Subject: Re: Euro vs Dollar
Hi, Robert, Sandy and Ziners...

Do not buy euros in the USA. In fact, don't buy them in Europe. Either way gets you a lousy exchange rate. Instead, use ATMs in Europe for cash and credit cards for payments that can be made that way.

Both the ATM and credit card international systems charge only about 1% for exchange; this can't be beat by any outfit that buys and sells currency. To check on a buyer/seller go to and look up the latest exchange rate and you'll see what I mean. Or, for a rough idea, find the average of the buyer/seller's buy and sell rates; this average is pretty close to the true rate. Then notice how wide of this number the buy and sell prices are. Even American Express was charging about 7% to exchange currency a few years ago (can't say for nowadays).

Now, some warnings:

Some card issuing institutions are tacking on their own additional exchange rate of 1% or 2& , resulting in a total exchange rate of 2-3%. This still ain't bad, but I resent it because the card-issuer doesn't do a thing to earn it; all the work is done by the international system. You can find institutions that don't tack on this charge. I hear MNBA doesn't, and credit unions generally don't.

Then there's the good old ATM fee charged by your issuer, that two or three bucks they tack onto any usage of a machine that ain't theirs. This, too, is avoidable by selecting the right card-issuer. European machines will NOT add a fee, and if a fee is found to be added and you ask your bank about it, don't believe them if they try to blame it on the other bank. In fact, if the fee is in round dollars or half-dollars it's obvious it's an American fee.

Make sure your ATM card draws money from your primary account, i.e., your checking account. European machines won't give you an option as to which account to take it out of.

Make sure you have a four digit PIN. There's some controversy about this, with some people swearing European ATMs took their six-digit PIN, but I say, play it safe.

Finally, learn the PIN *numbers*; European machines may not have letters on their keypads, or the letters may be in different places. Even the physical layout may be different.

As to daily maximums, since the cash is for stuff not covered by credit cards, $300 worth of foreign money per day ought to be enough for most people. But you may be able to get your bank to raise the limit; we did one year.

My wife and I always take two different credit cards and two different ATM cards each That pretty much covers us if there's a problem. For instance, when my wallet got stolen in Paris we still had access to our accounts.

And, by the way, I don't trust those debit cards with a Visa or MasterCard logo. They can be used just like credit cards and credit cards can be used in many places where neither a PIN nor a signature is required, as for fuel pumps, pay phones, Internet purchases and in shops that are careless about checking signatures. The difference is that with a debit card money instantly disappears from your bank account while with a credit card they have to wait for you to pay them.

Sure, the bank will swear they'll contractually treat the debit card like a credit card and cover your losses in case of unauthorized usage, but that's contractual, while the credit care coverage is mandated by federal law. When my wallet was stolen my Visa card managed to ring up about $600 in purchase all around Paris but it didn't cost me any more than a couple of postage stamps to my card issuer; had my card been a debit card the $600 would have been gone from my account and I'd have had to deal with my Bank to get it back.

Not one single charge was made to my stolen ATM cards because the thieves didn't have the PIN.

Regards Dave Hatunen Tucson, Arizona, out where the cacti grow