, why?

Paris if full of pickpockets and scammers. Italy (especially Rome) is the same. I recommend women leave their purses behind. It took me several trips to convince my wife; but after she saw enough people having issues, I converted her.
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Old 03-14-2015, 10:34 AM   #15
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Italy (especially Rome) is the same. I recommend women leave their purses behind. It took me several trips to convince my wife; but after she saw enough people having issues, I converted her.
Italians are wonderful people, but the crooks are masters at diverting your attention, taking your money and good, and making sure you don't realize it until they are gone and out of reach.
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Old 03-14-2015, 10:59 AM   #16
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This may help with the credit cards...sorry it's so long:

Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fee
These are all credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees at all.

List current as of June 10, 2014
American Express Platinum and Centurion
American Express Business Platinum
American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles
BankAmericard Travel Rewards®
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World MasterCard
Barclaycard Arrival – No Annual Fee
All Capital One credit cards, including:
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Spark for Business suite
Citi ThankYou Premier and Citi ThankYou Prestige
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve
Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard
Chase British Airways Card
Chase Priority Club Rewards Signature
Chase Hyatt Card
Chase Fairmont Visa Signature
Chase Palladium, if you’re one of the fortunate few (we’re not)
Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Card (though this has a $395 annual fee)
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
Chase United MileagePlus Explorer
Chase United MileagePlus Club Card ($395 annual fee)
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Military Star® Rewards MasterCard
All Discover credit cards, such as the Discover It
(An excellent option in China, but international acceptance is limited – check our list of which countries accept Discover for more information)
First National Bank of Omaha Graphite American Express
Marriott Rewards Premiere from Chase
All Pentagon Federal cards, including the Pentagon Federal Promise (currently offering 4.99% balance transfers for 2 years) and PenFed Premium Travel American Express (5x points on airfare & Priority Pass lounge access when you spend $15k+ at 600 lounges worldwide)
Harvard World MasterCard
Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard
HSBC Premier (you have to have something on the order of $100,000 deposited with them to qualify)
Orbitz Rewards Visa
U.S. Bank Skypass Visa Signature
Wells Fargo Propel World American Express Card
Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express Card
Most credit unions offer up no fees other than the 1% Visa charges them. Some even have “no foreign transaction fee”, including
Northop Grumman Federal Credit Union (anyone can join by making a contribution to the Southern California Historical Aircraft Foundation)
Andrews Federal Credit Union (any U.S. citizen can join)
Vystar Credit Union (must live in FL)
Texas Dow Employees Credit Union (TDECU) – anyone in the metro Houston area can join
Truliant Federal Credit Union (membership open to many regions of VA, SC, and near Greeneville, SC)
Associated Credit Union (membership is open to everyone)
Kirtland Federal Credit Union (membership is tough here, you have to be affiliated with the military in Arizona, either on Kirtland AFB, Reserves, or NM National Guard)
Reliant Credit Union (Monroe, Ontario and Wayne counties in New York)
Aerospace Credit Union (you have to work for Aerospace Corporation, or on Los Angeles AFB)
CoastHills Federal Credit Union (for residents of San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties in CA)
Stanford Federal Credit Union (Anyone can join by donating $15-20 to one of two organizations)
Pacific Oaks Federal Credit Union (Open to residents of Ventura County, California)
Burbank Community Federal Credit Union (Open to residents of the City of Burbank, California)
Elga Credit Union (Open to residents of the Michigan Counties of Genesee, Saginaw, Lapeer, Shiawassee, Oakland, or Livingston)
Cy-Fair Federal Credit Union (Open to residents of parts of Houston, in the Cy-Fair ISD area)
Taylor Model Basin Federal Credit Union
Virginia Credit Union (Open to residents in many areas of Virginia)
Apple Federal Credit Union (Open to those associated with many of the school systems in Northern Virginia)
State Department Federal Credit Union (Anyone can join with a donation to the American Consumer Council)
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Old 03-14-2015, 11:39 AM   #17
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But, I agree with above posters to wait until you arrive and use an ATM. Schwab also has no fees. It is the only reason I opened the account!

This is what we use and also the account we use/have at Schwab. We use the Schwab ATM card and get cash at the airport when we arrive. Never had any problems having fees reimbursed. Over $80 when we travelled to Thailand and you're guaranteed to get a good rate.
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Old 03-14-2015, 12:16 PM   #18
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This may help with the credit cards...sorry it's so long:

Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fee
These are all credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees at all.
I have three of the cards on this list. I have never used one for a foreign transaction. The other two have a 1% fee that I have been told isn't a "foreign transaction" fee but a "currency exchange" fee.
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Old 03-14-2015, 12:30 PM   #19
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I have three of the cards on this list. I have never used one for a foreign transaction. The other two have a 1% fee that I have been told isn't a "foreign transaction" fee but a "currency exchange" fee.
Foreign transaction fee = currency exchange fee. They are the same thing.

Most of the cards, including a lot of the ATMs and the Fidelity AMEX a card uses the VISA conversion/exchange service. This service costs 1% of the transaction. So the 0% foreign transaction fee cards are eactually reimbursing you for this.
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Old 03-14-2015, 03:42 PM   #20
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Some people are obsessed with have local currency when they get off the plane. If this is you, convert about $100 worth at a currency exchange booth either before leaving or after arrival. You will be ripped off for a rate about 10 to 15% worse than you will get with an ATM. There are ATMs at CDG. A taxi from the airport to the center of Paris is about 60 to 70 euro. There are several bus options and RER service can get you where you want to go for less but these are difficult to use if you have more than one smallish suitcase & backpack. If you have more than this, why?
When you get off the plane at your final destination, simply head to the first ATM you can find and purchase local currencies. While we certainly have not been in every European airport ( ), we have yet to find one that did not have ATMs available--usually near baggage. Tourist Assistance desks will certainly be able to point in you in the right direction. If at all possible, avoid the Currency booths unless you just feel benevolent for to their owners.
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