Many people want to travel again to cover the pent-up demand that has arisen as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. If your next vacation is taking you to a foreign country outside the eurozone, you may want to know how to get foreign currency without paying high fees.
Before traveling outside the Eurozone, it is important to be aware of exchange and foreign exchange fees. Exchange rates are complex and constantly fluctuate as part of global trade. Due to the daily ups and downs in the markets, the exchange rate may vary in some banks, merchants and exchange offices.
It is easy to overspend in a foreign country. This is partly due to a different feeling when spending money in a different currency. Prices in stores and restaurant menus may not seem as realistic or familiar as they are in euros. It can also be interesting to see and use interesting colored foreign banknotes and coins that you may not be familiar with in everyday life. But if you’re not careful, you may end up paying more than you planned.
In general, some methods of cashing out and shopping locally have more advantages than others. The tips and tricks below will help you enjoy your travels outside the Eurozone while reducing fees.
1. Get cash from your home bank before leaving Germany
One of the best ways to reduce currency exchange fees is to exchange money at your bank in Germany before leaving. Depending on the country (or countries) you plan to travel to, most major banks will have foreign currency available that they can exchange for you.
You can get the coins in cash at a local bank branch, or you can order them online or by phone and have them delivered to your home. Depending on your bank, where you live and the desired national currency, you can receive some currency on the same day. For currencies that are in lower demand, you may need to allow a few days or more of lead time.
If you can plan ahead, chances are you can get cash at a cheaper exchange rate by calling your bank in Germany right before your trip.
“Customers who order their foreign currency money through their bank can rest assured that the money they are receiving is real and that they are getting the best legal rate,” said John Sellers, CEO of Bank of America Rewards.
2. Avoid exchange offices at airports
If you don’t have time to exchange money before your flight, it can be tempting to get foreign currency from an airport kiosk or exchange office. While these places are convenient, their exchange rates are usually much less favorable than the exchange rates at your local bank.
For example, if you’re traveling to the UK and your bank is going to give you an exchange rate of £72 for 100€, the airport kiosk might give you £67 for just 100€. If you have done the exchange in your home bank previously, you will now have 5 extra pounds in your pocket.
Airport kiosks may also charge higher fees, which are sometimes hidden in the worst exchange rates they offer to exchange Euros for US Dollars, Sterling, Francs or any other currency. On a short-term trip that requires cash in foreign currency at the airport, it may be worth the extra cost due to its convenience. If you can plan ahead, you should avoid airport kiosks and other change desks in crowded areas – because their business depends on them charging extra for the convenience of a last minute option.
3. Pay by credit card, but watch out for foreign currency fees
Once you arrive in your destination country, it may make sense for you to be economical with your foreign money and try to pay with your credit or debit card as often as possible.
But this can pose another problem: foreign currency or international fees. Depending on which bank and card you have, every purchase made with your credit or debit card abroad could incur a 1.7 percent transaction fee, for example.
This means that if you visit a restaurant in London, Zurich or Tokyo and spend the equivalent of €100, your bank or card issuer will charge an additional fee of €1.70 on the cost of your meal. If you spend a total of 5,000 euros on a trip and a foreign fee of 1.7% is charged on each purchase, that means 85 euros in additional costs.
How can you avoid foreign transaction fees? Do your research and read the details written on your bank and credit card accounts before setting off on your trip. Contact your bank and ask if they charge fees for foreign transactions.
If you still have time before your flight, you can open a new checking account with a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees, or you can get a free credit card with no foreign currency fees independently of the account.
4. Pay in local currency to avoid currency conversion fees
With some retailers, you can choose whether to pay for your purchases in local currency or in euros.
This is not the case with every purchase. However, it happens that after swiping the credit card, the merchant displays a selection dialog: you can then either pay the amount in euros or in local currency.
If you have a choice, you should always pay in the local currency. Because if you pay in Euros, an additional fee will be charged to the exchange rate. Also, you are likely to get a worse exchange rate. The retailer’s payment system may make it more convenient to pay in euros rather than local currency, but it ends up being more expensive for you. Always pay in the local currency when using your card.
5. Learn about ATM fees and limits
If you want to withdraw cash from an ATM in a country outside the Eurozone, find out if your bank has ATMs in the city you are traveling to – you may be able to avoid exorbitant fees this way. Keep in mind that banks may charge a fee for using an ATM outside of their own network. These fees are in addition to the local fees for using foreign ATMs. ATM fees can accumulate, so be sure to withdraw enough cash to make the fees worth paying.
Similar to card payment, the same applies to ATMs: if possible, choose not to convert to euros. Because otherwise the machine operator is calculating the exchange rate which is likely to cost you dearly. Alternatively, select “Local Currency Billing” or similar wording; This might be a bit hidden in the ATM menu. Then the amount is transferred not immediately at a questionable exchange rate, but later at a mostly better exchange rate.
Before you travel, ask your local bank how high the daily limit for ATM withdrawals is for your account. If your daily withdrawal limit is set too low, you can ask your bank to increase the limit so that you can withdraw the amount you need during your trip.
Note that some overseas ATMs allow a lower maximum cash withdrawal than your local bank. Even if the daily withdrawal limit is 500 euros, a foreign ATM network or a bank may allow you to withdraw only 300 or 400 euros. Plan ahead to make sure you have enough cash on hand during your trip.
“Before you travel, find out if your bank offers free or discounted withdrawals from international ATMs,” says John Sellers of Bank of America.
6. Use of international banking applications
As a frequent traveler, you should consider using an international banking app to manage your money, such as TransferWise (now Wise), Revolut or others. These apps make it easy to transfer money between countries and manage accounts in different currencies.
For example, a multi-currency account allows you to store funds in different currencies. This is useful, for example, if you travel frequently to England, Switzerland or the USA, or if you want to go on vacation in Brazil every summer. This way you avoid fluctuating exchange rates because you always have some money ready for your next trip.
Before you plan your next trip to a country outside the eurozone, think about how you will get cash (money transfer) and how you will pay for your everyday purchases. Knowing the applicable exchange and transaction fees and the maximum amount of money you can withdraw from an ATM can help you save time and money. So you can enjoy your trip to the fullest.
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