What with the less than optimal exchange rate between the dollar and the euro we are already at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the ‘most bang for your buck’ while in Europe.
AmEx Traveler’s Checks are not used much anymore. You have to find some place to cash them (not all places take them) and that place will charge a fee unless it is and American Express office.
Cards -Credit or Debit?
What most people do these days is use an atm machine and their debit card or a credit card. So, lets look at the fees involved in using ‘cards’.
PLEASE note that many banks in Europe, just as in the US, will charge you a fee if you are not a customer of theirs.
AND According to Money Central at MSN. Visa and Mastercard corporation are going to add 1% onto whatever amount you withdraw as a currency conversion fee. Then the bank may charge as much as 2% more on top of that for doing absolutely nothing for a whopping 3% total. Here is the article:
Credit Union credit card, Commercial Bank debit, Credit Union debit
I looked into the charges associated with three 3 cards: my Kern Schools Federal Credit Union (KSFCU) Visa credit card, my Union Bank debit card, and my KSFCU Visa debit card.
I called my KSFCU Visa provider to see what they charge. The woman I spoke with said that they charge what every other company charges: 3%! And on top of that the interest rate for a cash withdraw on the credit card is 24.24%!!! So, you do not want to use any credit card to get cash. Save the credit card only for making purchases.
Commercial Bank Debit Card
Next I called a commercial bank. I have an account at Union Bank and was thinking of using the debit card linked to that account. They charge a $5.00 fee every time you use the atm in a foreign country whether it is to transfer funds, check your balance, or withdraw cash. So if you are going to withdraw funds from an atm take out as much as you possibly can at a time to minimize the amount you pay for it. If I were to make a purchase using the debit card my account would be charged a 2% foreign purchase fee.
Credit Union debit card
Finally, I called KSFCU to find out the fees associated with using my debit card. They charge 1%. So this is probably a good way to go.
This is very cool:
According to Independent Traveler:
“… if you have a Capital One card, you won’t pay any fees at all — Capital One is the only major U.S. issuer that doesn’t charge its own currency conversion fee or pass the one from Visa and MasterCard on to the consumer.”
“We recommend calling before each trip, as these policies may change without notice.”
If you don’t want to get another credit card there is another option. EF has a Travel Prepaid Visa Card. This is a debit card. You have already deposited funds to your account and can use it until the funds are gone. It looks to me like the Visa company does charge a percentage for currency conversion and it looks like another 1% is also added to that.