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My boyfriend and I are headed to Greece (Athens for some time and islands for some time). We plan on bringing euros that we ordered from our personal banks in the States. But I am curious what the best way to pay for things is if we run out of euros.

Is there an accepted debit or credit card over there that I could open here in advance? If there is, what's the card with the lowest fee for using it out of country? Any information regarding currency and paying for goods/services in Greece as an American is much appreciated. Thanks!

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    Start by investigating the foreign transaction fees for the cards you already have; there may be no need to open a new one. I've found that the best way to get cash in foreign locations is to withdraw it from an ATM using my US bank card, but do shop around; in some countries the fees charged by local banks' cash machines can vary significantly. – phoog Feb 12 '18 at 16:34
  • Possible duplicate of: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/10/… – JonathanReez Supports Monica Feb 12 '18 at 17:45
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    Answering your question literally: with little notes and coins! Do not expect to be able to pay with 50 Euro notes, especially in little businesses! – Rg7x gW6a cQ3g Feb 13 '18 at 11:12
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    If you opt to use a card you currently have on your trip (or even if you open a new one specifically for this), don't forget to tell the bank that you'll be using the card abroad! If they suddenly see usage in a foreign country they may freeze the account for your protection in case of fraud, which would leave you cash-less until you could call and get things straightened out. – senschen Feb 13 '18 at 12:32
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    Greece is fantastic! If you've not been to Europe before, you'll find the identical cards (Visa, MC, etc) work exactly the same. ATMs are everywhere, and they work exactly the same. – Fattie Feb 13 '18 at 21:12
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It's unfortunate you have pre-ordered Euros. USA banks offer terrible rates of exchange. What you need to do is investigate the foreign currency fees of your various credit and debit cards, almost all of which will work in Greece. Even Discover is accepted (look for Diners Club logo). However the fee will vary from 0 to 3%. Use the cards with the best rate just as you would in the States.

Debit cards will work in ATMs. The issue of fees charged by the ATM operators is complex. Several other forums say that Greek banks do not charge for ATM use.

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    Quite right about the exchange rate. As a general rule, you get the best rate when you trade something that is rare for something that is commonplace. This means that if you want to change USD into EUR, you should do this in Euroland where dollars are scarce and Euros are everywhere. Doing it in the USA is doing it the wrong way round. – Oscar Bravo Feb 13 '18 at 9:43
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    @OscarBravo I guess that's valid for USD and probably other major currencies like EUR, but for local-only currencies like Russian Rubles it's the other way around - nobody is interested in buying them abroad, so exchange rates in Russia are usually much better than in other countries. In fact it's usually better to exchange RUB for USD in Russia, and then USD for local currency abroad, than directly RUB for the local currency. – Vasily Alexeev Feb 13 '18 at 17:56
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    It is also, ironically, not true for the USD itself. If intending to visit the USA, you are almost certainly better off exchanging cash before you arrive. Example: right now, Bank of America is buying Euro at $1.1668 and selling at $1.2956. The spread alone tells you what a bad deal this is. – Andrew Lazarus Feb 13 '18 at 20:00
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    I don't think I'd rely on a discover card (or god forbid AMEX) in most of Europe. It might work in more expensive restaurants or tourist focused places but in general? Certainly not the only card you should have. Greece in particular is still quite cash focused and if you're not sticking to the large tourist places you might find lots of cash only establishments. – Voo Feb 13 '18 at 20:05
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Pay as you normally do at home.

  • Have some cash with you when you land in Greece for small immediate purchases (tourist things, taxi...), I'd say, 200, 300 euros per person.
  • Pay with credit card for larger purchases (hotel, restaurants, train/boat reservations...).
  • ATM are (should be) available pretty much everywhere to get cash. Prefer using Bank ATM over "no-name" ones, look for "Cirrus" or "Plus" logo on your debit/credit card and ATM machine.

YMMV in regards to smaller restaurants or smaller stores, they might not accept credit cards or debit cards.

Both MasterCard and Visa are widely recognized in Greece, you should not have problem with either of them.

Be certain to contact your credit card provider that you will be traveling to Greece; this will remove/reduce the risk of your card be blocked.

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    Generally speaking, having 200-300 EUR in cash on you or at the hotel is just begging to get robbed. Greece is arguably safer in this respect than a large swath of third world countries, but like many other major tourist hubs it still makes news headlines for pickpocketing. – Denis de Bernardy Feb 12 '18 at 20:45
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    @DenisdeBernardy: Can't quite tell whether you intended to suggest that Greece is a third-world country (or at least comparable) - may want to rephrase! – Lightness Races with Monica Feb 12 '18 at 21:06
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    @DenisdeBernardy Personally, I've run around Greece and many other mediteranean countries with 200-300€ in my pocket and never had a problem with that - of course basic safety rules apply: Put the money in a pickpocket-safe pocket on your body or in the hotel safe and you'll be fine. – Sumyrda - Reinstate Monica Feb 12 '18 at 21:41
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    @Denis, how does the pickpocket know whether you have 30 or 300 EUR before he takes your wallet? How can the amount you carry make you more likely to have it stolen? – prl Feb 13 '18 at 4:42
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    @prl no matter how hard you try, you'll stand out as a tourist from a local's perspective, so they'll know you're more likely to have a larger amount of cash on you than a local. They could also just wait and watch you pay for something, and see (roughly) how much is in your wallet. – crazyloonybin Feb 13 '18 at 8:57
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Two things to add to the answer by Max.

You need to avoid dynamic currency conversion (DCC) when it is offered. So if they ask you whether you want to pay by card in euros or in your own currency you should answer euros. The rate you obtain from your own card issuer is usually better than that offered by the provider of DCC.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_currency_conversion

At times of economic uncertainty they may become reluctant to take cards. This is often euphemistically stated as the card machine being broken. So when you go out for your evening meal either check it is working before ordering or be sure to take enough cash with you to cover the likely bill. Sadly the Greek economy is not the most flourishing one so this can be an issue if you are not prepared.

  • The best tip here ! – Fattie Feb 13 '18 at 21:13
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Having been to Greece myself many times, most recently 6 months ago on a 17-day 9 island trip, I can confirm you will be fine almost everywhere with any major credit card (MasterCard, Visa etc.)

I'm not sure if it's an option in the US, but here in the UK we have prepaid travel cards where you can load money onto the card and use it as you would any debit or credit card. Many of these are specifically aimed at travelling abroad so have no currency exchange fees. They are also more secure as you can only lose what you've loaded onto the card. If this isn't an option then just find a credit card provider who offers the best exchange rate for Euros and sign up.

Depending on your travel plans I would also budget perhaps €50 per day between you in cash (up to a maximum of €500) for your trip. Use cards whenever possible (meals, car hire, ferry tickets all usually accept card payment) and keep cash back for incidentals (taxis, drinks in bars, bus fares).

If you get near the end of your trip and find you have a surplus of cash, start using it more and aim to spend the last €20 at the airport before you fly home - it's rarely worth changing currency back as you'll get a much poorer rate than you paid for.

As the other answers have mentioned, when paying by card always opt to pay in Euro and let your card issuer handle the conversion.

Most importantly of all, have a great trip! Greece is a superb country and I'm sure you will love it.

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