Most of Europe uses the Euro (€) so it’s important to know the conversion rate between this and the U.S. Dollar ($). Generally the rate is 30% more from the Euro to USD so you can either do some quick thinking math when shopping, or download a currency conversation app on your mobile device. I personally like the one called “Units Plus” because it also has other units of measurement built in (which can be handy when cooking). Also note that the Euro bills comes in multiple colors and sizes unlike U.S. currency so be careful and pay attention….especially with the coins as €1 and €2 are coins and should not be mistaken for change.
When traveling, it is recommended by Rick Steves’ guidebooks to bring not only credit cards for large purchases (as it offers a greater degree of fraud protection) but a debit card as well to get cash. Also contact your banking institution to find out the following:
- Make sure to know the pin for all of your cards (credit cards too!) beforehand – banks cannot tell you over the phone so do this in advance to expect it in the mail.
- Ensure the cards will work overseas.
- Find out how much specific transaction fees for international purchases will cost (usually credit unions have low-to-no international fees). Also consider getting a different credit card to use on your trip that offers lower rates (Rick Steves recommended Capital One).
- Confirm your daily withdrawal maximum with your bank.
- Get your bank’s emergency phone numbers in the U.S. that isn’t an 800 number because it isn’t accessible from overseas.
- In the case you lose or damage your cards, make sure you have your cards’ information saved somewhere to allow quicker cancellation. Call these 24-hour U.S. numbers collect (dial 00 00 11): Visa (303)967-1096, MasterCard (636)722-7111 , American Express (336)393-1111. Or to call them toll-free in France: Visa 08 00 90 11 79, MasterCard 08 00 90 13 87, American Express 01 47 77 72 00.
Lastly, if a merchant offers to convert your purchase price into U.S. Dollars (called “Dynamic Currency Conversion”), say NO! This service charges you a fee for the convenience of seeing your charge in dollars so refuse this and do the math yourself or use the app previously mentioned.
P.S. If you are traveling to London like we are, the conversation rate is about 60% from the British Pound (£) to the U.S. Dollar ($).