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Europe Trip--Money?
Old 04-24-2008, 01:04 PM   #1
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Europe Trip--Money?

DS is leaving on a Contiki European trip on Monday and we need some advice on handling money.
The Contiki folks say there are lots of ATM's available, but they also say the network goes down often. Therefore, bring travelers checks. I have heard that you should buy them when you get there rather than in the states. Would appreciate some advice on what to do with the whole money situation.

PS: We did contact the credit card company and got the card cleared for overseas use.
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Old 04-24-2008, 01:20 PM   #2
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I would get 100 Euros or so while in the states just to have some ready cash, and then just hit the ATMs when you get there.
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Old 04-24-2008, 04:33 PM   #3
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Don't know about Europe, but in Asia, travelers checks are not popular with the merchants ... ok at hotels. Exchange rates and fees are bad though.
If you bring US dollars, then you get hit with horrendus exchange rates
I would use atms to get local currency if I were you. Exchange rates are a bit better than exchanging US dollars at a bank (and forget about hotels and merchants). You may want to have a 'back up' card just in case you have problems with your primary card.
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Old 04-24-2008, 05:57 PM   #4
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I don't know what countries he is visiting, but we had no trouble with ATM's in Italy last fall. We were told prior to going to Italy that it was best to stay away from Travelers Checks and go with ATM's.
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Old 04-25-2008, 07:06 AM   #5
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Yes, ATMs are a way to go... A word of caution if your ATM card has access to a checking account and a linked savings account. In the US you have an option to chose the account (checking vs. savings), on the other side of the pond a given bank may not "see" the linked savings account and you will have access to funds in your checking only (so, move some extra $$ in checking).
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Old 04-25-2008, 07:54 AM   #6
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What's the opinion on using cash taken out of ATMs over there vs. using your credit card where you can?
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Old 04-25-2008, 08:13 AM   #7
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I'd get a bit more than 100 euros...either that or take some USD and exchange it for euros on the other side. Best use the credit card. If it gets stolen and used you are usually not liable so long as you report it stolen.

BTW, there is a transaction fee (in addition to the margin) at most forex places in US airports that means if you only get 100 euros you are paying a margin/fee of about 15-17 bucks...

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Old 04-25-2008, 08:17 AM   #8
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Whenever I am in Europe I use ATMs and I have always been able to get money out when I wanted. Like in the US, a particular ATM machine could be down at any one time, but I have never experienced a "network" failure where all ATMs stop working at the same time (and I lived there many years!), so just move on to the next ATM machine. I also often use my credit card but beware that in some countries you will have to sign to confirm the transaction (like in Switzerland), in some countries you will need to punch the pin number for your credit card (like in France), so make sure you know your card's pin number before leaving.
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Old 04-25-2008, 08:24 AM   #9
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Using ATM's is fine. With euros you wont have this issue... but in Thailand where you can get $30 usd of thai money for a day or 2 of fun ... my us bank charged me $5 for each ATM withdrawal... so the strategy next time would be less ATM visits with bigger withdrawals.
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Old 04-25-2008, 08:25 AM   #10
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Credit cards are not as widely accepted in Europe. Often restaurants try to talk you out of using them (with the excuse that their machine is not working). Usually a quick chat with the manager corrects the problem.

ATMs are widely available and convenient in western Europe. Travelers cheques are often treated as second class. Most retailers love cash.
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Old 04-25-2008, 09:17 AM   #11
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I think Traveller's checks are actually a concept that have had their day. It's a pain in the butt using them as it means producing your passport and that is not something I like to carry around with me.

We have travelled extensively in Europe and have never been in a situation where we have not been able to access an ATM. However the only precaution I would make is not to wait until you are down to your last Euro before trying to get more cash. Always get it out when you have a bit extra in your pocket. I've also never had anyone try and refuse a credit card either.

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Old 04-25-2008, 03:37 PM   #12
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Having lived in Europe and traveled there extensively since, I'd twenty-fifth the ATM advice. They're everywhere, they're cheap, they're open 24-7. Have some Euros when you land, to make the transition easier, then just use the ATMs.

Take a credit card for backup (especially useful for medical treatment, should he need it). You said DS is on a Contiki tour, right? So he won't really need to pay for housing or dinner. He'll be (mostly) using cash. Credit cards are taken by bigger/tourist merchants, just like here. If he's bargaining some guy on the street down for some beaded artwork, he's going to need local currency in small denominations.

As a final backup, you might have DS take a couple hundred bucks in traveler's checks, but I doubt he'll use them.
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Old 04-28-2008, 06:51 PM   #13
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I agree with all the ATM advice. 10 years ago, I seem to remember having some trouble at certain ATMs which refused to accept my 4-digit PIN, but haven't had any sort of trouble lately.

One thing to keep in mind about credit cards. There are some spots that only take smart credit cards that have a chip in it, meaning that your State-side credit card can't be used there. This seemed to be a small percentage of places, but it did happen.

As far which is better, I think it just depends on which company charges the higher fees. Your DS should probably contact his credit card company and his bank to see how many they charge for transactions. A lot (most?) credit cards charge 3% for overseas transactions, but you can still find some that only charge 1% (the basic Mastercard/Visa charge).
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Old 04-28-2008, 08:40 PM   #14
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Thanks everyone for all the great info.
We put DS on a plane for London a few hours ago.
He has his ATM card as his primary money vehicle, a Visa, and a Mastercard as a back up. Unfortunately, we had never requested pins for these, so hopefully that issue won't come up. He has plenty in the ATM account, so with a little luck the credit cards will not be used. When he transfers at the MPLS airport he plans to pickup some Euros.

Of course having heard the pickpocket horror stories he has secret pockets and pouches in places James Bond would never have thought of--but, that's another story.
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