Now that the European cruise season is in full swing, thousands of cruisers are flocking to the Mediterranean and Northern Europe to take their dream cruise. But nothing will sour a trip quicker than not knowing a few basics when it comes to dealing with international exchange rates. Having traveled extensively throughout Europe over the years, here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that might help save you a few international headaches!
1. Do not use airport exchange booths.
Unless you’re the type of person who just wants to give their money away, steer clear of the currency conversion booth at the airport. Not only are their service charges higher than you’ll find elsewhere, but they also tend to inflate the currency (meaning you’ll get less bang for your literal buck). These places are a worse bet than you’ll find in any casino… and at least there, you have a chance of coming out ahead!
2. Do exactly what you’d do back home: Use your ATM card!
Rather than getting ripped off by the airport conversion counter, consider just using your ATM card to get money out when you land. I did this the last time I was in Barcelona and was charged a 1.5% fee from my credit union back home… as opposed to the 25% fee the conversion counter was charging! I’m no mathematician, but I’m pretty sure that’s a way better deal!
3. Plan ahead!
It never hurts to convert a little bit of money at your bank before you leave the states. While it’s very simple to go to the ATM machine upon landing and take out cash, a whole lot of other people are going to have the same idea. This can sometimes mean lengthy lines… or worse, the machine itself running out of currency! Trust me: The last thing you want is to find yourself in a foreign country with no cash. Making sure you have converted at least some money before leaving home will help you avoid that situation!
4. Avoid the ATM aboard the ship.
Cruise ships that are sailing in Europe usually have two ATMs aboard: one that dispenses US dollars and one that dispenses Euros. But cruise lines aren’t banks, and they aren’t there to convert your cash out of the kindness of their hearts. So on top of paying your bank’s conversion fee, you will also get charged a (usually hefty) service fee for using the ATM onboard, on top of any charges you may incur from your local bank for using an out of network ATM.
5. Have a dedicated travel card.
I recently signed up for a Capital One card because they have no foreign transaction fees. Even if you don’t go the credit card route, consider opening a travel account at your bank. This way if something doesn’t look right when you get home, you can dispute the charge and it won’t impact the primary account out of which all of your other bills are paid. Avoiding that hassle is well worth it!
These are tips that I’ve learned in my travels to Europe, but you should always check your bank for current rates, the value of the European dollar, and transaction fees.
How do you convert and get Euros when traveling to Europe?
Featured photo: flickr