european currency question

If I go to Spain, should I get currency and/or travellers cheques in pesetas (the spanish currency) or the euro (the new moon-man currency they’re phasing in). Or is it even possible to get euro TCs?

I’m not sure, I checked some websites, but wasn’t able to get a clear picture. I’m under the impression that the euro has been phased in for use, but there are no actual euro notes in circulation. How this works is beyond me.

As a side question…are travellers cheques really worthwhile, or should I just stick to my credit cards and ATM card? Thanks a bunch.

Traveller’s checks are worth it in that you can have some cash in pocket for paying the cab driver or other small things that a credit card simply doesn’t apply for. Also, they are traceable, refundable and if you don’t use them in spain, you can easily get them changed back at the bank where you bought them. On each of my overseas travels (once to Paris, once to London), I simply bought the checks (or cheques as they call them) in US dollars and then hit the local AmEx office in the city I was visiting. They’ll give you the best rate of exchange (as long as you’re exchanging AmEx cheques of course) and do the conversion into pesos/euros there. Trust me, it’s a lot easier that way when you get home. Instead of returning with 400 euros or whatever, you can have a few $20 cheques that you can use as cash at most larger US stores.

When you’re travelling, multiple “sources” of cash are good.

Credit card: fine, but not every place will take them, so you need cash to some extent.

ATM: fine, but be aware that each transaction is going to cost you money–possibly a $2.00 fee or more each time you make a withdrawal (plus you have to have an ATM card on a network that’s widely recognized throughout your destination country (or countries).)

Travelers Checks: not everyone will take them, but every bank will. It’s a good way to carry a reserve of funds to turn into cash. (And they are insured.)
(Personal impression, not supported with solid facts: get the currency in U.S. funds and cash each check at a bank to convert your “cash” to their currency as needed for a few days. This will mean that the check-cashing and currency-conversion will happen all in one fell swoop. Perhaps someone will come by to explain why that is not a good idea. :::shrug::: My view is that any checks you bring back in your original currency will not suffer for having gone through two currency conversions. It’s easier to figure out how much money you have left if it’s in your own funds (assuming that most people do not shift their thinking about currency to the host country in just a few weeks as a tourist).

Initially, change your dollars to pesetas, then look around to see whether any merchants are actually accepting Euros, yet.

My info is currently about a month out of date, thats when I came home from Belgium.

The Euro is in “electronic” circulation. There are no paper Euros yet. Sense the Euro does have a value (damn near that of a dollar. When I was there the Euro was just less than, before I went it was just more than.) Many of the prices I found were marked both in Belgian Franks and in Euros.

Personally, I was in Belgium for 2 1/2 weeks. I converted about 200 dollars into Belgian Francs before I went. The rest I used my bank and credit card for. There is no exchange rate on either of the cards, and ATM’s in Europe will take American banks cards.

As kinoons said, the Euro isn’t in circulation yet. In a couple of years, perhaps - this is a major project.

Personally, I never cared much for travellers cheques, although, of course, they are insured. Unfortunately, I have a knack for running out of cash saturday afternoon and practicing starvation until monday never was my idea of fun.

I’d say copy kinoon’s M.O.: bring some local currency and two credit cards (if you bring just one, it WILL break or get demagnetized. Trust me.). Try to make the maximum withdrawal each time to cut down on the number of fees.

There are PLENTY of places in southern Europe where credit cards are no good, especially outside the major cities. You will need some local currency, no matter what. Hell, even here in halway civilized Germany, buying something with an international credit card can be tricky.

Have a great trip!

The solutions mentioned above are pretty sound. When exchanging money in Europe, try to avoid the “back street” Change booths. Tourist traps.

About the euro. On January 1st 2002 the euro will replace the currencies in (currently) 12 countries. Until then there are NO euro coins or bills; you’ll still have Marks, Francs, Pesetas, Liras, etc. Banks can work with euros when making transfers, and the european stock exchange works only with euros. Shops already display prices in euro to help people get accustomed to “new” prices. (I mean, having 2.20371 as an exchange rate isn’t exactly thrilling.) So: don’t worry about the euro.
If you want some information about the euro, try (Ireland is the only english-speaking coutry switching to euro).

I managed to stay away from the Y2k bullshit (I took a 6-month vacation :D), but they got me good for this euro crap. I should have learned a trade, in stead of horsing around with computers…

Mainly echoing what others have said, the euro is not a currency yet (in the sense that there are no bills or coins so denominated.) However, most places issues receipts in both local currency (pesetas, say) and in euros. Euro travellers checks (cheques) are now available, but since there aren’t bills and coins yet, euro checks are just adding a level of confusion around making change.

The best exchange rates are from credit cards. With most cards (Diners Club, Mastercard, Visa, etc) usable almost everywhere, that’s the best way to pay for things. The charge comes through at the exchange rate that the credit card company gets, which is usually MUCH better than what you can get at a bank or teller window.

You can get cash from most ATMs (you might have to fight the language on the screen, although most of the ones in popular tourist areas allow an English language selection)…but, as noted, there is usually a charge. You’d need to compare the charge on the ATM withdrawal (say, $1.50 to $2.00 per transaction) with the charge on travellers checks. I personally find that if I’m taking about $200 from the ATM at a shot, say a 1% charge, that’s cheaper than buying the travelers checks.

The worst place to change money is in the hotels.

However, it should also be noted, that the differences in exchange rates are a matter of a few dollars, for most normal transactions. EXAMPLE: let’s say the hotel will give you 165 pesetas to the dollar instead of 175 pesetas. If you’re changing $50, that’s about a $3 difference. Yes, terrible, but not bad enough to be worth a $3 taxicab ride to and from a bank to get a better rate.
[[NOTE - There was an inadvertent error in this post, which I have asked an Administrator to correct – read too fast and confused “now” with “not.” The above text is corrected. – Dex]]

[Edited by CKDextHavn on 08-28-2000 at 01:09 PM]

I have used my ATM card in Budapest, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen without any ATM fees. I did get charged ATM fees in Canada.

Don’t listen to the crazy people, Diletante. Traveller’s cheques are a remanant of the era where travelling was done by ship and horseback and the only passport you needed was a loaded musket. I managed to get along just fine in three former soviet republics without using anything but a credit card. I’m sure that Spain is as well developed as say… Estonia. Yes, some places don’t take credit cards but that’s OK, don’t pay with credit cards, pay with cash. You can get cash advances from ATM’s.

You may want to bring some Deutschmarks or US dollars just in case you wake up inside an Algerian prison and need to bribe your way out. Otherwise you won’t really need them.

If you wanna be safe take the cards and some cash but forget about traveller’s cheques unless you’re going to Mongolia. It’s a hassle to buy them and it’s a hassle to get your money back after you don’t use them.

I disagree and I travel a lot. I use travelers checks a lot. Yes you can get cash advances on your credit card but that’s a lousy way to handle your finances considering the fees you pay.

In Spain the currency is the peseta which has a fixed change relative to the Euro (1 Euro = 166.386 Spanish Peseta) but the Euro is only a unit of count, you will be using Pesetas.

I would just get Travelers cheques in USD and change them to pesetas as needed.

I agree that using a credit card to get cash advances is foolish, since you will pay exhorbitant cash advance fees. However, if you have a debit card associated with VISA (as is the ATM card from my credit union), you will almost certainly come out ahead. Changing traveler’s checks may involve not only a lousy exchange rate, but a per check fee (independent of the amount of the check).

The last time I was in Europe (Italy), I found that the exchange rate on using my ATM card was 1% below the full Foreign Exchange rate, and neither my credit union nor the Italian ATM imposed an additional fee. This is pretty good, since the published exchange rate is for huge transactions, not for amounts in the hundreds of dollars.

For hotel bills, restaurants, etc., it’s definitely best to use credit cards wherever possible. As far as insurance, remember that by law you are liable for at most $50 in purchases made with a lost or stolen card, and most cards can be replaced fairly easily on an emergency basis.

If you do not have a debit card, I think most credit card companies will let you prepay your account (so you have a net credit), and you will then pay no cash advance fee (since you’re just taking back your own money, not getting a loan). Double check with your credit card company to see if they do this.


Another point in favour of paying in local currency:

When I was in Mexico recently (more specifically Zihuatanejo in the state of Guerrero) I got a lower price when haggling if I offered cash instead of paying with a credit card in a couple of spots.

I have always been a user of travellers’ checks, exchanging a few ever so often over the course of the trip into the local currency. I personally enjoy seeing the local bills and coins. However some of the points raised by other posters (mainly about how travellers’ checks end up costing more) are making me think twice about this practice.

Yeah, well… haggling is always better in cash. For obvious reasons.

When I was in Brazil during their hyperinflation, like over 1000% a year, I went to buy some jewelry for my wife. I found something I liked, and the clerk quoted me a price; I didn’t even open my mouth, and she said, “If you pay in cash, not credit card, I’ll give you a 10% discount; and if you pay in dollars, not cruzados, I’ll give you another 10% discount.” Easiest haggling I’ve ever done.

Perhaps I made a mistake when I exchanged my traveller’s checks for pesos instead of US$. :frowning:

RickG sez:

I don’t know what credit card you’re using but when I took cash advances it only cost me 1 or 2 dollars. I wouldn’t call that exhorbitant. That’s cheaper than traveller’s cheques or ATM fees. (The cost of using your ATM card is different from country to country, of course, but that’s how it was in my case.)

Do prepay your CC because interest is charged on cash advances right away on not from the end of the month.

This way you get the security of not carrying a lot of cash, the convenience of credit cards and the advantages of paying in cash. Not to mention that you’re not stuck in the 20th century like a chump. I mean, seriously, travellers cheques are made out of paper! Get with the times.

I can’t speak for your experiences with them, but for me, getting a traveller’s cheque was as hard as going to the bank down the street and buying them. Granted, it’s a main office bank, not a little branch bank like you find on the street corner or the supermarket, but nothing too difficult about it. Getting your money back is even easier: don’t. Next time you’re out buying a box of nails or a pair of shoes or whatever, take them with and give them over as payment. I’ve never been in a chain store that didn’t accept them (though your milage may vary). whatever the value of the cheques exceeds the purchase price, you get back in cash and if you were going to buy the object anyay (I assume you were and you’re not out buying nails just to change back your cheques), you’ve just saved yourself whatever hassle and devaluation that might come from changing them back. Worked for me each time, anyway. Personally, I think that having cash on hand in an insured form is worth the hassle of going to the bank and buying them.

For the record, Diletante might want to get one of the Frommer’s Guides to Spain (or whatever travel guide). Besides all the other info they have, they reccommend the best ways to get and carry funds in the country you’re visiting. If you don’t care to buy one, just go to Barnes & Noble and take it off the shelf and read it as you drink a $4.75 small mocha latte or something. But anyway, they usually mention the best places to exchange cheques (try to find the AmEx office in the city you’re visiting if they have one for the best rates on AmEx cheques. Avoid hotel exhanges or airport exchanges as they tend to be the absolute worse).

Jophiel sez:

Exactly, you have to go out and get them. Drive to the bank, stand in line, sign on the dotted line, hand over the cash, don’t forget 2 pieces of ID… For me it was even more difficult because I actually had to open an account at the bank otherwise they wouldn’t sell them to me. (My bank was closed that day.)

That’s not a big deal, but it’s a lot more than just calling the bank and asking for a PIN code for your card. (If you don’t already have one.)