If you visit France, one thing is certain: you will be spending money. Make sure you get the most bang for your euro by following these DOs and DON'Ts to exchange euros.
Exchange Euros DOs
- Go to your bank at home and exchange a small amount of cash, just enough for a cab ride or basic spending on arrival. That way if you get into town and an ATM machine is down, you aren't in a foreign country broke and destitute.
- Get cash through ATM machines. They are prolific in France, they don't charge a fee and you will get the most generous exchange rate. Do, however, check with your bank first to be certain they don't have extra fees for foreign withdrawals. Also check to find out what your daily ATM withdrawal limit is before going.
- Pay with credit cards (if that was in your plans, anyway. Don't use me as an excuse to max out your Visa card, though). This is another area in which exchange rates are much more favorable. Again, check with your bank about their policies.
Exchange Euro DON'Ts
- Go to your bank and exchange all your money before your France or European trip. You will probably pay a higher rate than necessary, and you don't want to be running around with all that cash in your wallet.
- Exchange money at the bureau de change or such at the airport or in tourist areas. For one thing, they usually charge an exhorbitant fee. For another thing, they never give you the true going exchange rate, but always give you less in euros than your home-country currency is worth.
- Go over there with an ATM PIN of more than four digits or it might not work at French machines. Also, be sure you have the PIN memorized as a number even if you usually remember it as a word. Most of the ATM machines in France do NOT have letters corresponding to the numbers on the keypad.
- Depend on traveler's checks. I know they make some people feel warm and fuzzy, but many French shops will not (and are not obligated to accept them). In addition, you are at the mercy of the shop owner to give you a good exchange rate if the traveler's checks are in your home currency. Ouch! If you are worried about losing money, take out enough for a day's spending each day.