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Best place to exchange USD to Euro?

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New York City, New...
posts: 148
reviews: 12
Best place to exchange USD to Euro?

I know the airport is usually not a good plan, because they know you're desperate. :) Any under-the-radar money changing places near Alexanderplatz you can recommend?

Germany
Destination Expert
for Train Travel
posts: 31,271
1. Re: Best place to exchange USD to Euro?

Best methods are normally

1. pay by credit card as far this is possible

2. withdraw Euro from ATMs

Normally by a bank card or debit card. If you use a credit card to withdraw cash, you have normally to pay interests as long as you did not put a sufficient amount of money in advance on your credit card account.

For the fine prints you have to check your credit cards document or ask your bank.

Interesting is

- how currencies are exchanged

"normal" is the middle rate plus a certains percentage (1-1,75%) for this service

- the fees defined by your bank for using ATMs abroad

Frankfurt
Destination Expert
for Frankfurt
posts: 4,544
reviews: 26
2. Re: Best place to exchange USD to Euro?

You really should not exchange cash. You get a much better deal by just using an ATM. If you have a Bank of America account and use the Deutsche Bank ATM, there are no charges at all as they are part of the Global Alliance.

If you do want to change cash over, some banks will do it but not all of them, but since you probably do not have an account here, they will charge you at least 5€ for this service. So, use the ATM, you will save a lot of money in the long run.

New York City, New...
posts: 148
reviews: 12
3. Re: Best place to exchange USD to Euro?

My bank said that there was a 3% changeover fee to take money out of the ATM. This is why I was asking about actual changeover places. Would you say 3% changeover is a better deal than cash change places?

Frankfurt
Destination Expert
for Frankfurt
posts: 4,544
reviews: 26
4. Re: Best place to exchange USD to Euro?

Depends on your bank. Like I said before, if you have Bank of America, and you use the Deutsche bank, no charges, everything else, yes there will be a charge. Do a search of all the travel forums that are online such as this one, or Rick Steves, or Fodors and you will see they all recommend the same exact thing. Using an ATM is your best deal.

New York City, New...
Destination Expert
for Santa Fe, Heidelberg
posts: 6,471
reviews: 32
5. Re: Best place to exchange USD to Euro?

I also recommend changing some money (maybe $100) in a US bank before you leave. That way you have available cash and don't have to spend your first few hours rushing around looking for an ATM.

In NYC many local banks change dollars. I found a lot of Chase branches will do that for you (even if they have to arrange it thru another branch and have a day or so wait). I did this last month here in NYC and the branches knew which branches in the neighborhood could do it on the spot..

New York City, New...
posts: 148
reviews: 12
6. Re: Best place to exchange USD to Euro?

That's a great idea - I was thinking about doing that. Does anyone know what the "penalty"/commission is when you buy Euros at Tegel?

Berlin/Bangkok
Destination Expert
for Bangkok, Berlin, Thailand
posts: 13,194
reviews: 33
7. Re: Best place to exchange USD to Euro?

It is NEVER a good idea to buy foreign currency in your own country. You'll be paying a steep foreign exchange rate penalty AND the banks sock it to you big time for the privilege.

There are ATM machines in every airport. It's no big deal to find one. As mentioned above, that's the best and easiest way of getting cash on arrival.

US residents: get a Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account. No ATM fees, and they'll even refund you any fees you do pay.

Foreign exchange kiosks (Wechselstuben) tend to offer the best rates for cash. If I'm not mistaken, they don't charge commissions but make their money on the rate spread. You can also change money at any post office, and the major banks such as Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Dresdner have fair rates. Maybe they levy a service charge of a couple euros. DON'T exchange foreign currency at Berliner Bank, Sparkasse or Volksbank. They charge high commissions to non-customers.

New York City, New...
Destination Expert
for Santa Fe, Heidelberg
posts: 6,471
reviews: 32
8. Re: Best place to exchange USD to Euro?

Is this true all over Germany? What I mean is, the banks you named as "good rates" and those of "bad rates" I have seen in other cities.

Is there a way to tell them apart?

Berlin/Bangkok
Destination Expert
for Bangkok, Berlin, Thailand
posts: 13,194
reviews: 33
9. Re: Best place to exchange USD to Euro?

Sparkassen are state-owned banks. They have the same red-S logo nationwide, but their ownership is varied. Berliner Bank used to be state-owned but it was sold to Deutsche Bank. However it keeps its state-owned persona. Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken are cooperative banks. All of these institutions tend to cling to old customs such as charging high fees for "unusual" services such as foreign exchange for non-customers, but low rates of interest to ordinary-folks borrowers. A little bit like savings and loans in your own fair country.

Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank (which recently ate up Dresdner Bank) and Hypovereinsbank (aka HVB) are publicly-traded commercial banks which are market-driven. They're all over the country. We also have Citibank, GE Bank and a few other small players.

Postbank used to be just a unit of the post office, but since privatization it's become independant and it's giving the commercial banks a run for their money. However, it's still commonly found in post offices, where it offers ATMs and foreign exchange among other services.

Wechselstuben are private companies which specialize in foreign exchange and are found in all airports, railway stations and on main streets in tourist areas. They also often act as agents for Moneygram or Western Union.

Frankfurt
Destination Expert
for Frankfurt
posts: 4,544
reviews: 26
10. Re: Best place to exchange USD to Euro?

Sorry, but the Wechselstuben give the absolute worst rates of all and yes, they do charge a commission depending on how much money you are exchanging. I had a friend who mistakenly bought some travelers checks and then had problems cashing them. She went to a Wechselstube and ended up paying about $20.00 just to cash a $100 travelers check and have it changed into euro.

The Post in Germany stopped exchanging currency quite a few years ago. If you do have cash that you want to exchange, the various Sparkasse charges the least amount if you are not a customer. Normally 5 euro.

Once again, use an ATM at the airport to get money out. This is your best rate. There is NOT an extra charge or fee just because of the location of the machine in the airport.