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Money Exchange for Europe

Dean

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We're preparing for a 2021 large trip to Europe. There was discussing recently in another thread about money exchange options and the consensus seemed to be the best option was generally to use ATM's and a no international fee CC. But I'm investigating and it seems CC companies treat this as a cash advance which might not be advantageous to me. I have a checking account debit card I use specifically for travel but I've only used it in the US, Caribbean and MX so I'm not certain how it'll work for Europe. It's worked great for what I've used it for as it has no tie to the rest of my accounts (overdraft protection or similar) but I can load and unload it from the app or online. I've requested info from my CU as to fees and usage but haven't gotten that info back yet. I was looking at travel cards, specifically Transferwise. Anyone use them and have an opinion either way and/or recommend other travel cards. Travelex fees are just way too much for my liking so I won't be using them, I know there are several others but don't have much info beyond that. Comparatively speaking Transfer wise seems too good to be true. The only downside I'm seeing is the monthly ATM limit.
 

stevio99

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May want to consider the Revolut card as well, or at least look into it.
 

Dean

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May want to consider the Revolut card as well, or at least look into it.
Thanks, I did see that on one of the lists, I'll investigate further. Do you have any thoughts on a comparison between the 2?
 

Swice

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I'm not quite sure what you mean by the CC treat as a cash advance. Are you using your credit card to obtain actual cash from an ATM? Then yes, it would be considered a cash advance just like in the U-S. Never use a credit card to obtain cash (the interest rate is horrible). I use my regular checking account card at foreign ATM's when I need "cash." Sometimes there is a "fee" at the foreign bank so I try to limit the number of times I go to the an ATM. The last thing I want is left over cash because then I have to pay a fee to change it into American dollars on my return. But in recent years, I've used my credit card for almost everything... I'm finding I need very little "cash." The exception would be Germany. Germans are not fans of credit cards.
 

Dean

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I'm not quite sure what you mean by the CC treat as a cash advance. Are you using your credit card to obtain actual cash from an ATM? Then yes, it would be considered a cash advance just like in the U-S. Never use a credit card to obtain cash (the interest rate is horrible). I use my regular checking account card at foreign ATM's when I need "cash." Sometimes there is a "fee" at the foreign bank so I try to limit the number of times I go to the an ATM. The last thing I want is left over cash because then I have to pay a fee to change it into American dollars on my return. But in recent years, I've used my credit card for almost everything... I'm finding I need very little "cash." The exception would be Germany. Germans are not fans of credit cards.
Yes, my main goal is for smaller purchases and ATM access. And our main focus for our next big trip with be the Netherlands and Germany plus Hungary. The monthly ATM limit is a negative to both travel cards mentioned it appears, esp since that and smaller purchases are our main goals, basically incidental spending & Gratuities.
 

PrairieGirl

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You are correct, using a CREDIT card, ANY credit card at an ATM ANYWHERE will be treated as a cash advance! I think that people were advising to use a DEBIT card linked to your checking account. If you have concerns about the amount in your checking account becoming accessible to fraud, simply move a portion of it to a different account before traveling. I have used ATMs all over the world with my debit card to get local currency without any issue and find it to be fast, easy and generally a very good exchange rate.

And specific to your question about Europe, I have used my debit card at ATMs in Spain, Italy, Ireland, Holland and France.

So my recommendation would be a debit card for cash from the ATMs and a credit card for purchases at a merchant (if you don't use cash).
 

Steve Fatula

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Yes, I just use my banks ATM card in foreign countries the rare time I need actual cash. We've done enough foreign travel that we now generally do some currency exchange before leaving, not a lot of cash as everything else is charged. Really, we've been pretty much spot on and have never come back home with cash as we rarely use cash. Just at goods markets, tips while traveling, etc. Sometimes you need a little cash at the foreign airport. There is very minimal need for cash. Just make sure you don't have international fees on whatever card you charge with for non cash purchases. And I always tend to call the card bank(s) to make them aware I am traveling to a foreign country (and which one(s)) so they don't decline for security reasons.
 

ocdb8r

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I would wait to get confirmation from you CU before doing anything else. In my experience, fees will likely be very low or nil, you'll get a good exchange rate, and in nearly every country in the EU you'll have no problem finding easy access to ATMs (that work with your card).

I am a big fan of Revolut - their overall cost structure is lower than Transferwise. However, both of them have limits on the amount you can take out via ATM each month fee free (for Revolut, for the no fee account you can withdraw $300/month ATM fee free...for the 9.99/month account you can withdraw up to $600/month ATM fee free - I think Trasferwise limit is $250/month ATM fee free). In neither case does it beat my credit union. Revolut is very open and honest that ATM withdrawals are costly for them as they don't own or operate any ATM network. I use them primarily for large currency exchange as I live and work in Europe now and Revolut is easy (and cheap) to send $$$ back to the US. Bottom line, they're both great for large bank transfers or short trips where you'll need to pull out a limited amount of cash

If you're not happy with what your credit union charges, given the lead time, consider opening a Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account. The account earns interest (not much...but it's something) and has no minimum balance, no monthly fee and they will reimburse all ATM fees you incur worldwide. They also offer a good exchange rate with no fees added. You can close it when you come home if you're not interested in keeping it open.
 

ski_sierra

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If you're not happy with what your credit union charges, given the lead time, consider opening a Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account. The account earns interest (not much...but it's something) and has no minimum balance, no monthly fee and they will reimburse all ATM fees you incur worldwide. They also offer a good exchange rate with no fees added. You can close it when you come home if you're not interested in keeping it open.

This is the option I use. I also have a Fidelity Cash Management Account (equivalent of a checking account). I transfer the money I expect I will need for that trip in that account. It does take a few days for the ACH money transfer from my regular BoA account into that account.

I don't like using my BoA debit card abroad. I was once charged high fees so in MX so I put that down as a learning experience and never used it again outside the US.
 

Dean

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Thanks all, good advice and some food for thought. One of my concerns with the CU debit card was ATM fees on the other end. Good to know that Schwab reimburses those fees and you can set it up separately, I'll have to investigate that option as I have a Schwab brokerage account already.
 

sea&ski

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I too have a travel debit card and rarely have I utilized it. I have cc with no fees. But, I always take euros (the amount per day will depend on how many of you) because where I have been (France, Germany, Italy) the shops and cafes will often not be credit card friendly. So if you travel the back roads, you will want cash.
 

Cornell

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When my daughter lived abroad, I got her a Schwab Investor checking account that she used for cash withdrawals. Schwab reuimbured the ATM fees.
 

x3 skier

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Been traveling to Europe and other places around the world for decades and never had a problem using my debit card to get cash. I always use an ATM INSIDE a major bank, not the ones on the street to reduce the chance of a card skimmer.

Cheers
 

elaine

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any debit or ATM card from a major US bank should work fine for getting out cash. Use a CC for hotels, purchases. don't use CC for cash advances.
 

Dean

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With the Schwab account can you turn off overdraft protection and if so, have it decline charges rather than have overdraft fees. One of my goals with any card I use for travel is to sever as many ties as possible to the rest of my funds. I didn't get the answers just looking online but the info I'm seeing hints this may be a problem.
 

Dean

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I ended up established the Schwab bank account. You can turn off overdraft protection but you can also lock or unlock the cards from the app. My CU does not not offer money exchange options and I'd have fees on the other end for ATM usage. The other good thing that the Schwab ATM account offered was the 2 cards come with different numbers. We'll see how it goes but it appears to offer everything I wanted for the lowest fees possible. Thanks for all the suggestions and recommendations. The Resolut and Transferwise seem like good options in many ways but with the AMT volume limitation. Since my main goal was the ATM for pocket cash internationally, I ended up going with the Schwab account.
 
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