Souvenirs, delicious grub and glasses of local wine cost money. When traveling in Europe, you will be faced with several options for converting your money to Euros, the local currency used in most EU countries, including France, Spain and Italy. Some methods can cost you a considerable amount in fees. By taking the cheapest route, you can give less to financial institutions and save money for your vacation.
The cheapest places to buy Euros abroad are usually banks. European banks will take foreign cash and change it to Euros using the most current exchange rate. Most banks do not charge a transaction fee for the service; if they do, it will usually be smaller than an ATM's or a currency exchange's. Keep in mind that this method requires you to pay attention to banking hours, which can fluctuate based on European bank holidays.
If you want to get money before you leave, you can buy Euros from a bank in the United States. Depending on the bank, whether or not you are an account holder and the delivery method, you will pay different fees. Some banks provide free Euro-purchasing services if you pick the money up but charge if you have it shipped to your home or office. Keep in mind that carrying large amounts of cash presents a travel risk; this method is best for buying enough Euros to get you from the airport to your hotel once you land.
One of the most convenient ways to buy Euros while traveling in Europe is to use ATMs. Because they are connected to banks, ATMs will usually give you a good exchange rate. They are widely available all over Europe. Keep in mind that your bank may charge a fee for taking money out of an international ATM and a currency conversion fee, on top of the fees the foreign bank charges for using a card from a different bank. If you take out money frequently, the combined fees can add up; call your bank in advance to check fees and try to take out money fewer times during the trip. Consider also withdrawing money using a credit card; check into fees first.
A convenient, but expensive, way to exchange money is at a currency exchange, which is useful when you cannot find an ATM or when you want to exchange money after banking hours. Keep in mind that many currency exchanges charge a fee for the service and offer poor exchange rates; shop around for the best bargain.