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When traveling from Europe to New York, which is the most cost-effective way to pay for anything?

My purchases will mostly be places to eat, museums, stadiums etc.

So

  1. should I exchange money when I get in the US
  2. should I pay everything with my debit card (Master Card)
  3. should I withdraw money in the US from ATMs

Edit: This question is specific for New York city, while This question is about anywhere in the world

e.g. In New York city it might be possible to pay everywhere with debit card and avoid bank fees (in my case), whereas in Kathmandu, Nepal there isnt an option for debit card payments in restaurants etc

  • "should i withdraw money in the US from ATMs" depends on your deal with your bank - they could be almost free or have heafty fees (which I just noticed my bank has). – Mikael Dúi Bolinder Sep 4 at 12:59
  • @MikaelDúiBolinder thanks for your comment, so i could ask my bank for their charges, when withdrawing money abroad. – G. Siganos Sep 4 at 13:02
  • It depends a lot on your bank and possibly the account and/or card type, as fees (fixed and variable, for foreign transactions and currency exchange) vary a lot. Telling us your bank and account/card type would probably help to narrow it down. – jcaron Sep 4 at 14:30
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    Be careful that your debit card actually is a MasterCard, not a Maestro. In the US, Maestro only works at ATMs. – Michael Hampton Sep 4 at 16:40
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    @G.Siganos be careful when bank says no fees. Look at your card conditions. It could be that there are no fees for the payment itself, but there are fees for currency conversion. – Val Sep 5 at 8:19
10

You should be able to look on your banks website (or go in and ask) and see what charges they do for this sort of thing. They probably charge a fixed percent of the amount spent. For example, my bank charges 2% any time I pay in a different currency, where as if I withdraw different currency from a cash machine it charges 1.5% and a £1 fee for withdrawal. So for me personally, it would be cheaper to do one bigger cash withdrawal and then pay with that cash, than using my card each time.

Alternatively you can look at what exchange places in Greece charge to change money, again for me personally where I live they change 2-3%, so it is still cheaper for me to use the cash withdrawal option.

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    Beware that in the US, many ATMs will charge their own fee in addition to what your bank may charge you, so that may change the result quite a bit, depending on your spending patterns and the actual ATM you use. – jcaron Sep 4 at 14:32
  • Yes, they will tell you any fees that they charge so be careful to pick the right ones, I've never had an issue finding free ones in NYC though so they are there :) – Uciebila Sep 4 at 14:39
5

I'd do the same as you would at home (the USA is not that different than the UK).

Get some US money before departing for things like taxi so you do not have to search for an ATM when landing; or need to use the airport exchange agencies.

Pay cash for things you are used to pay cash, pay with debit card when you usually pay with it and use credit card like you normally do.

You are travelling and already spending a large amount of money, so extra fees are not that big compared to the rest of your expenses.

Also, make certain you notify your bank (and credit card cie.) that you will be traveling to the US so that your card does not get accidentally blocked. (you can usually do that from the bank or CC websites).

  • Thank you for your reply, I was informed from my bank that they no longer have to know that transactions may happen abroad – G. Siganos Sep 5 at 6:48
  • Pretty much every airport I have used in the past 20 years has had regular bank ATMs somewhere in the terminal building. For arriving passengers, sometimes it is airside, sometimes it is landside. The airport website usually provides a map showing you where the ATMs are, and there are usually a maps stuck in prominent places within the terminal buildings. Failing that, you could always ask someone where the nearest ATM is. – Nick Sep 5 at 18:17
2

The first thing is to check with your bank about the fees.

If everything is free

If you can make withdrawals in the US without large fees and the currency conversion rate is good then you can use your debit card everywhere and withdraw money whenever you need any. This is my prefered way.

If there's a withdrawal fee

Like my bank has for non-euro currencies. Use your card as much as possible and withdraw larger amounts in an ATM in the US, when you need it.

If the conversion rate is bad.

Then I suggest getting cash at a well-known exchange office in your home country. Your bank might help you with this either in office or using special ATMs with different currencies.

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