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Taking money with me... exchange before I leave or there?
Kailar
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I need to know if I should exchange my money before I leave from Canada or exchange it while I am there.

What are your experiences with it?
What’s the best idea?

I am leaving from Ottawa with $2300 for 15 days
London, Amsterdam, Paris, Berne, Florence, London
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Itinerary
oldlady
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Exchange usually isn’t the best bet. Leave your money in your checking account and withdraw (in local currency) what you need for 2 or 3 days from the the ATM as you travel. Make sure your PIN is four numerals (no letters) and get your daily withdrawal limit upped to $400 if possible. Your limit is absolute, so if you have a $100 limit, and the ATM has a choice of 50, 100 or 200 Euros you’ll only be able to withdraw 50 euros a day — and you’ll pay a fee on each withdrawal.

It’s nice to get some local currency for your arrival country in advance, but not essential as there will be ATM’s and exchange bureaus (I carry around $200 in US twenties as an emergency stash) in the airport. For me (medium sized US city) the local bank gives an exchange rate that’s 7% below the posted rate for the day and charges a fee of $5.00 for exchange, so it’s better to just hit the ATM at the airport when I land.

Kailar
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So what you are saying is to not bring money with me except an emergency stash? Just withdraw what I need for the day? What if I only have a savings account? Would that make any difference?
I know this is a stupid crazy question but the PIN pads are the same over there right? I have an 8 digit PIN. I don’t want to get over there and it not work.
I think this covers it all.
I am not really comprehending everything right now as I am so tired.
Thanks alot!

I am leaving from Ottawa with $2300 for 15 days
London, Amsterdam, Paris, Berne, Florence, London
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Itinerary
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Do NOT bring any cash with you unless you want to buy water, coffee or food at the airport before you board your flight. If it gets lost or stolen in Europe, you are screwed. You can withdraw extra cash and hide it in your daypack. When you arrive at the airport, go and get cash at the ATM to last you a few days. Use your credit card as often as possible.
The best way to travel is to have an ATM card and a credit card (visa is the most accepted card). You got time to get a new one if needed. If you already have one, call the phone number on the back of your bank card and ask them about all the details.
4 didgit pin number (no letters) use numbers only. The last 4 didgits of your phone number is a good way not to forget your new pin code. Be sure to ask about bank fees and minimum charges for atm withdrawals, non-bank atm withdrawals, currency conversion fees (1%-3%) and credit card charges. Verify the minimum charge. Some banks require a 10.00 minimum ATM withdrawal or 10.00 credit card purchase or you will be charged a $5.00 to $10.00 fee. Be sure to ask the banks for toll-free phone numbers to call from Europe in case you have problems or your cards are stolen or lost. Send yourself an e-mail with the phone numbers and write them in your journal. Also go to your library or big book store and read a travel guide book like Let’s Go, Rick Steves, etc.

oldlady
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I would not take cash except your emergency stash and perhaps 100 – 200 euros. I would plan on withdrawing money every 3 days as opposed to daily to minimize transaction fees.

You need to check with your bank and make sure you can access money in your savings account from Europe. If it’s your primary account and you can withdraw from it at home it’s probably OK, but at most ATM’s in Europe you don’t get a choice of “which account” like you do at home. I can only withdraw from my checking account (which the bank considers my “primary account”) and can’t transfer money between accounts at most European ATMs. The PIN pads are the same. Some people who have PIN’s with letters have reported they couldn’t use the ATMs even if they figured out the numbers for their PIN. Some have reported they couldn’t use their 6 or 8 digit PINs while others have used longer PINs with no problem. Read through some of the old threads on the subject. Personally, I’d open a checking account with a 4 digit PIN just to be sure. Make sure your bank knows you’ll be in Europe so they don’t see a foreign transaction, assume it’s fraud and freeze your account.

While Visa is slightly more common in Europe than MasterCard, I haven’t been in an establishment that took Visa and not MC since 1975.

Don
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I want to emphasize: Living in Europe 6+ years using Mastercard debit regularly for cash withdrawals, that about a year ago, MC starting going gestapo with it’s security. This can negatively affect casual travellers to Europe.

My last phone number in the US were getting recorded calls from MC security of “suspicious overseas activity” and if the person listening to this recording was the owner and approved the charges, press 1. If this is not resolved quickly, they will lock your card!

After many calls to MC security and to my bank, repeating over and over to them my overseas phone number, which neither of them have ever attempted to call, that I am living, working, and travelling throughout Europe — because they wanted a list of countries and when I might be using the card there — and at least 4 rounds of MC sending these pre-recorded security calls to the wrong number — even after I’d been promised it was resolved at least 3 times previously — I say, don’t take any chances.

I kept telling them that I thought Mastercard was international like Visa (which is, ya know, everywhere you want to be). Getting a card replaced in Europe took 3 weeks, by the way.

Take some cash! Any major foreign currency is fine — US, Canadian, Australian dollars — to be able to exchange if MC decides to over-secure your card while you’re travelling. I also recommend having another major-brand credit card; MC+Visa, or Visa+Amex, for example. Discover is worthless in Europe.

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Thanks for sharing your experience so others do not have the same problem. I too have called my bank many times and informed them of my travels only for them to shut off my Visa Card in Europe and a few times it happened in my last week of travel. If you have to call them while in Europe, ask to be transferred to security and fraud department. I also suggest that you type up all of your card information, card #, exp. date, phone numbers, billing address, pin number, date account started and leave this copy AT HOME with parents or a family member and have them store it in a safe place in case of problems. If your card is eaten by the ATM machine, lost or stolen, many card compaines will not ship them from the U.S to Europe. Your family member can have it overnighted to their house and than overnight it to you in Europe. I also suggest you print the card number and bank phone number in a fake address and add it in your journal, travel documents and e-mail to yourself the day you leave for Europe. Do not add your name or the three didgit security code on the same paper that will create all the info needed for identity theft.

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I did not take any exchanged cash with me (was that stupid?), and I did not have any problems. I took out reasonably large withdraws (200-400 euros at a time) from ATMs over there and only got charged about $5 each time. It seemed worth it to me. I did not have any problems with my Visa over there. I had bought travel insurance through my credit card ($50 I think), so I did not have any issues with suspicious activity when I was there. I payed for most of my hostels, rail reservations, etc with credit card…

I am leaving from Montreal, Canada with $1600 for 16 days
Frankfurt, Munich, Venice, Florence, Nice, Barcelona, Paris

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Kailar
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Thanks guys!
All this info is a great help!

I am leaving from Ottawa with $2300 for 15 days
London, Amsterdam, Paris, Berne, Florence, London
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Itinerary
jascat
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If you’re travelling alone, I suggest doing the whole atm thing, withdraw every few days. If you’re travelling with a partner, take some money and divide it up between the two of you. My b’friend and I did Europe 2yrs ago and took only cash, no c/card at all. We had 4 money hiding places – 1 each in our day packs, and 1 each in our main backpacks. It was pretty safe cause we were doing a tour so didn’t worry too much about the main backpacks but most of our cash was strapped to our stomachs and my b’friend is a big guy so no one was gonna mess with him. LOL

I am leaving from brisbane with $3000 for 20 days
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I booked hostels on CC, but I did everything else with cash from ATMs. The ATM is probably the cheapest way to convert cash to the currency for the countries you will be in.

I am leaving from Montreal, Canada with $1600 for 16 days
Frankfurt, Munich, Venice, Florence, Nice, Barcelona, Paris

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I take enough euros to get me through the first day or two…after that it’s ATMs. Never used my bank card for debit purchases, but that could be an option too. You should also set up your credit card to use in ATMS…i.e. if you lose your bank card or you run out of money in your bank account, you could use your credit card to draw money against the credit limit of your card (just remember to pay it back ASAP since most cards start charging you interest on the moeny as soon as you withdraw it!)

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”

rockadiva
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Just a thought, can’t you purchase Visa giftcards? Would it be a silly idea to get a giftcard with what you expect to spend on it, and then have another credit card and perhaps an ATM as a backup? I wonder if this would cut back on the ATM fee’s and the Europe transaction costs people have spoken of…. I personally hate cc’s and don’t use them, however I’m starting to get the idea that its gonna be necessary to use plastic in Europe. Thoughts??

I am leaving from Houston, TEXAS!!!! with $1250 for 15 days
Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Interlaken, Florence
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I am leaving from Houston, TEXAS with $4000 for 22 days
Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Paris, Brussels
I am traveling for 20 days
Milan, London
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Rockadiva, Please don’t ask legal banking questions to backpackers. just kidding?
Call your bank directly and call VISA directly to find out all the fees first hand from the policy makers. Once you get the answers, copy my questions and add in the answers so everyone will learn. I hope you do this to help others. Thanks in advance.
PLEASE NOTE TO ALL TRAVELERS that Each bank is different and most credit unions do not charge the 1%-3% transaction fees. Do NOT assume the answers given here are the same for your card – CALL YOUR BANK TODAY AND GET THE CORRECT ANSWERS FOR YOUR CARD. If the customer service rep is not giving the information you need, kindly ask to speak to a supervisor or manager.

Questions: VISA GIFT CARD (do again for your Credit Card)
Is there a limit one can place on a VISA gift card?
Is a person’s name printed on the card to prevent others from using it.
Can a VISA Gift Card purchased in the U.S. be used in Europe for all purchases, ie, hostels, restaurants, BARS, trains, museum admissions, etc.?
Can the VISA Gift Card be used at an ATM with the VISA logo?
Any fees added on to use as an ATM card?
What happens if gift card is lost or stolen?
Get phone numbers to call collect from Europe and ask if they have TOLL FREE/800 numbers to call from Europe?
When do I need to call you, the Bank/how far in advance to inform you that I will be using the card in Europe so that I do not get shut off for fraud/security alert/unusual transactions?
Can a replacement be shipped overnight to Europe?
Are there any Currency Transaction Fees or Foreign Transaction Fees when using a gift card in Europe?
Are there fees for minimum/small charges like 5.00, 10.00, 15.00 20.00?
(For example using it to buy a sandwich and a drink for less than $10.00)

Do us all a favor and ask the same questions for your credit card and ATM card and list the answers. Be sure to List the name of your BANK!

For ATM ask the following;
What happens if ATM card is lost or stolen?
Get phone numbers to call collect from Europe and ask if they have TOLL FREE/800 numbers to call from Europe?
When do I need to call you, the Bank/how far in advance to inform you that I will be using the card in Europe so that I do not get shut off for fraud/security alert/unusual transactions?
Can a replacement be shipped overnight to Europe?
Are there any Currency Transaction Fees or Foreign Transaction Fees when using a ATM card?
Are there any NON-BANK ATM charges. When you use your ATM at a different bank ATM, Post Office ATM, etc.
Do you have partner banks in Europe that will NOT charge the fees?
Any fees for minimum/small withdrawals/ like 20.00, 25.00, 30.00, 40.00 50.00???
Verify your pin # is 4 didgits.

Most banks now say that you should not sign the back of your card – write in SEE I.D.
Also place a piece of clear scotch tape over the 3-didgit security number on back so it does not wear off. If it does, you have to order a new card.
ATTN POSTERS: Please don’t confuse readers and give your answer, assumed answers or opinions to any of these questions unless you call your bank and post ALL your bank answers.

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Thanks Packer.

rockadiva
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so I checked with my bank, (Capital One), and was able to get a MC debit card (which I didn’t already have because I don’t use them) and a Visa credit card. The debit card had the option of being strictly from my checking account, or from both my checking and savings, I thought this would come in handy. Neither have foreign transaction fee’s, and I was told that I wouldn’t be charged any ATM fee’s (except for from whichever bank I withdraw from there) and that they do not charge a conversion charge. Now, that being said, I’ll post when I get back and let you know how all this works out.

I am leaving from Houston, TEXAS!!!! with $1250 for 15 days
Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Interlaken, Florence
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Itinerary, Nightlife, Food
I am leaving from Houston, TEXAS with $4000 for 22 days
Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Paris, Brussels
I am traveling for 20 days
Milan, London
Requesting help with Itinerary, Food, Sights