You’d be surprised by just how much extra you can cost yourself if you don’t plan how you’ll carry your travel money in advance. Charges can differ per ATM machine, by card or by currency, so it’s important to do some homework before setting off on your travels. This post will discuss both how to minimise extra charges for trips in Europe.
- Cash withdrawals: Whether or not you decide to go for a travel card (see below), if you’re using any sort of card to withdraw cash from ATM machine’s while in Europe then fees can be pretty hefty. Most debit cards charge both a commission fee as well as a flat fee to withdraw foreign currency, and credit cards can charge even more. Talk to your bank about international fees as every one is different, but a general rule is to make as few withdrawals as possible.
- Card payments: Normally these aren’t as steep as withdrawal fees, with banks usually charging a percentage of the total cost as well as using a dubious exchange rate. Although for one off card payments you might be cheaper than withdrawing cash, if you intend on using your card more than once it will most likely be cheaper to withdraw a lump sum of cash.
- Prepaid Travel Cards: There are tons of cards available in the UK for travel across Europe, but I’ve found Ramsdens to be the best when it comes to both the Europe and the US Dollar. Cards are safer than carrying cash, as if it goes missing you can cancel it immediately and order a new one to wherever you are. You can upload cash online, free of charge to your card and use it both as chip and pin or to withdraw cash. There’s no fee to use your card as switch for anything more than €10, and a standard fee of €1.50 for every withdrawal.
- Eastern and Northern Europe: Most of Central Europe use the Euro, so carrying Euros in cash or a Euro travel card pose no issue. When you start to head East or North, different countries like Hungary or Norway have independent currencies. If you’re doing a longer trip and will be visiting several countries, the easiest thing to do would be to withdraw a large sum in a single currency and then change it as you go. When we visited Europe last summer, before leaving Venice we withdrew enough euros to last us the remainder of out trip in Eastern Europe, then converted portions of it in each respective country as we moved along. It also meant that if we had any leftover at the end of our trip, it would all be in a single currency and would be easy to change back into pounds.
- Exchanging cash while travelling: There are literally thousands of currency exchange kiosks and shops in the large European cities, but most of them charge a ridiculous amount of commission to convert cash. Lots have hidden fees, so be sure to ask plenty of questions and to check and double check your receipt before signing it.
My general feeling towards carrying currency, especially for any length of time, is to carry a little bit of cash and keep the remainder on your card. There’s pickpockets and accidents can happen, so be sure to minimise any possible losses. Travel cards are a really good way of not only keeping track of your spending as you get online statements, but can be used upon returning home as chip and pin or to withdraw the cash.