Americans heading off on a trip to Europe often wonder whether or not they should buy euros back home before taking off. Naturally, the thought of leaving for a foreign country without a single piece of foreign currency in your pocket can be an unnerving one. You can feel so, well, naked!
So should you buy euros before leaving? And if so, where?
It’s a great question — and it depends upon on a few factors. But first, my general rule of thumb:
Generally speaking… no need.
In most cases for Americans heading off to major European destinations, my answer is to just say “no” to buying euros in advance in the States. Unless you have a great bank that doesn’t charge for the service — and gives real exchange rates, not lousy inflated rates — those euros will be overpriced. And, for the most part, they’re unnecessary.
Instead, make sure your debit card will work abroad and head straight to the nearest bank ATM once you’ve arrived at the airport to take out euros.
And for the most part, that’s that.
But, what happens if…
I know, this doesn’t really do much to calm the nerves, right? What happens if you wind up in a vulnerable position? What if the ATM machine in the airport is broken, non-existent, or has an impossibly long line?
If, for some crazy reason, all the ATMs at the airport are broken (I’m tossing aside the possibility of “non-existent”, as I’ve never heard of, nor landed in, a major European airport that didn’t have an ATM), or more likely, there’s just a really long line, you can always use your credit card to get into town (via public transportation or taxi) and from there go to a bank ATM.
But what happens if the airport doesn’t have an ATM and you can’t, for some reason, buy a ticket into town or pay for a taxi with your credit card? Well, chances are very strong that they’ll still have a currency exchange counter. If you find yourself in this unlikely situation, you can head over to the counter and cash in some US dollars. (It’s always a good idea to bring some along for emergencies.)
However, it’s worth noting that this string of circumstances will probably not apply to airports into which you’d initially be touching down in Europe. This brings up a point worth addressing:
Into which airport are you arriving?
If you’re flying from the States to Europe, you’re most likely landing in a major European destination (including all capital cities). These airports will have bank machines. Some examples:
- Amsterdam Schiphol: ABN AMRO Bank has 8 locations in the terminals.
- Barcelona-El Prat Airport: Many ATMs for 5 different Spanish banks in both terminals.
- London Heathrow: Many ATM options to pick up some GBP.
- Paris Charles De Gaulle: 25 HSBC ATMs throughout the terminals.
- Rome Fiumicino: ATMs in the terminals.
- Venice Marco Polo: Bancomat in the arrivals hall.
Click the links above to visit the airport websites and read more. If you’re arriving into another airport, visit the official website of the airport and you’ll be able to check on ATM and bank services, along with public transit options.
If, however, you’re somehow landing into a really off-the-beaten-path regional airport, ATM services might be limited. Again, it would be a good idea to research the airport services in advance.
Who should buy euros in advance?
If you’ve made it this far in the article and you’re still nervous about traveling without any euros in your pocket, by all means, pick some up ahead of time — it’s not worth worrying about, especially if it’ll prevent you from relaxing and enjoying your flight.
However, do your best to not get taken for a ride by your bank (and avoid these other costly mistakes before your trip to Europe). Understand from your bank what exchange rate you’ll be given and whether or not they’ll be taking a commission or adding a service charge. This will help ensure you have strong travel dollars on your trip.
Also, be very wary of buying them at your departure airport back in the States. Ask for a printout of exactly what you’ll be paying before handing over any cash — and be sure to know the current exchange rate. (Warning: It’s not going to be pretty.)
If buying euros in advance, whatever you do, don’t overdo it! In almost every case, euros you can get abroad from an ATM will be cheaper than those you can get back in the States. When buying in advance, get just enough to give you a comfortable cushion and get you through a day’s worth of emergency expenses.
An ATM machine in Europe. Photo: Marco
A few notes about using ATMs abroad
1. Ask your bank about ATM fees before leaving
First, be sure to call your bank before your trip to tell them that you’ll be in traveling in Europe (to ensure that your card will work), and, while on the phone, ask how much you’ll be charged for each withdrawal.
Each bank is different, so know what you’re dealing with. Do they charge a percentage or a per-withdrawal fee? If it’s the latter, you’ll want to make as few trips as possible to the ATM. Here’s a list of questions to ask them.
2. Stick to official bank ATMs
When using ATMs abroad, stick to cash machines that are associated with major banks (look for those located inside bank lobbies or on the side of bank building). Make sure you see a bank logo somewhere on the cash machine or signage.
Steer clear of “stand-alone” cash machines that aren’t a part of a bank, especially in tourist centers. These might actually be associated with overpriced currency exchange services. (Chances are you’ll end up paying a service charge AND get a lousy exchange rate.)
Stash away some euros for next time!
One last note: If possible, at the end of your trip, try to set some euros aside for your next European adventure. There’s no need to splurge at the airport on the way home (although a Duty Free binge can usually help cast aside the end-of-the-trip doldrums).
Instead, keep your unused euro bills and coins in a special place. I keep mine in my dresser as a constant reminder that I’m set for my next trip, and as a bit of encouragement to get back on the road again.
Sometimes, a few euro bills in your sock drawer can be all the encouragement you need!
Your tips for buying euros
Do you buy euros before you get on the plane? Tell us what you do when you’re heading across the pond.
Read more of our best European tips:
• Planning a trip to Europe? Avoid these 10 mistakes!
• A guide to buying a SIM Card in Europe
• How long can you stay in Europe with an American passport
Should you buy euros before going to Europe? ›
Resist the urge to buy foreign currency before your trip.
Some tourists feel like they just have to have euros or British pounds in their pockets when they step off the airplane, but they pay the price in bad stateside exchange rates. Wait until you arrive to withdraw money.
You can get better rates by ordering foreign currency from your local bank or credit union before you start your trip. Correct! Banks and credit unions generally offer the best exchange rates, and many won't charge extra fees to exchange currency. Remember to order the foreign currency before you start your trip.Is it better to get euros here or in Europe? ›
If you use a US credit card in France, Italy, Spain, or another European country, you may be wondering whether to pay in euros or dollars on an American credit card. The short answer is: Always pay in the local currency (Euros), which allows your bank to set the exchange rate, and it will always be a better option.Is it better to buy euros at the airport? ›
Currency exchange shops and kiosks in airports are not the best places to exchange money. For the best rates, try a local bank or a bank ATM to make your currency exchanges. Check to see if your U.S. bank offers foreign ATM fee refunds for using a foreign ATM.Is it better to get euros or use debit card? ›
Advantages of an overseas card
The main advantage of using a debit or credit card overseas is that you won't pay foreign transaction fees every time you spend. While many also won't charge fees for cash withdrawals, you will still usually be charged interest from the date of the transaction if you use a credit card.
A good rule of thumb is to carry $50-$100 a day in the local currency while travelling. Remember, though, that cash may not be the best option to pay for travel expenses. Credit cards offer great rewards, lower transaction fees, and can help you get a better exchange rate.Is it cheaper to buy euros in the US or in Europe? ›
If buying euros in advance, whatever you do, don't overdo it! In almost every case, euros you can get abroad from an ATM will be cheaper than those you can get back in the States. When buying in advance, get just enough to give you a comfortable cushion and get you through a day's worth of emergency expenses.When to buy euros with dollars? ›
Monday is therefore the best time to sell dollars and buy euros with a 2-3% lower total exchange rate. On the flip-side, Wednesday and Friday are the best days to sell euros and buy dollars.Should I get euros before going to Paris? ›
Always choose the local currency, euros, to avoid extra DCC charges. Consider limiting your transaction to 100€-200€, as you can get a better deal at bank and credit union ATMs once you're in Paris proper.Is it better to exchange money in US or in Europe? ›
You will typically get a better rate exchanging your home currency for something else in your home country, for example, than you will by exchanging dollars for a local currency in another country.
What is the best way to get euros for travel? ›
Credit unions and banks will exchange your dollars into a foreign currency before and after your trip when you have a checking or savings account with them. You won't face trying to spend your remaining euros before the end of your trip and can convert them back to dollars when you get home.Should you carry cash in Europe? ›
key takeaways. European travelers should always have some cash on hand; getting it from an ATM abroad is usually the easiest, most advantageous way. Credit cards are generally accepted, especially in cities; but check with your card issuer about foreign transaction fees and currency exchange fees.Is it more expensive to get euros at the airport? ›
Always aim to avoid buying your currency at the airport as you're then a captive audience so rates are usually hideous. If you've left it late, at least see if you can order ahead for pickup at the airport, as rates are typically much better than simply walking up to a bureau.Is it better to exchange money at the airport or destination? ›
At best, you may have to exchange your money at the airport – known universally as the place with the poorest exchange rates. And at worst, you could find that your destination has no places to exchange currency, leaving you at the mercy of extortionate international card fees.Will my bank charge me for paying in euros? ›
Your bank must charge you the same rate for payments in euro across the EU as it does for equivalent national transactions.Is $100 a day enough for Europe? ›
Backpackers should expect to spend between $40 – $70 USD/day in Eastern Europe, $70 – $100/day in Western Europe, and $150 – $200/day in the Nordic countries.Can I use my cell phone in Europe? ›
YES. Unless your mobile operator has explicitly told you that you have a roaming data limit, you can use the full amount of data under your domestic contract when you go to another EU country.Do American debit cards work in Europe? ›
Debit cards from any major US bank will work in any standard European bank's ATM (ideally, use a debit card with a Visa or MasterCard logo). As for credit cards, Visa and MasterCard are universal, American Express is less common, and Discover is unknown in Europe.How can I take advantage of dollar to euro? ›
How to take advantage of favorable exchange rates. Americans who want to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate should use a credit card without a foreign transaction fee whenever possible. Those fees can add 3% to the cost of each purchase, thereby eating into the euro-dollar savings, Rathner said.How many euros should I take to Italy for a week? ›
Budget to spend around €450 for two for a week in Italy. This assumes you're cooking some of the time and drinking some alcohol. If you enjoy eating out, you can expect to pay around €65 for a nice dinner for two, including an alcoholic drink.
Is it better to exchange money or use credit card? ›
Using a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and choosing to make purchases in local currency will nearly always save you money.Is it cheaper to get euros from a cash machine? ›
Throughout Europe, ATMs are the easiest and smartest way for travelers to get cash. You'll usually pay withdrawal fees, but you'll still get a better rate than you would exchanging dollars for local cash at a currency exchange booth.Where is it best to exchange dollars to euros? ›
Local banks and credit unions usually offer the best rates. Major banks, such as Chase or Bank of America, often offer the added benefit of having ATMs overseas. Online bureaus or currency converters, such as Travelex, provide convenient foreign exchange services.Is there a best day to buy euros? ›
Best day of the week to exchange currency
According to data from WeSwap and The Telegraph, you'll generally enjoy the best currency exchange rates on Fridays and Saturdays. Currency can fluctuate throughout the day too, with the morning or late afternoon cited as the best times to buy.
In one month the Euro / Dollar exchange rate could be at 1.0754 according to market pricing as of 14/03/2023.Should I get euros before going to Italy? ›
By buying a lot of euros in advance, you will get ripped off exponentially. By carrying a lot of cash when in Italy, you will make yourself incredibly vulnerable to theft, either from your person, or from your accommodation. Almost every store and restaurant in Italy accepts credit or debit cards.How much is $100 euros in U.S. dollars? ›
|10 EUR||10.6596 USD|
|25 EUR||26.649 USD|
|50 EUR||53.2979 USD|
|100 EUR||106.596 USD|
U.S. dollars are not accepted in most establishments, though some hotels, shops, and restaurants may accept U.S. dollars at an agreed upon exchange rate. Coins: 2€/1€/50 cents/20c/10c/5c/2c/1c The Euro is divided into 100 cents, or centimes.Is it cheaper to use credit card or cash abroad? ›
3. Spending is almost always cheaper than withdrawing cash when you're on holiday. If you've a top overseas credit card, spending is almost always cheaper. Even on cards with no cash withdrawal fees, you'll usually still pay interest on the withdrawal until you pay it off.Do any European countries accept US dollars? ›
When you're visiting another country, you typically need to convert your money into the nation's currency. Some countries, like Greece and Ecuador, will accept US dollars and save you the hassle. Despite the British Virgin Islands being part of Great Britain, its official currency is the US dollar.
Is American money accepted in Europe? ›
If you're traveling abroad, local merchants probably don't want your U.S. dollars. If you did not exchange money before leaving, after unpacking and settling into your hotel, exchange your American money for the country's local currency, but do it the right way.How much cash should you travel with internationally? ›
The general consensus is that you should have $50 to $100 in cash per day for each traveler. However, this amount could vary considerably depending on where you are vacationing. Some destinations are more cash-friendly than others.Can I get euros on the same day? ›
Euros can be ordered online and collected within 2 hours from participating branches* or delivered to your home the next working day.How much does it cost to get euros from an ATM? ›
The fee is generally around 1% to 3% of the transaction amount. There isn't a great way to avoid foreign transaction fees aside from getting a debit or credit card that doesn't charge this fee. Travel credit cards often waive this fee, for example, and you may even find a good option that doesn't have an annual fee.How many euros do I need per day in Europe? ›
Travelers must prove they have a minimum of 34 Euros per day. Italy – Italy, however, isn't as simple. If travelers stay for up to 5 days, they must prove a fixed sum of 269.60 Euros. If travelers stay between 6 to 10 days, they must prove they have 44.93 Euros per day.Do American credit cards work in Europe? ›
American credit cards work throughout Europe (at hotels, larger shops and restaurants, travel agencies, car-rental agencies, and so on); Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted. American Express is less common, and the Discover card is unknown in Europe.How much euro do I need for 2 weeks? ›
You might want to save up roughly €2500 to €3000 for a two-week sojourn through Europe.Is it better to exchange money at home or abroad? ›
The exchange rates at most airports are far worse than in the city. This is simply because they don't have to be competitive. If you still want to pick up the currency from the airport, it's much cheaper to order it online first and pick it up on the day.How do I avoid travel fees in Europe? ›
The easiest way to avoid a foreign transaction fee is to use a debit or credit card that waives foreign transaction fees while traveling abroad. Luckily, there are plenty of credit and debit card options that offer this perk for those crossing borders.Should I get cash before going abroad? ›
Honestly, it's a great idea to pre-order some cash in the local currency through a travel agency (like AAA) to make sure you have a backup method of payment, at least for your first day or two abroad— especially if you won't have phone service when you land .
Is it better to carry cash when traveling? ›
Advantages of using cash
No foreign transaction fees: Many credit cards charge an extra fee of up to 3% on purchases made outside the country, although you can find cards that don't. No extra fees: Businesses pay interchange fees to banks for processing credit card payments, which eats into their profits.
If you are on a domestic flight in the US, there is no limit to the amount of cash or monetary instruments that you can carry. However, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) security officers at the passenger screening area may ask a passenger who is carrying a large sum of cash to account for the money.Is it a good day to buy euros? ›
According to data from WeSwap and The Telegraph, you'll generally enjoy the best currency exchange rates on Fridays and Saturdays. Currency can fluctuate throughout the day too, with the morning or late afternoon cited as the best times to buy.Is it better to pay in euros when abroad? ›
Research shows that in most cases you can save by opting to spend in the local currency. For example, that would mean choosing euros in Spain or dollars in the US. When you choose to pay in the currency of the region or country you're visiting, Visa or Mastercard will set the exchange rate.What is the best way to spend euros abroad? ›
Summary. In my opinion, the best way to take money abroad is using a pre-paid card or an app-only bank debit card, with a small amount of cash for emergencies. It is easy to open a new app-only bank account, and if you do so before you go on holiday, you needn't do anything else.Is it better to exchange money in US or Europe? ›
You will typically get a better rate exchanging your home currency for something else in your home country, for example, than you will by exchanging dollars for a local currency in another country.Do I need to order euros in advance? ›
Be sure to order the Euros well in advance of your holiday so that they reach you in time for your departure.What day of the week is best to sell euros? ›
Monday is therefore the best time to sell dollars and buy euros with a 2-3% lower total exchange rate. On the flip-side, Wednesday and Friday are the best days to sell euros and buy dollars.What is the best day of the week to exchange currency? ›
There is no specific best day to exchange currency, different factors such as political, economical factors, etc. play roles on currency exchange rates.What is the best way to pay a bill in euros? ›
- Money Transfer Directly into Their Bank Account. You can decide to transfer the money from your bank account directly to your supplier´s bank account. ...
- Use the Credit Card. ...
- PayPal. ...
- TransferWise. ...
- Western Union.
Is it best to pay in euros on credit card? ›
While there are some situations where it may make sense to use DCCs, it's usually better to pay in the local currency – especially if you use a credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.What is the safest way to carry cash abroad? ›
Prepaid currency or travel cards are the modern version of travellers' cheques – and arguably the safest way to carry money abroad. Before you travel, you can load your prepaid currency card with local currency so you can withdraw cash from an ATM on holiday.