I’m usually all about saving money and researching destinations to find the quickest/easiest/most recommended ways to do things. But, I don’t always follow the travel advice from gurus like Rick Steves and others if I don’t believe the savings is worth the peace of mind. Here is one example.
I Buy Euros before heading to Europe
Yes, I said it. I do the unthinkable. I exchange U.S. money for Euros at home before traveling to Europe.
This is a big no-no in the travel world because exchange rates are always better at ATMs in Europe. Banks in the U.S. have inferior rates and/or add conversion fees. All major airports in Europe have ATMs, so it’s a no-brainer to just wait and get Euros after you land.
Or is it?
First of all, most areas in Europe are credit card friendly. So, I don’t need to exchange hundreds or thousands of dollars. I pay for most things with one of our credit cards that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees.
But secondly, for the amount of money I need to convert, I don’t really save that much money by waiting until I get to Europe. For this upcoming trip, I reserved a private car transfer from our hotel in Rome to the cruise port. And, I have to pay using cash. Last summer, I booked a hotel transfer with a similar cash requirement. So, both this year and last year, I converted a few hundred US dollars to Euros at my home bank before traveling. I compared the rates, and exchanging the money at home before the trip only costs about $20 more in total.
And lastly, exchanging money at home gives me one less thing on my to-do list once we land at the airport when we’re jet-lagged and in a hurry to start our vacation. (We already stop at an airport kiosk to buy SIM cards which seem to be a much better deal in-country than you can get on Amazon).
On my trip to France/Switzerland last year, I ended up only visiting the ATM in Switzerland one time for a small purchase from a vendor that didn’t take credit cards. That was it!
Note: To get Euros, I simply ordered them in advance at my closest Chase bank location. They arrived 24 hours later.
When it comes to travel, for the most part I’m a “You do you, let me do me” kind of person. Currency exchange is just one of those areas that I don’t feel strongly enough about to save a few bucks.
Anyone else exchange a small amount of money before you travel internationally? Or, do you do something else that is universally considered a no-no in the travel world?
How does my family travel so much? We use miles and points from credit card bonuses. See my Travel Hacking 101 post as well as current credit card offers here.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.
ryan del mundo says
1. Get Charles Schwab checking.
2. Goto atm when you land.
3. its free.
Been doing that for over 30 countries. Never fails.
What is currency exchange?
When my wife and I flew to Crete a bit over a decade ago she assured me that it was a cash based economy so I pretty much drained my bank account and had a lot of USD. Unfortunately there was no currency exchange or ATM at Heraklion airport and we arrived on a Friday evening with Monday being a religious holiday. We pulled through by me getting cash advances on my Discover card but it was no fun. I’ve been much more careful since then and getting the local currency in advance makes life a whole lot easier.
Beware European ATM’s that have the gold and blue colors. They are called Euro something-or-other (Euronet?) and the awful exchange rates, huge fees, and low limits on withdrawal amounts make them a total ripoff. You see them a lot in tourist areas.
@Christian Thanks for the tip about the gold and blue ATMs.
If I have euros or pounds from a previous trip, I’ll take them with me. But IF I need to get currency, I’ll wait until I land.
@Glen We were lucky that for our honeymoon, my parents had leftover Euros to give us from their last trip. It was a nice surprise.
I feel the same way! I know it’s cheaper to exchange money at your destination, but I refuse to leave without cash. I, personally, carry cash all the time for emergency even though we use credit card for everything. I’m one of those that say “you never know…”
On my trip to Spain and Italy next week, I had to bring a lot of Euros to pay for some of our tours that require cash at the end of the tour. Plus, I have to prepare for tips to give. Could I have saved money by exchanging at the airport? I’m sure I would, but I prefer not to have the uneasy feeling of an empty pocket!
@Liz Yes! that’s exactly how I feel about it.
I always get some currency before arriving at a destination. The small additional cost is worth it for the peace of mind. You never know whether the cash machines will work, whether you’ll have problems with your card, or whether (in my case in Bhutan – where I couldn’t get cash in advance) you will happily walk out of the airport and completely forget to stop at an ATM.
@Stephen Exactly! There are wo many what-ifs. Why risk it?