Money Matters

Ryan Rhodes Wed, 08/13/2014 - 07:37

What's the best way to travel with the European currency? 

For conversion rates you can go to the following websites:

Don’t bother with travelers checks; it’s not a common thing anymore.  An ATM or cashpoint is the way to go in Europe so bring your debit card and a couple of credit cards from different companies for back up.  Also, instant cash as you arrive is vital, around 100 - 200 pounds or Euros depending on where you’re flying in. Buy the cash from a bank before you leave home, (remember you might have to order the money in advance).  You can also use an ATM at the airport but after a long flight it’s the last thing I want to do and the lines are usually long.  Bank ATM’s will give you a better exchange rate than currency exchange offices.

Let your bank know the dates you will be in Europe, both credit and debit card banks/companies. This is one of the most important things to do or they might put a freeze on your card if they see a transaction for large amounts in another country.

CASH TIP: If you have cash left over at the end of your trip, pay your hotel bill with your cash and finish the bill with your credit card.  This will save you exchanging money when you return home.

Most European ATMs will only accept cards with 4 pin numbers, so check your cards beforehand, if the pin is more than 4 numbers it might not work.  A debit card is good for ATM’s, you will pay a higher fee for using a credit card at an ATM. Do not use your debit card for purchasing things always use your credit card or cash.

You will pay a fee per ATM transaction so don’t make so many frequent trips to the ATM, max it out, get a stash and keep it safe in your money belt. Some ATMs are not stocked up on the weekend, so make a Friday trip to the ATM to cover you over the weekend, just in case. Don’t leave yourself with just a few euros/pounds before you hit an ATM again. If you are in a remote area with just one ATM in sight and it is broken, out of money, or won’t accept your card, you’re stuck. As far as debit cards go, some banks only let you take out so much money a day, make sure you find out your limit. Some ATMs will also have a limit, if it is not enough, plan on going to several ATMs that day. Also, most ATM’s in Europe will only let you access your primary account, which is probably checking.

Some credit card companies don’t charge an exchange fee; find out what your company charges, it might be worth getting a new credit card for your trip. Capital One does not charge. Try out your new credit card before you leave to make sure it works.

The majority of bank ATMs in Europe do not charge fees for foreign credit/debit cards, you usually only have to keep in mind what your bank charges for a foreign transaction fee. However, be aware of companies that try to outsmart the tourist by putting an ATM next to a bank, they charge high fees, companies such as Tavelex, Euronet or Forex. 

Find out if your local bank has an international partner bank where you can withdraw cash from the ATM without fees. For example, Bank of America has partner banks in most countries and if you use their ATM's – no transaction fees.

Chip-and-Pin credit cards have been in Europe for about ten years now.  There is less credit card fraud in Europe and it’s a safe way to travel. The swipe and sign cards in the U.S. are not accepted in a lot of places anymore, especially at train ticket vending machines, petrol stations, toll roads and for parking and quite a few shops don’t even have the swipe machines anymore.  If they do have swipe machines, they are more of an inconvenience because they’re rarely used; some cashiers don’t even know how to use them. Also, when you sign your name for the credit card they are very strict with the signatures looking the same. It will be less of a hassle for you in Europe if you find a credit card company that does a Chip-and-Pin card, they are out there.  (NOTE: this is not a swipe and pin card, or a Chip and sign card, it HAS to have both chip AND a pin#).  A swipe and sign debit card with 4 digit pin number still works at an ATM, the only time you should use your debit card. You do not need a chip-and-pin card for the ATM.

European Countries and their currency:

Britain – Pounds (GBP)

Switzerland and Liechtenstein – Swiss Francs (CHF)

Norway - Krone (NOK)

Denmark – Krone (DKK)

Sweden – Krona (SEK)

Czech -  Koruna (CZK)

Hungary - Forints (HUF)

Polish -  Zlotys (PLN)

Rest of Europe – Euros (EUR)

Britain has a very strong currency; it uses the British Pound and is one of the most expensive places to visit in Europe. ATM’s are all throughout the country and British Banks do not charge fees for foreign credit/debit cards but your bank might. Check conversion rates so you know what your money is worth.

Switzerland and Liechtenstein have been using the Swiss Franc since the 19th century under the Swiss Federal Constitution and it still continues to be strong.  The banknotes feature the four national languages of Switzerland; German, Romansh, French and Italian and can be bought at any Swiss bank and ATM. It is quite expensive in Switzerland, especially public transportation, hotels and eating out at nice places, so be prepared.

Scandinavia - Norway, Denmark and Sweden All three countries have their own currency and will only accept their Kroner ‘Crown’ – (NOK, DKK, SEK). So if you’re planning on visiting them all, plan on using three different currencies. Again, the ATMs do not charge fees, just your bank. Finland is the only Scandinavian country that has adopted the Euro. 

Rest of Europe January 1st 2002, the first European Union countries officially began using the euro banknotes and coins. It was quite a transition for everyone. I remember it well. It became quite convenient for us as travelers to not have our pockets full of different currencies for each country we visited, but it was a little sad to say goodbye to currencies that had been part of people’s lives for generations.

Just like Britain, you can find ATM’s all over these countries, at main airports, train stations, in high streets and market squares.  

23 countries that are currently using the euro.

Andorra  Austria  Belgium  Cyprus  Estonia  Finland  France  Germany  Greece  Ireland  Italy 

Kosovo  Luxembourg  Malta  Monaco  Montenegro  Netherlands  Portugal  San Marino  Slovakia 

Slovenia Spain Vatican City