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Best U.S. $$$ Denominations

Friend from Barquinha

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Where I am living in Portugal near Lisbon very few restaurants accept any kind of credit card. It is cash only!!!
Or--here just south of Tomar-- Portuguese debit (Multibanco) cards are very common currency. Anything bigger than the smallest cafe allows you to pay electronically, though not necessarily with a credit card. The proportion using cashless payment has upped dramatically since the covid shutdowns.

I'm not sure how non-national debit cards would work, though. Other European ones? Maybe? North American/rest of the world? Not so sure...
 
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TravellingMan2022

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When preparing for my first Camino a mere 20 years ago, I had a Toronto lawyer lecture me on how I needed to take Swiss francs and Swiss francs only to Spain. He had it in his head that one got the best rate for pesetas with Swiss francs and that if I tried to use Canadian or US $ the authorities would conclude that I was a drug dealer. His wife mentioned to me that he had not travelled in Europe for some time.

It was just as well that I ignored his advice, as pesetas had not been used for some time (although I found out that they are still quoted in some real estate transactions, for reasons I never quite understood).

Through a complicated set of circumstances, I did get a bank in Ponferrada to change some Canadian $ for me into €. I got a "What will the pilgrims want next?" look from the bank clerk, but she gave me the € at a fair price. My own normal practice is to withdraw cash at bank which charges no or little fees (usually DB or Liberbank)-- I try to break the larger bills for accommodation or restaurant meals, as I think it can be hard to keep small bills and change in smaller centres. I bought a splendid cat wallet in Santiago, so iti accomodates € without trouble.
My goodness, but you guys must spend a lot of time trading a lot of money. I haven't found that necessary on the Camino.
Found what necessary?
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Yearly and Various 2014-2019
Via Monastica 2022
Found what necessary?
Spending a lot of time trading a lot of money?
That's what I take from @C clearly's post. Like her, most of us pay no attention to such minutae as a few tenths of a percentage point. We care more that it's convenient and that it works when we need it to work.
 

TravellingMan2022

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Norte
Spending a lot of time trading a lot of money?
That's what I take from @C clearly's post. Like her, most of us pay no attention to such minutae as a few tenths of a percentage point. We care more that it's convenient and that it works when we need it to work.
Spending a lot of time trading a lot of money?
That's what I take from @C clearly's post. Like her, most of us pay no attention to such minutae as a few tenths of a percentage point. We care more that it's convenient and that it works when we need it to work.
Sure, my points are not for many, but many of us are not interested in debates about socks or disposing of waste so you can just take no notice, as I do on those subjects and many others. And it’s more about establishing the principles of buying currency in ‘home country’ versus ATMs ‘in market’.

I appreciate that’s it’s an older and quite affluent demographic on here in the main, and I know the relevative wealth of many folks from USA (seemingly the majority on here) make a few dollars irrelevant but not for all of us who live elsewhere. I did my first two caminos during Covid with young Europeans and their talk about how to save a few cents was even too much for me! The last one was with folks from USA and clearly ease and convenience were far more important than money in the main. It takes all sorts and it’s not a criticism. I am from UK and well aware of my relative wealth when I am on forums with folks from developing countries. I have been very poor but I’m not now (and I know which one I prefer!!) but old habits die hard and whilst walking across town to save a few euros on banks charges may seem crazy to some of you, old habits die hard! It’s why when someone ask about a ‘reasonably priced hotel’, for example, I ask them to name their price point, or when people say it’s ‘only’ €30 in a taxi from Barajas to centre so don’t bother with public transport I roll my eyes!

To stress this is not a criticism just an observation in good spirit!
 
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The banks in Spain only change USD for people who have an account with them.
So … back to $$ and €€ in Spain … I remember having read the requirement for being a customer of the Spanish bank before and also that a Spanish bank will not change larger banknotes into smaller ones nowadays. I would not be surprised if this is indeed the case for smaller bank branches. They don’t want to handle cash nowadays and some don’t even have the technical means for it any longer - hence the requirement to have an account with them and to use their ATMs. Of course, the majority of pilgrims won’t experience this as they never have a need to set foot into a branch.

I googled a bit and saw that a major bank in another EU country (not Spain) does indeed no longer buy foreign banknotes, not even from their customers and not even major currencies like £ and $; they still sell of course to their customers who must order in advance. Of course, in Spain you can go to a currency exchange booth at a major airport or to a Corte Ingles department store who will take $$ in cash and change them into €€ in cash if that is necessary or wanted. We’ve established already that it is no longer common practise in 2022 and why.
 
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Molly Cassidy

Travelling light
Time of past OR future Camino
Starting May 2023 from St Jean Pied de Port
In Ireland they have certainly stopped changing money for those who don't have an account. For years I used to change money occasionally at the bank across the road from my house in Ireland. One day I went in and they said the policy had changed.
 
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in Spain you can go to a currency exchange booth at a major airport or to a Corte Ingles department store who will take $$ in cash and change them into €€ in cash if that is necessary or wanted. We’ve established already that it is no longer common practise in 2022 and why.
As the question had been asked before where to change dollar banknotes into euro banknotes when on Camino in Spain, here is the link to addresses of those of the El Corte Ingles department stores who offer this service:

 

MichelleElynHogan

Veteran Member
Can I ask why you ‘buy’ foreign currency rather than just use a debit card with no fees. Has it been cheaper? Spain is experiencing huge growth in card payment btw up 25% in Q2!
Plastic, as many have advised here, is not as prevalent as one may wish, on the Camino. If using Albergues, refugios y donativos, plastic acceptance will be seen to drop dramatically to nearly zero. Hotels and restaurants will shift to plastic more readily, depending on local availability.

Second, cash provides a certain anonymity as all will know. It is one way of keeping one's nationality to oneself. A trip can be quite different if perceived as a native of the land over being perceived as foreign. Yes, the Camino is populated by mostly folk from away but parts can demonstrate very different statistics, like Sarria to SdC.

Lastly, plastic growth, I would anticipate, has grown worldwide, simply due to the Pandemic. Minimizing personal contact has been one of the reasons for that. With the Caminos, working one way for over a thousand years, plastic will not likely eradicate cash use any time soon. To support this, most of the Camino experience is in rural settings, less internet coverage and more traditional ways of living.

Hope this helps.
 

Jamieb

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2019
I didn't even bother trying to find the best money exchange rates - I just factored that into my budget, it is what it is type of thing for me. I ordered $500 worth of Euros in small bills from Bank of America and picked them up about a week before I left Texas. During my Camino I think I visited the ATM three times to withdraw euros and never had any problems. I only used ATMs connected to the popular banks during business hours just incase I had issues with my card.
 
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Found what necessary?
I have found it necessary as generally speaking, Europeans do not trade in Canadian dollars, although some of our banknotes are really very nicely designed-- I quite like the new $10 with Viola Desmond and the scarlet $50 with Mackenzie King is indeed very cheering.

The Euro makes it so much easier as I recall returning to Canada after a European trip and finding my wallet contained stray Irish bpuntaí (and a Northern Irish banknote!!-- try to change that!! It was refused in London!!), English sterling, French francs, and Spanish pesetas. I suppose that the only thing missing was Vatican lire. I also found a 500₧ note which had been used as a bookmark in a book I bought about the making of orújo-- I gave the note to a graduate student working on Franco's Spain, and he was really really pleased.
 

TravellingMan2022

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Norte
Plastic, as many have advised here, is not as prevalent as one may wish, on the Camino. If using Albergues, refugios y donativos, plastic acceptance will be seen to drop dramatically to nearly zero. Hotels and restaurants will shift to plastic more readily, depending on local availability.

Second, cash provides a certain anonymity as all will know. It is one way of keeping one's nationality to oneself. A trip can be quite different if perceived as a native of the land over being perceived as foreign. Yes, the Camino is populated by mostly folk from away but parts can demonstrate very different statistics, like Sarria to SdC.

Lastly, plastic growth, I would anticipate, has grown worldwide, simply due to the Pandemic. Minimizing personal contact has been one of the reasons for that. With the Caminos, working one way for over a thousand years, plastic will not likely eradicate cash use any time soon. To support this, most of the Camino experience is in rural settings, less internet coverage and more traditional ways of living.

Hope this helps.
Thank you very much for the response. I must admit I had never thought of the anonymity aspect but it’s a great point!
 

TravellingMan2022

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Norte
I have found it necessary as generally speaking, Europeans do not trade in Canadian dollars, although some of our banknotes are really very nicely designed-- I quite like the new $10 with Viola Desmond and the scarlet $50 with Mackenzie King is indeed very cheering.

The Euro makes it so much easier as I recall returning to Canada after a European trip and finding my wallet contained stray Irish bpuntaí (and a Northern Irish banknote!!-- try to change that!! It was refused in London!!), English sterling, French francs, and Spanish pesetas. I suppose that the only thing missing was Vatican lire. I also found a 500₧ note which had been used as a bookmark in a book I bought about the making of orújo-- I gave the note to a graduate student working on Franco's Spain, and he was really really pleased.
Yes the Euro has certainly made things easier but nostalgically remember the day of Lira, Pesetas, Drachma, etc. Oh well we still have the pound! It’s hard to change Scottish notes in England let alone Northern Irish ones!
 

henrythedog

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
My affair
Yes the Euro has certainly made things easier but nostalgically remember the day of Lira, Pesetas, Drachma, etc. Oh well we still have the pound! It’s hard to change Scottish notes in England let alone Northern Irish ones!
The service stations on the M6 (motorway) in the north of England (close to the demilitarised zone between England and Scotland) take the Scottish bank notes they receive in the southbound services and transfer them to the northbound side to use as change and to replenish the ATMs. (Scottish and Northern Irish notes are legal tender throughout the UK; but they are less commonly seen as one travels further south in England)
 

TravellingMan2022

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Norte
The service stations on the M6 (motorway) in the north of England (close to the demilitarised zone between England and Scotland) take the Scottish bank notes they receive in the southbound services and transfer them to the northbound side to use as change and to replenish the ATMs. (Scottish and Northern Irish notes are legal tender throughout the UK; but they are less commonly seen as one travels further south in England)
Yes very rare in South. You just never see one and if offered I would decline as I know it may not be taken in a shop/bar (even allowing for it being what tender).
 
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Oh well we still have the pound! It’s hard to change Scottish notes in England let alone Northern Irish ones!
This Yank didn't know anything about Scotland's and Northern Ireland's own banknotes until I viewed this video. Early on it side tracks into high denomination notes in other countries due to hyperinflation but gets back on track at 1:45 to talk about the high value note and the sensibly valued ones issued by the private banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Complex Reason £100 Million Notes Exist
 
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Molly Cassidy

Travelling light
Time of past OR future Camino
Starting May 2023 from St Jean Pied de Port
Yes very rare in South. You just never see one and if offered I would decline as I know it may not be taken in a shop/bar (even allowing for it being what tender).
The thing is that each bank in Scotland and Northern Ireland issues their own notes, so there is no standard "Scottish note". Some are more difficult to get rid of too. I remember the Clydesdale bank ones being particularly difficult to shift!
 

Molly Cassidy

Travelling light
Time of past OR future Camino
Starting May 2023 from St Jean Pied de Port
Not strictly true. Only three of the Scottish banks issue their own notes. There are other banks operating in Scotland which do not.
Fair enough. The reason the Clydesdale Bank ones are difficult to spend is that most English people have never heard of the Clydesdale Bank!
 
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As I replied to another commenter above, I'm aware of what countries can accept USD and yes, that Spain is different than SE Asia (where I lived for 2 years).

I was asking the OP where they heard that US dollars were accepted on the camino.
Hola @truenorthpilgrim , sorry if I misunderstood. My international monetary experiences go back to 1973 when all the countries of Western Europe had their own currencies.
For the past 10-15 years I have taken a mix of Euro notes/coins and locally (ie Oz) issued money card - loaded with whatever currencies I did - US Dollars; English Pounds, Euros and Japanese Yen. Yes there are ATM fees - usually around $2 or 3 AUD. So I make larger withdrawals once each 7 to 10 days. Cheers
 

dougfitz

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On another thread, someone responded thus:
Of course, you’re right - but the temptation to reply to a ‘I want to use currency x in a country where currency y is used’ post in very short sentences is only resisted because it might be considered rude.

I think ‘we’ have settled into an unusually tolerant style, but ten posts down the thread, finally, the gloves start to come off.

Most other forums would maintain that level of tolerance to … well, nowhere really. The obviously correct answer would be delivered, together with the odd expletive, and a suggestion that the OP shouldn’t slam the door on their way out.

I’m comfortable with the generally tolerant behaviour on here; but once in a while someone really does need telling where to get off the bus.
I think its probably just as apt here.
 
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I would always withdraw an amount like 180 Euros to ensure that if 20 Euro notes were available, they would be dispensed. The mathematicians will know that this will work for any number that isn't a multiple of 50 if there are 50 Euro and 20 Euro notes available. If there are only 20 Euro notes, there will be some amounts that cannot be dispensed.
Are you suggesting that a request for €70 will be delivered in 20's?
 
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A friend of mine lives on the west coast of Canada and informs me that her local community produces its own currency for local expenditures (https://saltspringdollars.com/) -- apparently there are a number of such systems around the world.

Perhaps some enterprising engraver could begin a Camino currency (with an artistic image of Saint James, of course) which pilgrims could exchange with each other as a token of esteem and which could be spent on visiting other pilgrims around the world, or perhaps as admission to pilgrim association events.
 

CaminoMonica

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I understand that U.S. $$$ can be used while on the way. What are the best denominations to carry?
$1. $5. $10. $20. $50. $100 bills
I always have some US currency in case of emergency because I can easily exchange it. But I’ve been in Europe many times and have come home with that exact same currency because an emergency never came up. I also always come home with extra Euro so the next time I land in those areas of Europe which use that currency, I can immediately get a cappuccino or cafe con leche!

There are countries around the world who require crisp USD (or Euro or pounds, etc.) to pay for a Visa at the border so I usually have some $50 USD with me but with more countries moving to e-visas, I arrive back in the US with those same $50 bills.
 
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konnie

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CF; Le Puy; El Norte; Monastery Santo Toribio; Monasteries Yuso and Suso
Wj

Wjat is your source for this info? Is it all banks? Does it include non Spanish banks based with outlets in Spain?
My personal experience. I don’t know about non-Spanish banks but I suppose you could research this yourself.
 

Dean Morgenthal

New Member
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Ingles, September 2016
Muxia-Fisterra October 2016
I understand that U.S. $$$ can be used while on the way. What are the best denominations to carry?
$1. $5. $10. $20. $50. $100 bills
I found exchanging sterling difficult and only in major cities. La Caixa Bank was the only one who would exchange, getting refused from numerous banks was embarrassing. Also factor in your going to lose an hour of your life as it’s a long outdrawn process. The banks will always make money this is the way of the world. But I think it’s best to take out money en route to last you 3-5 days and factor in €50 a day so you can have a comfortable time but realistically it’s about €30 per day.
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Time of past OR future Camino
2015 & 2016 (partial)
There are parts of the world that do take USD of course, but trust me the exchange rate and ‘rounding up’ won’t be to your benefit!! Not to be confused with countries where the USD is official currency, such as Ecuador.
For a brief time recently, the opposite was true—one US dollar was worth more than one euro. But that didn't last, and today (10 Dec 2022), a hundred dollars is worth less than 95 euro.

 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Time of past OR future Camino
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Yes the Euro has certainly made things easier but nostalgically remember the day of Lira, Pesetas, Drachma, etc. Oh well we still have the pound! It’s hard to change Scottish notes in England let alone Northern Irish ones!
I went to a post office to mail a package and the clerk gave me a bag of Dutch guilders and Danish kroner coins with the comment that she couldn't do anything with it. Wondered later why she picked me. But my grandchildren were happy when I passed them on. Now I'm thinking I should have checked their value to collectors. (Like the coins from many countries my mother-in-law kept from her pre-euro travels in Europe and Mexico.)
 

Molly Cassidy

Travelling light
Time of past OR future Camino
Starting May 2023 from St Jean Pied de Port
I went to a post office to mail a package and the clerk gave me a bag of Dutch guilders and Danish kroner coins with the comment that she couldn't do anything with it. Wondered later why she picked me. But my grandchildren were happy when I passed them on. Now I'm thinking I should have checked their value to collectors. (Like the coins from many countries my mother-in-law kept from her pre-euro travels in Europe and Mexico.)
I have a growing collection of coins that were passed off to me in my change, but are not, in fact, Euros!
 
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I have a growing collection of coins that were passed off to me in my change, but are not, in fact, Euros!
I used to get quite a few Canadian coins passed off to me at home in the US as they looked nearly the same as ours. I, in turn, was able to use them myself, but no longer. Our bank coin counting machines spit them out. They are a rarity to see now and when I do get one it's tossed in the trash.
 
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Usually airports will have a receptacle belonging to a charity, where you can deposit unwanted currency and put it to a good cause.
A great idea! Possibly other forum members may find this useful. I have never seen a receptacle (nor looked for one) and now Canadian coins no longer pass through my fingers.
 

C clearly

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Most years since 2012
At the end of international flights in the past, passengers would be encouraged to put coins in envelopes that the flight attendants organized and gave to charity. I haven't seen this for awhile, though.

Here is a website about the UNICEF Change for Good program. All those pennies that you have saved through clever banking conversions, can be donated.
 
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FWIW, I used a newly installed ATM today and to my surprise it gave me more options than what I've been used to so far.

This was new for me: I was not obliged (but could have done so) to enter a set amount and then try to pick a combination of 50s, 20s and 10s from the menu that suited me the most. Instead, I was presented with the option of simply entering the numbers of 50s, 20s and 10s that I wanted. So I requested ten 20s and out came 200 € in 20 € banknotes only. They looked new and crisp, too. Nice.
 
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Thanks for confirming my thoughts about that I had posted in #54. Now we know for certain that we will be seeing more of these note options as new ATM's machines begin replacing the old.
 

TravellingMan2022

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Norte
FWIW, I used a newly installed ATM today and to my surprise it gave me more options than what I've been used to so far.

This was new for me: I was not obliged (but could have done so) to enter a set amount and then try to pick a combination of 50s, 20s and 10s from the menu that suited me the most. Instead, I was presented with the option of simply entering the numbers of 50s, 20s and 10s that I wanted. So I requested ten 20s and out came 200 € in 20 € banknotes only. They looked new and crisp, too. Nice.
Thank you. That’s one step on from anything I have seen. Best I have seen is two options. Say €200 at 4 x 50 or 2 x 50 + 5 x 20! Which bank/ country?
 

Molly Cassidy

Travelling light
Time of past OR future Camino
Starting May 2023 from St Jean Pied de Port
Thank you. That’s one step on from anything I have seen. Best I have seen is two options. Say €200 at 4 x 50 or 2 x 50 + 5 x 20! Which bank/ country?
I have found this at some ATMs in Spain but I can't remember which bank and I've never actually bothered to go through the process.
 
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dick bird

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Assuming a 30 day camino and a daily expenditure of $75 US per day, that would amount to $2250. That is a lot of cash to be toting around, especial as the US$ is not even legal tender in Spain.
 

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