As we all know costs can add up while traveling overseas. What many first time travelers don't think about are those hidden fees that don't show up until you get back home. While traveling around Europe now that many countries use the Euro is easier than the hassle of traveler's checks and currency exchange from years past there are pitfalls to the accessibility of ATM's.
Think about it; back home you probably find yourself frustrated when they don't have your bank's ATM at the mall and you need cash because your credit card was denied at star bucks. You know there will be a 2-3 dollar fee from the ATM you're using and your bank will probably charge you something too. That grande Frappuccino Latte with fat free milk is now going to cost 8 dollars! Well, the same goes for Europe. ATM's are probably going to be a stop on your agenda every few days and every time you will be hit with fees that you might not expect.
Many banks will tack on a currency conversion fee of around 2% on whatever you remove from the ATM. While not a lot, this is often coupled with an additional 1% currency exchange commission and that annoying flat rate "not your bank's ATM" withdrawal charge; often 5 dollars. What this means is that while the 2% and 1% fees are relative, cutting down on the number of times you have to hit that ATM to pull out extra cash for your Cafe Americano will save you some money.
On a recent trip my travel companion took out 150.00 Euro in Barcelona which was reflected in his account back home as 219.00 USD (yeah it's that bad). The next charge on their statement showed a $5.00 ATM usage charge and then a $2.19 fee for currency exchange, etc. This bank, while a bit better than the average still charged over 7 USD to make the withdrawal; easily the cost of post cards for the entire trip.
Pulling out a couple hundred Euros at a time and only carrying what you need outside your hotel room will minimize the 5 dollar flat fee. But there is another way around the problem that most travelers don't know about and many can take advantage of. Switch your bank. Bank of America is part of a network of banks overseas called the Global ATM Alliance. This means that in certain countries such as France and Germany, Bank of America has an affiliation which allows its customers to use other specific bank's ATM's without incurring the 5 dollar fee.
Barclays in the UK, BNP Paribas in France and Deutsche Bank in Germany are all part of this alliance and searching out ATM's at these establishments can save you money. Don't worry however that you will be searching all over with empty pockets, not being able to locate these specific banks anywhere. These, like Bank of America are the mega banks and branches and ATM's are everywhere. Be aware though that although you may spot a Deutsche Bank ATM in Italy or BNP Paribas branch in Holland, the fees are only waived in the banks own country.
Of course before you switch banks give yours a call and see what they might be able to offer you or charge you as the case may be, at banks and ATM's overseas. Also be sure to call your credit card companies and see what fees are added to any purchases made using your Visa or MasterCard. These often end up totaling less than using the ATM but still are likely to carry at least the 3 % mentioned above. When worst comes to worst just be aware that the next time you check your account there will be a few extra charges you will have to account for in your overall budget.