Travel, foreign currency, ATMS and YOU!

As I prepare for my upcoming Roman Sojourn, thanks to readers, I am making sure all my financial tools are tidy and functioning.  Included in these tools is WISE, a nifty way to transfer funds and exchange with low fees and favorable rates.

You can have multiple accounts in Wise with different currencies, receive and send in multiple currencies and transfer funds between them.  If you use your Wise debit card (which you can get) in an ATM you get a low fee and the cash you get comes from the most appropriate currency account (US in these USA, Euro over there, etc.).

On that note, if you have ever travelled overseas and have used an ATM to withdraw local coin of the realm, you have probably seen a confusing option about conversion rates on the screen that you have to get past before you can get your money and keep moving.  I’ve been doing this for a long time and I still look at that message and still have a moment of hesitation.  Wise has a FAQ page to help make the choice.  Here are some useful tips on the FAQ page.

When you use an ATM or a card machine, it may ask if you want the ATM to convert your money for you.

That center section with the options … I printed it out and keep it in my wallet when in Europe.

A friendly public service announcement.  We now return to our regularly scheduled posts.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. That’s a great reminder about the currency exchange, Fr. Z. I just came back from England after walking from London to Canterbury in honor of St. Thomas, Becket, and I ran into that exchange issue a few times at restaurants, not just ATMs. Enjoy your trip!

  2. Cornelius says:

    So, Fr., I can open a Wise account, transfer USD into that account, and then use a Wise debit card to withdraw the funds when I’m overseas, getting favorable conversion rates.

    Is that it? (I’ll be in Germany in a few weeks and this is intriguing.)

  3. acardnal says:

    Helpful info. Thanks.

  4. Jim Dorchak says:

    Getting money here in Chile for us has been a real expensive pain for sure.
    At the ATM we do not get any options that you described above. They will give you the rate that they want to give you. That rate is often decided by the bank in the former USA. Banks = Ladronas (Theives)!
    So when you take out money here you pay $5,500 CLP to the Chilean Bank as well as a bank fee in the former USA to your home bank who decides the conversion rate.
    Fr. Z do you know the Golden RULE?
    He who holds the gold makes the rules.
    This really true here in Chile. That being said there are a few bank cards that you can get that absorb ALL ATM FEES. Charles Schwab is the most popular. You still do not have control on the conversion rate. But for instance if you take out $20,000 CLP / ~$25.00 USDollars then you will pay $5,500 to the Chilean Bank. So it pays to take out as much money as you can when you take out.

    So there it is in a nut shell. Jim in Chile.

  5. JonPatrick says:

    On a recent trip to the UK I solved this by not getting cash out at all. Pretty much everywhere I went you could just use a credit card for everything, even at church you could leave a donation using a machine in the back of the Church. The Tube and the buses also accept contactless payment if your card has that ability as most do now. Of course you get whatever exchange rate your cardholder uses which I have not found to be too bad.

  6. Cornelius says:

    After more research I’ve found that Wise is an excellent way to perform currency conversion, transfers, and extract money from a foreign ATM.

    Thanks Fr, this is a great tip. I knew nothing about Wise and was using PayPal to transfer money to family overseas, not realizing that PayPal is FAR from the cheapest option.

  7. Julia_Augusta says:

    If you have an iPhone, use Apple Pay for all kinds of purchases. Almost everyone uses contactless payment machines now, thanks to Covid. I managed to pay for fruit & veg using Apple Pay at a farmers market in Rome (imagine that) in August 2021. This summer in the Dolomites, I paid in restaurants, grocery stores, cafes, with Apple Pay.

    But watch out: if you use physical credit cards or Apple Pay, tell the cashier that you want to pay in Euros, not dollars!

    Greek ATMs are way worse than Italian ones in trying to get you to do the conversion as described by Fr. Z. Screen after screen on the ATM trying to trick you. That’s because Greek banks were insolvent after the 2012 financial crisis and the only way to restore them to financial health is to fleece Americans. It worked. Investment banks recently upgraded Greek banks as a “buy”.

  8. This is very handy. I live in Canada, but for reasons of civil and canon law I as a religious vowed to poverty must have an American (business checking) bank account and credit cards. I have gotten this query and did not know what to make of it, so I declined the conversion. Now I know I did the right thing. Soon leaving for England and Italy for a couple weeks of academic business, so I am sure I will now know what to do there. Thanks!

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