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Best method for currency / spending

rickle1rickle1 2596 replies21 threads Senior Member
S will be in Barcelona in the fall. I haven't been out of the country in a long time (back in the Travelers Checks days). What do people do for currency exchange today? I assume there's a way to access his existing US accounts without having to actually get euros. Although like the US, I imagine there are some places that only take cash. Do the ATM machines convert US Dollar to Euros? Do they charge ridiculous fees above the exchange rate to do so?
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Replies to: Best method for currency / spending

  • AboutTheSameAboutTheSame 3179 replies48 threads Senior Member
    You can use ATMs in Spain and get euros. They will show as dollar withdrawals on your/his bank statements. He will want to find out which banks are no fee with his/your home bank. You actually get the lowest exchange rate this way. Do NOT exchange dollars for euros at the airport. You do not need to send a semester's worth of euros with him -- but sending some as a starter kit is highly recommended.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83296 replies740 threads Senior Member
    Yes, ATMs can be used to get local currency.

    He should check his home bank to see if it adds fees and conversion surcharges to the amount. Such fees and surcharges can vary considerably from one bank to another, so it may be worth opening an account with a bank that has lower or no such fees or surcharges. Some banks may have associated banks in the other country which would have lower or no fees or surcharges.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 40797 replies7570 threads Super Moderator
    edited June 2019
    Do NOT exchange dollars for euros at the airport.
    I assume you mean at a kiosk as opposed to an ATM, with which I'd agree.
    sending some as a starter kit is highly recommended.
    And maybe not even then, unless the parent is gifting the cash. BCN (like pretty much every European airport) has ATMs associated with a major bank. Even if the airport ATM has a fee, it's likely to be little different than going to the local Chase/BoA at home to exchange cash.
    it may be worth opening an account with a bank that has lower or no such fees or surcharges.
    Probably not necessary for a semester, but one thing that I would suggest is for him to explore buying a burner phone there, unless you have a great cell plan that covers international roaming.
    edited June 2019
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6519 replies1 threads Senior Member
    For short trips I mostly have used ATMs, as was suggested in the comments above.

    One other approach that I have used when going out to dinner with colleagues that I know well is to put the entire meal on my credit card, and have them pay me back with local cash. I have seen the same cash rotate between the same four or five people on some trips.

    You will want to check the exchange rate and fees for each of your credit cards before you go to find out which one gives you the best rate.

    I will assume this is a relatively short trip. If your son is going for four years, they you might want to check whether you would get a better rate by opening up a local bank account. If you do this, then it has to be declared on your US tax return.
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  • ClassicMom98ClassicMom98 516 replies1 threads Member
    edited June 2019
    My S spent last semester in the UK. He used ApplePay for most transactions. I think for cash he withdrew from ATMs, but it wasn't often. He also went to Verifone upon arrival and got a European sim card for his phone. His plan was $20 for 2GB of data that lasted him about a month at a time. I want to say unlimited (European) talk/text, but he never did that with us obviously. But this way we could still imessage each other as usual which surprised me, and he was able to use his regular phone. And it was nice for him to have Applemaps & such for traveling around.
    edited June 2019
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 10112 replies118 threads Senior Member
    My D just came back from a month long study abroad in Italy and used her credit card all the time. Never had to use her ATM for euros.
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  • rickle1rickle1 2596 replies21 threads Senior Member
    thanks for all the great tips!
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  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger 3146 replies175 threads Senior Member
    If it's anything like the US will he need cash? I make 99.9% of purchases with a credit card.
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