Don’t Do This When You Travel Abroad

Doh! I feel like an idiot because unlike the tipping issue, I should have done better research on converting dollars to euros. Fortunately, we did not do too much cash spending on the Europe trip. Instead, we relied heavily on our Capital One Venture Card.

I kid you not this credit card is the bees knees! First of all, we had enough reward points to buy one of our airline tickets. Secondly, the Capital One Venture Card has no foreign transaction fees. Meaning, any purchases on the credit card get the same exact exchange rate banks get sans fees.

Nice! So, you’re telling me I can spend in euros, get reward points, and maintain all the protections of a credit card?

I’m not sure why people hate credit cards, they clearly are superior to carrying cash, but that’s a different blog post.

Anyways, unfortunately not all places take credit cards, hello Italy!, so we had to carry a bit of cash. The smart move would have been to just visit an ATM while in Europe instead we went to an American Express branch in the good ol’ USA to exchange dollars for Euro.

Big mistake! We had about a 7% commission and a $10 fee just for the benefit of doing this. They didn’t even give us flowers, dinner, or a phone call after that rough lesson in currency exchange. So, like magic 1K turned into 700 euros.

Side Note – Why couldn’t the euro take its nose dive before my trip abroad? Hating ass euro, restricting my balling by 25%, hell, in this case more than 25%. Scumbag euro and scumbag American Express.

Anyhow, grab your ATM card and turn it over. You should see a few credentials on the back. My primary (brick and mortar) bank happens to be PNC, and they are apart of the PLUS network. That PLUS network is global, baby!  

Meaning, for a small 5 buck fee I could take money out of the ATM at bank rates. Though, you should be wary because your atm withdrawal restriction still apply. You know that pesky $500 dollar daily withdrawal thingy. Baller blockers!

Lesson Learned:


Call to Action

What currency exchange tips/stories do you have? Did you make the same dumb mistake I did?  Or worse use the currency exchange at the airport? You can tell me, I won’t tell anyone.


  • Funancials /

    I think we re headed to Greece for our honeymoon next spring.possibly Croatia as well. What tips can you give me?

  • Use a credit card for transactions (capital one doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee) or withdrawal money from a bank while over there for the best exchange rate.

  • Viola /

    Thanks for sharing the important information, I think that your helpful warning can be useful for every tourists and passengers, the one seems to be quite a common situation.

  • Why do you think it’s common?

  • Wow dude, 7% is a HUGE commission!

    I’ve found using credit cards overseas provides the best exchange value. You?


  • Ms Lici /

    We have been all over Asia and to Australia. Luckily I never exchanged currency at an exchange shop. ATMs, credit cards, and debo-ing folks into taking USD’s have worked for me. I recall a friend of mine doing it and telling me how much they charged her, BLASPHEMY!

  • If I could do it all over again, I would use my capital one venture card the entire time. 0 foreign transaction fees and like you said, the best exchange rates.

  • hahaha.. well the fault is all my own. I should have known better 🙁 . I was a volunteer.. not a victim :/

  • When I went to Paris, I had US dollars and a local shop exchanged my US dollars for Euros and gave me a better rate of return. I did buy something from his shop (maybe some water or a snack or something small value like that) but for some reason small independent shops in Paris liked the US dollar. This was in 2009, not sure if its still like that over there now. I only used a credit card for the hotel.

  • Gina,

    It definitely isn’t like that now or when I went may 2012. The Euro was much stronger than the Dollar in May. However, you’re right the exchange rate you get depends on where you go.

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