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Conversion to Euros on the route to Camino Frances

Jeanne F

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
none
#1
Hello Pilgrims!
I leave in two weeks for my first Camino! I am traveling from the US to Paris and then onto SJJP. Where and when is the best way to exchange currency? At airport? Before I go? How easy is it to get more euros while on the route?
Any advice
 

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Camino(s) past & future
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF15, CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF17, CP17, CdN, CM, CF18, LePuy19
#2
Don't take too many USD's with you because they are worthless, they are as poison as Travelers Checks. Most banks will not even deal with them, especially in a small town. A valid US ATM debit card will give you access to up to 300 euros every 3 days or so and the exchange rate is regulated by the bank dispensing the cash and your card holder. Read the many threads on this Forum about the warnings of trying to withdraw on weekends when the machine might eat your card and the comments that the machines that do and don't accept certain US cards.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
#3
Do you mean physically changing US dollar bills for Euros? More difficult to find places on the Camino itself than you might imagine. For a small amount of cash ready to hand on arrival it would be a good idea to change some money at home before departure or on arrival in Paris. The easiest way by far of getting Euros while walking is simply to use a debit or credit card in an ATM and withdraw cash directly from your US bank accounts. You may find you have to pay transaction fees - though some banks do not charge them - but it would be far more convenient than trying to find a bank or currency exchange willing to exchange currency notes.
 

davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#4
I only carry an amount of dollars that might be needed while waiting at a US airport to catch a flight to Spain, and for when I arrive back. When I arrive at my European airport, I use my debit card to obtain about 300 euro before anything else. I'll need cash for taxis, busses, food, etc. once I'm there. And because the Camino is a cash economy, I am ready to go. When I get down to 100 euro, I will look for an ATM affiliated with a bank, and withdraw 300 more euro.

If I can specify denominations, I will try for 10 and 20 euro bills only.
 

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fraluchi

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
One every year since 2007
#6
[...]Where and when is the best way to exchange currency? At airport? Before I go? How easy is it to get more euros while on the route?
To start off, never change a foreign into local currency at an airport. Before you leave home for Europe, obtain some Euros from your local bank, sufficient to cope with expected expenses for the first day or so. A credit card is best (except American Express) for withdrawals from ATM's or in banks' offices. Advise your bank that you will be using your card abroad for some time. When carrying cash in US$, avoid $100 notes. Not all banks will exchange $$$, so expect having to do this only in the larger towns. The same applies to other than US$ currencies.;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); February/March (2019)
#7
Hello Pilgrims!
I leave in two weeks for my first Camino! I am traveling from the US to Paris and then onto SJJP. Where and when is the best way to exchange currency? At airport? Before I go? How easy is it to get more euros while on the route?
Any advice
I’d hit an ATM in the Paris airport. You typically get the best exchange rate at ATMs from reputable banks. You can find ATMs along the way in the larger towns and cities. Not so much in the villages.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
#8
Coming from EU I would never make withdrawals with my credit card because fees are so much higher than those for usual bank account cards (0,48€ per withdrawal in my country). I don't know if it's different with US credit cards...
But I would make payments with my credit card where possible which is usually when you book accommodation on-line, in bigger hotels and also in supermercados but only for amounts larger than 10€ (it varies and depends on the name of the store).
 
Camino(s) past & future
Aug-Sept(2016) SJPDP-Finisterre, July-Aug(2017) SJPDP-Muxia-Finisterre, July-Aug(2018) El Norte
#9
I only carry an amount of dollars that might be needed while waiting at a US airport to catch a flight to Spain, and for when I arrive back. When I arrive at my European airport, I use my debit card to obtain about 300 euro before anything else. I'll need cash for taxis, busses, food, etc. once I'm there. And because the Camino is a cash economy, I am ready to go. When I get down to 100 euro, I will look for an ATM affiliated with a bank, and withdraw 300 more euro.

If I can specify denominations, I will try for 10 and 20 euro bills only.
I do the same. And be aware that some ATMs will ask you if you want the bank to do the currency conversion for you. Always say no. This is called dynamic currency conversion, and it only benefits the bank. Also, when you do use your credit or debit card to make purchases you will often be asked if you want the amount charged in Euros or dollars. Again, choose the Euros option. Here's some info about dynamic currency conversion: https://thepointsguy.com/2015/06/dynamic-currency-conversion/
 

grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes
#10
Many of us from the U.S. now use a Schwab Bank debit card to withdraw from ATM's along the way.
Schwab charges no fees and will reimburse any fee charged by the dispensing ATM...thus no-fee ATM use.
There are a few others now doing this. We just found Schwab easy to set up and deposit to. Good idea to set it up in advance early. That would apply to other banks/credit unions also.

As far as immediate use euros...I always have a pretty good amount left over from my last camino so do not have to make any arrangements in the U.S......but if I do not I will simply go to my bank and get about 100 euro in small bills. That will get you through the first day if you are unable to find a working ATM.
I use the ATM in the airport...I have found the exchange rate to be the same in an airport ATM as in town.
ATMs can be found even in small towns..but probably not in villages without much infrastructure.
I usually withdraw about 300 euro and stay above 100 euro on hand.
I do keep track and start looking for an ATM early.
Do not use an ATM on weekends or holidays or on Friday after the bank has closed. If the ATM eats your card you will have to wait until the next time the bank will be open to go inside and try to get it back. Bummer!
If possible, have 2 cards so that if one is lost or "eaten" you will still have a source of money.

Finally...Don gives great advice above. Just take a little USD to get you by in the U.S. airports. You cannot use dollars in Europe and will risk losing them for no reason.
Do not carry large sums of money. The camino is not crime or theft free....better than most places but thieves have now began to target pilgrims as they know that most are carrying cash and other valuables. Sad but part of life. Be as careful as you would at home and do not let your guard down.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Aug-Sept(2016) SJPDP-Finisterre, July-Aug(2017) SJPDP-Muxia-Finisterre, July-Aug(2018) El Norte
#11
Many of us from the U.S. now use a Schwab Bank debit card to withdraw from ATM's along the way.
Schwab charges no fees and will reimburse any fee charged by the dispensing ATM...thus no-fee ATM use.
There are a few others now doing this. We just found Schwab easy to set up and deposit to. Good idea to set it up in advance early.
I also use a Schwab account. I would have mentioned it in my earlier post, but I'm not sure if @Jeanne F has enough time to set up an account. Though the information is good for those in the US who have more time.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF Sept/Oct 2013
CF April/May 2016
#13
Hello Pilgrims!
I leave in two weeks for my first Camino! I am traveling from the US to Paris and then onto SJJP. Where and when is the best way to exchange currency? At airport? Before I go? How easy is it to get more euros while on the route?
Any advice
Hello!! What made it easy for me was to take my Wells Fargo debit card (let your bank and credit card companies know the dates you will be traveling and to where) When I got off the plane at CDG I found the nearest ATM machine and took out 240 euro. 40 euro went into my fanny pack the rest went straightaway into my MONEY BELT. The machine will calculate the rates for you and will show on your receipt. Right now it will cost you $1.24 for 1 Euro. (this rate changes daily) Not too bad. It was a lot worse when I went. I know WF charges $5 each time you use an ATM. Use ATM's in bigger cities during regular banking hours. I think I only used an ATM a total of 4 maybe 5 times. I spent approximately 1000 euro. So at today's rate 200 euro will cost you $247.49 + $5 WF fee. I recall it costing me approx. $1350 US total. I was frugal but never felt deprived.
When in Santiago I used my Capital One CC, no transaction fees (The best card IMHO for travel abroad).

I'm so excited for you and hope my little bit of info helps you. Remember to trust the arrows and keep on walking. :) WooHoo!!
 

grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes
#14
I did neglect to add the very important warning to call your bank/credit union and have them note on your account that you will be using the card internationally.

It will be denied immediately for suspicion of fraudulent use if you do not call and advise them.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
#15
I did neglect to add the very important warning to call your bank/credit union and have them note on your account that you will be using the card internationally.
It is interesting that my banks (the rwo largest in Canada) no longer want this information. Their websites say so quite clearly.
 

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
#17
Never had a problem with €50's anywhere in Spain in 2012, 13 and 14. Its no different to any place in Europe.
 
Camino(s) past & future
April 2017 or Sept 2017
#18
To start off, never change a foreign into local currency at an airport. Before you leave home for Europe, obtain some Euros from your local bank, sufficient to cope with expected expenses for the first day or so. A credit card is best (except American Express) for withdrawals from ATM's or in banks' offices. Advise your bank that you will be using your card abroad for some time. When carrying cash in US$, avoid $100 notes. Not all banks will exchange $$$, so expect having to do this only in the larger towns. The same applies to other than US$ currencies.;)
Why would you withdraw against a credit card? Always use a debit.
 

Janade

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(May 2018)
#19
I'm part of a Camino group on Facebook and one woman is currently walking with only US dollars (as her credit and debit cards were stolen). She is having a terrible time finding anywhere to exchange her dollars into euros! Banks there will not do it. Save yourself the headache and take (and protect) your debit card and use the ATM to get euros.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 will be Camino #14.
#20
To start off, never change a foreign into local currency at an airport. Before you leave home for Europe, obtain some Euros from your local bank, sufficient to cope with expected expenses for the first day or so. A credit card is best (except American Express) for withdrawals from ATM's or in banks' offices. Advise your bank that you will be using your card abroad for some time. When carrying cash in US$, avoid $100 notes. Not all banks will exchange $$$, so expect having to do this only in the larger towns. The same applies to other than US$ currencies.;)
I have never had any luck withdrawing cash from a bank office using a credit card. Unlike in the USA, they just don't do it in my experience. An ATM debit card is the best bet, in my opinion. I never have had banks exchange US$ either. Just pick up euros at the airport ATM - always worked for me.
 

J F Gregory

Portugal Coast - March 2019
Camino(s) past & future
March-April,2016 finished
March 2019 the Portugal Coastal Route
#21
Go to you local bank and buy euros and you will get the best rate exchange. When we travel we purchase enough to us through at least the 1st 2 weeks. We use our bank debit card in country, but only use ATM's at protected bank sights.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 will be Camino #14.
#22
Go to you local bank and buy euros and you will get the best rate exchange. When we travel we purchase enough to us through at least the 1st 2 weeks. We use our bank debit card in country, but only use ATM's at protected bank sights.
Actually, if you use your ATM card in the route you will get the best rates. USA bank exchange rates are much higher. I use a Charles Schwab account and ALL fees including exchange fees are reimbursed each month. In 20 years of travel to Western Europe, I have never taken cash from home. ATM machines on the Camino are as safe as those at home. Use normal cautions including only withdrawing when the bank is open on case your card is eaten.
 
Camino(s) past & future
'
#26
I have never had any luck withdrawing cash from a bank office using a credit card. Unlike in the USA, they just don't do it in my experience.
No, we do it ;). I used my (European) Visa card not too long ago in Spain just to see how much it would cost me. I got a cash withdrawal of 140 EUR from the ATM and they charged me 6,36 EUR for it. There was no currency conversion involved, obviously. I just wanted to see that it worked in case I somehow could no longer use my ATM debit card.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 will be Camino #14.
#27
No, we do it ;). I used my (European) Visa card not too long ago in Spain just to see how much it would cost me. I got a cash withdrawal of 140 EUR from the ATM and they charged me 6,36 EUR for it. There was no currency conversion involved, obviously. I just wanted to see that it worked in case I somehow could no longer use my ATM debit card.
I’m referring to walking into a bank and getting a cash advance on a credit card. I should have been more clear.
 
Camino(s) past & future
'
#28
I’m referring to walking into a bank and getting a cash advance on a credit card. I should have been more clear.
Oh, I see. Well, I don't know about Spain but where I live I have not been able to get money from bank staff inside a bank for years, no matter which card I use to identify myself as the rightful owner of my bank account. They will immediately send me to the ATMs (inside the bank).
 

J F Gregory

Portugal Coast - March 2019
Camino(s) past & future
March-April,2016 finished
March 2019 the Portugal Coastal Route
#29
Actually, if you use your ATM card in the route you will get the best rates. USA bank exchange rates are much higher. I use a Charles Schwab account and ALL fees including exchange fees are reimbursed each month. In 20 years of travel to Western Europe, I have never taken cash from home. ATM machines on the Camino are as safe as those at home. Use normal cautions including only withdrawing when the bank is open on case your card is eaten.
I don't bank at a national bank I bank at a locally owned bank and their rates are lower.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to walk the Camino Frances mid May 2018
#31
1. Get a few Euro before you leave
2. load either your credit card to be in credit so to be able to withdraw cash any time from a money machine OR
3. get a cashpassport card loaded with Euro to avoid fees and get cash from any money machine in Europe
 

J F Gregory

Portugal Coast - March 2019
Camino(s) past & future
March-April,2016 finished
March 2019 the Portugal Coastal Route
#32
1. Get a few Euro before you leave
2. load either your credit card to be in credit so to be able to withdraw cash any time from a money machine OR
3. get a cashpassport card loaded with Euro to avoid fees and get cash from any money machine in Europe
Thanks for the information on the cashpassport card I will look that one up. (-: )
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
#33
I am in complete agreement with those who are suggesting Charles Schwab Bank. I am originally from the USA and am now living in Madrid. They charge me nothing and reimburse me for any ATM fees charged by the bank here in Spain. I have routinely taken out 500 euros a day with no problems whatsoever. In my opinion they a second to none. There are a few banks here in Spain that will limit you to 300 euros a day but that is not a limitation put on by Schwab. Buen Camino
 

Silverton

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (2003-2004, 2006-2011, 2013-2016), Portugués from Porto (2012), from Tui (2014), Sanabres (2010), Aragon (2007) Carríon de los Condes to ?? (April 2016)
#34
My own experience, within the EU, is that IF I put my credit card account well into credit (that's the rub!) before I leave, it has a lower transaction fee at ATMs than if I were to use my bank debit card (and my bank has so advised me). Because almost all my Camino expenses are cash-based (I stay in albergues), I rack up few purchases on the card, apart from ATM use. Interest is charged until the next monthly payment-date, if the account is not in credit, so this isn't practicable for everyone, but it has worked for me. I do carry a 'secreted' debit card elsewhere, just in case of loss or robbery, but I've never needed to use it.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Inglés (from Ferrol June 2014)
Camino Portuguese (from Tui May 2015)
#38
My own experience, within the EU, is that IF I put my credit card account well into credit (that's the rub!) before I leave, it has a lower transaction fee at ATMs than if I were to use my bank debit card (and my bank has so advised me). Because almost all my Camino expenses are cash-based (I stay in albergues), I rack up few purchases on the card, apart from ATM use. Interest is charged until the next monthly payment-date, if the account is not in credit, so this isn't practicable for everyone, but it has worked for me. I do carry a 'secreted' debit card elsewhere, just in case of loss or robbery, but I've never needed to use it.
And there isn't a "cash advance" fee charged by the credit card company? I never considered how that would work with a credit balance on the card, as I assumed there would always be the cash advance fee (which is normally much more than an ATM usage fee on a debit card).
 
Camino(s) past & future
Aug-Sept(2016) SJPDP-Finisterre, July-Aug(2017) SJPDP-Muxia-Finisterre, July-Aug(2018) El Norte
#39
And there isn't a "cash advance" fee charged by the credit card company? I never considered how that would work with a credit balance on the card, as I assumed there would always be the cash advance fee (which is normally much more than an ATM usage fee on a debit card).
I think that some of these fees depend on the country of the issuing bank.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Inglés (from Ferrol June 2014)
Camino Portuguese (from Tui May 2015)
#40
I think that some of these fees depend on the country of the issuing bank.
Yes, now looking back on the responses, that seems to be the theme. Another perk of living in Europe!! The last time I did a cash advance was as a poor college student when I ran out of money in Mexico ... I won't say how long ago! ;)

Out of curiosity I just looked at my main credit card to see what the fees actually were. This one doesn't have a foreign conversion fee (that's why it's my favorite one!), and they would charge between 3-5% for the cash advance amount (minimum $10) and interest of say 15-29% APR. That ends up being a max cost of 7.5% for the transaction. More than a debit card, yes, but not as bad as I have been thinking all of these years. Good topic!!
 
#41
Yes, you can set up travel advisories online for most banks. No need to actually call.

As for any type of pre-loaded card for accessing cash, check the exchange rate and the fees associated with them. Every card that I have seen that is available to Americans has a terrible exchange rate and/or lots of fees and makes accessing your money more expensive than just using a debit card in an ATM. Other countries might have better choices.
 
Camino(s) past & future
'
#42
My own experience, within the EU, is that IF I put my credit card account well into credit (that's the rub!) before I leave, it has a lower transaction fee at ATMs than if I were to use my bank debit card (and my bank has so advised me).
This cannot be correct, generally speaking.

I think, first of all, you have to distinguish between transactions fees and currency commission or fee for converting currency (I'm probably not using the right terminology here). I happened to get some stuff from my bank today and also checked a few of my bank statements. Within the Eurozone (i.e. no currency conversion), I don't pay anything at all if I withdraw money with my debit card from an ATM in another €-country, and I pay something like 5% (of 140 € for example) if I withdraw a cash advance from an ATM with my credit card (and my credit card account is always well into credit).

So quite the opposite of what your bank advises you to do.

I actually hadn't realised that we no longer have to pay a transaction fee when we withdraw money from a bank when abroad and within the €-zone. Sometimes we aren't aware of all the benefits we enjoy because we live in all these various zones, areas and unions ... :cool:.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015
Camino Frances July 2017
#43
What this thread seems to show is that it all depends on where your accounts are held. Banking is one of those things that you just assume works the same everywhere until you go somewhere else and discover that even within the same banking group things can be very different abroad.

Also just because you're not paying a fee doesn't mean you're getting a great deal if the exchange rate is worse than you could have got elsewhere.
 

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