A donation to the forum removes ads for you, and supports Ivar in his work running it

Advertisement

Camino Forum Donation

Advice please on ATM cards for France & Spain

Hopeful Australian

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014
HI, I'm an Australian watching the Euro / AUD exchange rate a bit nervously. This is a new thing for me - I've never had enough money to worry about such things. (I've been left some money, and this is my gift to myself in memory of Dad. I'm not going to be rolling in spare cash as it is, though I know that's relative.)

Now I'm considering purchasing a card .. maybe two ??? because I've heard that's wise in case of one being unknown to some ATMs in France / Spain. So, I wonder if there are any comments on that.

Also, I'm wondering whther there are any comments on best cards? I'm not travelling until April 2015 now - various unfortunate things have delayed me 12 months, but maybe it's a good thing, since I've read recently that some anniversary of Francis of Assisi in 2014 might increase pilgrim traffic everywhere in Europe.

Besides, now I've decided to try to tackle at least some of the chemin in France, I need more time to work on my non-existent French. Why the extra? I have no idea. But it feels right to do it.

So, I'd like some opinions about whether it's a good idea to :

1. buy some Euros now in case the rate worsens .. or is there something I don't know about this stuff?
2. One card / two cards .. what?
3. Good cards for Australians to get?

I'll be the first in my family to set foot in Europe since 1915, so I lack good advice or even cultural understanding for doing this. Thanks, Hopeful
 

KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
I just used my ordinary (New Zealand) bank eftpos/credit cards in the ATMs in France and Spain without any problems. I took two cards in case I had a problem with one of them at any stage. I think so long as you have a four digit PIN you are fine to do this, though it also pays to let your bank know whereabouts you are traveling. There is a fee for using an overseas bank ATM that I have to pay my bank here in NZ for each withdrawal, so I used to get about 300 Euro out each time I withdrew funds. It's almost impossible to predict how the Aussie dollar will be compared to the Euro in 2015- I wouldn't buy ahead, but that's just my opinion. There are special cards you can load Euros onto for travel, but I looked at the various fees associated with these, and decided I wouldn't be any better off than just using my ordinary ATM card- but it might be different for your bank.
Margaret
 

evanlow

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances06
Primitivo07
Plata08
Norte12
Levante(14-15)
Vasco16
Mozarabe(16-17)
Madrid17
Portuguese18
If you are not spending investment level amount, then just try to start with 500 euros, and 300 euros a pop via the ATM.
 

Tia Valeria

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pt Norte/Pmtvo 2010
C. Inglés 2011
C. Primitivo '12
Norte-C. de la Reina '13
C. do Mar-C. Inglés '15
From the UK we only buy euros to put on a euro cash card about 1 month before travelling, maybe 2 months if the rate looks good. This gives us some cash from ATMs seperate from our bank cards - withdrawal fee of 2€ so we always withdrew the daily (24 hour) maximum. We would not buy too far in advance, although the euro seems more stable now. We also take our credit cards and inform our provider, broadly, of our itinerary.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
For some years I have been relying on a combination of cards and a small amount of cash. Currency depends on where one is travelling, but for Spain, having some Euro at the start is good if you are not comfortable using cash machines in airports. You can buy currency at Australian post offices, as well as currency exchange booths at airports. Any credit card with a 4-digit PIN will work across Europe and the UK, or you could choose a reloadable debit card.

My wife sometimes purchases USD if the rate is looking particularly good, but normally not too far in advance. That approach is okay because we are then staying in hotels where we can secure things, and are not walking around with large amounts of cash on us. In Spain, I rarely had more than 200 euro on me at any one time. There was only one time I was caught short, at Los Arcos after Easter, when I had to wait for an hour until the bank opened and they re-loaded their cash machines. Otherwise I didn't have any difficulty getting cash out when I needed it.

If you are not travelling until 2015, I personally don't see the value in purchasing currency now. You might want to consult a licenced financial advisor if you want to speculate in that way. I normally carry Visa and Amex, with Visa much more widely accepted. My wife also carries a Mastercard, which has the same acceptance as Visa, except for a small range of bank cash machines which are affiliated to just one. These are rare. Note, however, that this is more a matter of our personal banking history than any well thought through strategy.

Regards.
 

camino07

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances x5, Portuguese VdlP12, Sanabres, Aragones, Norte,Salvador,Primitivo, VdlP 17,Madrid18Norte
Hopeful Australian
I was recommended an ANZ travel card and have used one on my last two Caminos and will do in 2014. No fees from ATMs in Spain and only $11 to get. No problems at all and even had double currency last year when continuing to Scotland.
I also am worried about our low dollar but my bank person says she is waiting until after the Festive Season to buy Euros so I will wait also. I usually take about 500Es in cash as well.
 

biloute

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Chemin du Puy & Camino Francés (summer 2014), Chemin du Puy & Camino Francés (possible summer 2019)
As long as you have a Visa card, or your card has Cirrus on it (on the back) you should be okay to use it in Europe.
 

Cejanus

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJDP - Santiago April "2013"; European Peace Walk"2015"; VIa de la Plata "2016"
Hi I used a Commonwealth Bank travel card and it was terrific. Worked well in France and Spain. You get two cards. You lock in the exchange rate so have a look on line. ANZ and the other Australian Big Banks have similar products. Also take cash with you some euros.
I drew out euros as I went along from time to time. However be careful to check what the bank in Spain is going to charge you to use your card as some of them are really expensive. When I found this I just cancelled my request and found another ATM.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese.
If you are nervous about the exchange rate get a Commonwealth Bank or Qantas travel money card and put some Euros on it now.
Most Australian cards with a MasterCard chip work easily in all the Spanish ATMs - I've used the Commonwealth travel money card and also the ordinary Commonwealth card to make direct withdrawals from my bank account.
Just make sure you only have a 4 digit pin - I once was caught with a 6 digit pin which does not work in French or Spanish ATMs.
Choice has an article on travel money cards which is worth reading.
 

bimblingalong

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2010 SJPP-Belorado / 2012 SJPP- Finisterre / 2014 Santander- Lugo (Norte/Primitivo), Ponferrada-Chantada- Invierno, SdC-Muxia.....
( August 2015 C Portuguese from Valenca)
Hi there, just to add to the info....my Bank of Queensland direct debit worked in most ATM' s throughout Spain...think it is affiliated with Santander from memory?!!but as back up I took a Thomas Cook travel card loaded with some Euros ( purchased in the UK) & had transferred a little emergency cash to my Lloyd's bank card ( UK) ...
 

Tia Valeria

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pt Norte/Pmtvo 2010
C. Inglés 2011
C. Primitivo '12
Norte-C. de la Reina '13
C. do Mar-C. Inglés '15
If you have a Mastercard you can use their website to check out ATM locations and the filter to find 'free' ones (ie the ATM does not have a charge although your card's own fee will still apply.
As far as we could see most Visa controlled ATMs will charge on top of the card fee.
 

jirit

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2007,
Via Francigena Italy, 2008,
Jakobsweg Austria 2010,
Camino Frances 2011,
Le Puy to Lourdes 2012,
Via de la Plata 2013,
Future:
Ökumenischer (Via Regia), Germany,
Lycian Way, Turkey
Timing currency values into the future is a bit of a mugs games - the only thing you can be guaranteed of is being wrong 50% of the time.

This said historical the euro has been weaker against the currencies from commodity based countries like Australia and Canada in the beginning of the year. It seems to rise during the year becoming more expensive in terms of Australian and Canadian dollars - this only makes sense as trade and tourist travel increases as the year progresses.

This is why it has been less expensive for my wife and I to walk in Europe in the spring as compared to the fall.

Again this said, there is a generally a strengthening of the US dollar and to a lesser extent the euro so I suspect over time, both currencies with rise against the Australian and Canadian dollars. A rising US dollar means lower commodity prices, higher longer term interest rates and lower commodity based country currencies.

But for traveling purposes I rarely take out advance foreign currency. Instead I just take my debit ATM card and two credit cards for larger purchases, taking cash out as I go. I also let my banks know that I will out of country during this period, because this has proved to be a bigger headache than trying to figure the future value of the euro.

I try not to get stuck with any euro left over too - I can not buy food with euro back in Canada, so having euro sitting the drawer is not much good to me.

Basically avoid taking too much of any currency not yours and keep the transaction levels low ( those banks charge about 5% difference between the wholesale and retail rates - if you are wondering why the banks are so well off), plus hit with you with a $2-5 dollar transaction fee. Therefore for example I take out the daily max allowed each time to keep those transaction fees to min .

Banks are the robber barons when it comes to foreign exchange.
 

Tia Valeria

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pt Norte/Pmtvo 2010
C. Inglés 2011
C. Primitivo '12
Norte-C. de la Reina '13
C. do Mar-C. Inglés '15
The exchange we use told us that the rate starts to change in April as the tourist season starts so we try to get or euros by the end of March, before the rate goes against us. That is OK for May walking but not so good for later in the year, unless you are happy to make the change 'early'. We too have changed our euros back to £GB although if we work it right we haven't many left on the card. It is better taking it home to change back in cash. We leave just enough on the cards to keep them 'live' - about 5€, which takes a bit of working out when loading them.
(250+2 per withdrawal, plus a few spare euros in case a machine does charge which gives a few 'left over' each year).
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 was Camino #14
I highly recommend Charles Schwab Bank. It is an online bank and investment company.
They reimburse ALL fees at the end of the month.
They do not charge a fee for exchange of currencies but give you the common "spot" rate.
I love the card and use it every Camino.
The only downside is that you have to make your deposits via mail, but they send you postage free envelopes.
It's an old company, been around a long long time.

Also, unlike other banks, I have never had a problem getting a human person to talk to when I have questions.

Highly recommended.
 

colinPeter

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-SDC (2009) Somport-Jaca, Burgos-SDC, Cee-Muxia (2012) Le Puy - Aumont-Aubrac (2014) SJPP-SDC (Oct 2015)
Hola Hopeful,
Regarding advice on exchange rates, anyone who really knows that answer would be mega rich from trading FX. (ie not sure they would still be a bank teller)
Prior to 1st Camino, I think I was exchanging at around .48 to A$1 (ouch!), the second around .80 to A$1 (Yippee!) (2008 -2012).
Maybe buy a bit now and a bit then, hedge your bet, so to speak.
I've used a few travel money cards ANZ, Commbank and Cash Passport, all worked fine in France & Spain.
I think all providers issue you with a spare card to "squirrel away".
At the time, I found Visa more prevalent for ATM's, particularly in Spain. However, most of the travel money cards have now switched to MasterCard, probably better margins.
I usually take some Euros, but only enough to keep me going for a few days.
Buen Camino
Colin
 

DebR

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances:
2013; 2014; 2015; 2017; 2018 (October)
Hi there,
I used a NAB Traveller card when I went in April / May this year. Liked it because it came with two separate cards, each with a different number, so if one was lost / stolen, it could be cancelled without impacting use of the second card. As someone else suggested, take maybe £300 out at a time to minimize fees. I never worried for an ATM either.
Only quibble - allow a week to load it up at the beginning!
Buen Camino
 

tploomis

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Sept. to Nov., 2013
Keep your cards in separate locations on your body in case you're pickpocketed, and if you are traveling with a spouse make sure she is carrying different cards than you. If one of you is pickpocketed and you have the same cards, neither of you will be able to use the your cards until you have replacements sent to you at some point down the road. I was pickpocketed in the train station in Madrid this September on the way to St. Jean Pied de Port to start the Camino, and discovered these were the mistakes I had made.
 

jl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances('05, '07), Aragonese ('05), del Norte / Primitivo ('09), Via Tolosana (Toulouse '05), Via Podiensis (Le Puy '07), Via Lemovicensis (Troyes '09), VF ('12), Winter Camino ('13/'14) Cammino d'Assisi ('14) Jakobseweg (Leipzig - Paris '15) San Salvador/Norte ('15) Ignaciano ('16) Invierno ('16)
I find that it is quite simple to withdraw 500 euro in France just using my debit cards ( I always take two from different banks) whereas in Spain it is more likely that I will only be allowed to take out 300. To cut down fees I have cancelled a transaction and tried another ATM outside a different bank. I only ever carry a Max of 200 in my wallet - the rest is squirrelled elsewhere. Janet
 

jirit

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2007,
Via Francigena Italy, 2008,
Jakobsweg Austria 2010,
Camino Frances 2011,
Le Puy to Lourdes 2012,
Via de la Plata 2013,
Future:
Ökumenischer (Via Regia), Germany,
Lycian Way, Turkey
I find that it is quite simple to withdraw 500 euro in France just using my debit cards ( I always take two from different banks) whereas in spain it is more likely that I will only be allowed to take out 300. To cut down fees I have cancelled a transaction and tried another ATM outside a different bank. I only ever carry a Max of 200 in my wallet - the rest is squirrelled elsewhere. Janet
We tend to withdraw money from those banks that have a deal whereby the withdrawal fees are waived and like yourself I tend to take the largest amount possible out each time, never carrying much more than a few 20 euro notes on me.

The larger national and international banks allow for higher limits while I find the local case popular banks keep the limits lower
 

piogaw

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino frances (05/06 2012) sjpdp-sdc; vdlp/camino sanabrea (02/03 2013) sevilla-sdc; hospitalero sdc june 2013, august-september 2013; caminho portugues (03 2014) lisboa-sdc
To change the subject, if you are a santander customer from the uk, you can use your santander debit card to withdraw money from santander bank or atm in spain without any fees. Although you can take out only the equivalent of £300 sterling per day, at least you can take out smaller amount everyday.I don't know about santander customers from other european countries whether they can do the same thing. Maybe other peregrinos can let us know.

Santander is i think the biggest bank in europe with head office in santander.
 

jirit

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2007,
Via Francigena Italy, 2008,
Jakobsweg Austria 2010,
Camino Frances 2011,
Le Puy to Lourdes 2012,
Via de la Plata 2013,
Future:
Ökumenischer (Via Regia), Germany,
Lycian Way, Turkey
To change the subject, if you are a santander customer from the uk, you can use your santander debit card to withdraw money from santander bank or atm in spain without any fees. Although you can take out only the equivalent of £300 sterling per day, at least you can take out smaller amount everyday.I don't know about santander customers from other european countries whether they can do the same thing. Maybe other peregrinos can let us know.

Santander is i think the biggest bank in europe with head office in santander.
Largest in Spain. Number 7 in Europe
 

piogaw

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino frances (05/06 2012) sjpdp-sdc; vdlp/camino sanabrea (02/03 2013) sevilla-sdc; hospitalero sdc june 2013, august-september 2013; caminho portugues (03 2014) lisboa-sdc
Sorry jirit, santander is the largest bank in spain. And the second largest bank in europe according to market capitalisation.
 

jirit

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2007,
Via Francigena Italy, 2008,
Jakobsweg Austria 2010,
Camino Frances 2011,
Le Puy to Lourdes 2012,
Via de la Plata 2013,
Future:
Ökumenischer (Via Regia), Germany,
Lycian Way, Turkey
Sorry jirit, santander is the largest bank in spain. And the second largest bank in europe according to market capitalisation.
In terms of capitalization you are correct. I was looking at asset value.

But I guess the reason I have never used them is that they cap international withdrawals to only 250 euros. Tried them a couple of times and each time the machine won't allow me to take more than 250 euros. But as you indicated it is probably as different story if you have an account with them.
 
Last edited:

Trish MacGregor

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
First timer
Hi..

A Kiwi here. I know what you are saying about watching the rate. It went up and down by 5cents when I was there in Aug/Sept 13.

Like KiwiNomad06. ..I took two ANZ cashpoint cards and a visa.
I took around 1000 euro in 20 € notes. Try not to take 50's as they are really hard to break up.
Also....when you arrive try and break some of your money into coins. (E.g For a bus in Biarritz)

The first time I used an ATM was in Leon. I never had a problem....but I did follow advice to only use an ATM at a bank and during week days just incase the machine ate my card. Them i could pop inside to get it back.
I kept most of my money on me at all times....but split the cards up.

Make sure if you take your credit card that this had a four digit pin as well. I mainly used my credit card for booking accomodation thru Hotels.com.

:)
Hi Lise ... I didn't realise I could take my ANZ card? Mine is an airports eftpos/credit card all rolled into one (if you know what I mean!). So am I able to use this through Spain ... and France too do you know? Any advice would be most appreciated. Cheers, Trish.
 

NicoZ

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013
1) Don't use your credit card to withdraw money from the ATM. It'll be treated like an advance and you'll get hit with fees . Use the credit card in shops in credit card mode.

2) Ask your bank what they charge for overseas withdrawals with your ATM card. My Canadian bank doesn't charge anything. The local machines may .

3) Two cards from different banks and networks are a good thing. Having two cards from the same bank/network will only help if you lose or somehow damage the first card.

4) Only get enough cash to manage the first day. You may want to buy a coffee or lunch or need to pay a fee before finding an ATM.
 

piogaw

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino frances (05/06 2012) sjpdp-sdc; vdlp/camino sanabrea (02/03 2013) sevilla-sdc; hospitalero sdc june 2013, august-september 2013; caminho portugues (03 2014) lisboa-sdc
In terms of capitalization you are correct. I was looking at asset value.

But I guess the reason I have never used them is that they cap international withdrawals to only 250 euros. Tried them a couple of times and each time the machine won't allow me to take more than 250 euros. But as you indicated it is probably as different story if you have an account with them.
hi jirit,

i do not understand you were limited to 250 euros per day for withdrawals. my experience has been i am allowed to withdraw the equivalent of £300/day, the same as in the uk. many of the banks and building societies will let you withdraw only this amount at the atm. but you will be able to withdraw a maximum of £500 at the cashier window of your own financial institution. there are no hidden charges of anything. of course there is the exchange rate conversion.

i don't know whether santander operates in canada or not, at least i have never seen them in toronto. but the rules could be different from the uk.

it has been my experience all over the world to take money out of the atm, you will normally get a better rate than taking out the foreign money at home. however, watch out for the fees you will incurred, ie charges by your bank, charges by the issuing bank, conversion charges.

NEVER, NEVER USE A CREDIT CARD TO TAKE MONEY OUT OF THE ATM>
 

jirit

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2007,
Via Francigena Italy, 2008,
Jakobsweg Austria 2010,
Camino Frances 2011,
Le Puy to Lourdes 2012,
Via de la Plata 2013,
Future:
Ökumenischer (Via Regia), Germany,
Lycian Way, Turkey
hi jirit,

i do not understand you were limited to 250 euros per day for withdrawals. my experience has been i am allowed to withdraw the equivalent of £300/day, the same as in the uk. many of the banks and building societies will let you withdraw only this amount at the atm. but you will be able to withdraw a maximum of £500 at the cashier window of your own financial institution. there are no hidden charges of anything. of course there is the exchange rate conversion.

i don't know whether santander operates in canada or not, at least i have never seen them in toronto. but the rules could be different from the uk.

it has been my experience all over the world to take money out of the atm, you will normally get a better rate than taking out the foreign money at home. however, watch out for the fees you will incurred, ie charges by your bank, charges by the issuing bank, conversion charges.

NEVER, NEVER USE A CREDIT CARD TO TAKE MONEY OUT OF THE ATM>
Santander has no presence in Canada and far as my Canadian bank is concerned there is no agreement in place whereby the withdrawal fees are waived with Santander.

My bank has agreements in place with a number of banks in Europe and worldwide, whereby the withdrawal fees are waived (saving us $5 dollars per transaction), so I tend to use them when possible.

Further in almost cases I can take out my daily and weekly max from these same banks which in the Spain does not include banks like Santander and almost never includes all the smaller regional banks, etc
(I have not tried them all obviously)

I am sure if you have a UK account with Santander then the terms are more favourable as compared us in the "colonies"

:)

I agree that normally the best rate is through ATM withdrawals but the spread between the buy and sell can be as large as 10%, so this is why I try to ensure I go home empty handed.

On a side note, in the days before ATM cards, when my wife and I traveled around the world, we would transfer money from our bank account and add it to our Visa Gold card. Then we would use the Visa card as a ATM card to withdraw money without charge. In fact Visa actually paid us interest on the money we deposited on the card!
 

Trish MacGregor

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
First timer
Hi ya Trish.
I took my ordinary ANZ eftpos card. I took two actually...just incase. You can only use them at ATM's not at Spanish eftpos terminals.
Your all in one card sounds like a debit card. These are good for making purchases online. ( e.g booking a hotel in Leon). You can use a debit card at an ATM. I think you have to make a choice as to what account to take money out of. All the ATM's that I used had a button to click to put them in English. Phew:)

Trish...I would suggest taking your debit and your eftpos card just incase you loose one.

I have used my cards all over the place France, Auzzie, Singapore, Dubai, Morocco and never had a problem. Have a look on your cards and you will see a "plus" logo. Look for that when you are at an overseas ATM and it means you can use it. You will see them on nz ATM's here as well.

Trish.....I bet you are itching for 2014 to come around....I was like you this time last year. I think I had just received my Brieley Guide and was devouring it;)
Hey thanks for all the info Lise ..... sounds like the plan for me. Yep can't wait till next year ... I'm hooked on this forum already. Always such great advice and comments. Have a great Xmas!! xx
 

OLDER threads on this topic


Book your lodging here

Booking.com


Advertisement

Booking.com

Latest posts

Most downloaded Resources

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Camino Forum Store

Camino Forum Store

Casa Ivar Newsletter

Forum Donation

Forum Donation
For those with no forum account, it is possible to donate here as well. Thank you for your support! Ivar

Follow Casa Ivar on Instagram

When is the best time to walk?

  • January

    Votes: 12 1.4%
  • February

    Votes: 5 0.6%
  • March

    Votes: 37 4.4%
  • April

    Votes: 132 15.6%
  • May

    Votes: 203 23.9%
  • June

    Votes: 60 7.1%
  • July

    Votes: 17 2.0%
  • August

    Votes: 13 1.5%
  • September

    Votes: 252 29.7%
  • October

    Votes: 100 11.8%
  • November

    Votes: 12 1.4%
  • December

    Votes: 5 0.6%
Top