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I travel to Europe once a year: It would be nice to be able to pay electronically in Euros. If one has amassed several thousand Euros. Is there an option (or a better option) than depositing Euros in an NYC bank and receiving a bankcard that spends in Paris / Rome / etc.?

The goal is to keep the Euros safely in an institution and be able to spend electronically with no fees. Thanks

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  • "Is there an option (or a better option) than depositing Euros in an NYC bank and receiving a bankcard that spends in Paris / Rome / etc.?" What's the issue? Commented May 16, 2023 at 2:35
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    I'm not sure what you expect here. Are you asking for a payment card without fees in euros (as a tourist), or are you asking about any other form of electronic payments?
    – Vince
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 2:36
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    Note that a euro account outside of the EU may still be subject to foreign transactions fees when making payments in the EU, even if no currency exchange is involved, check prices before opening the account. You may also want to consider opening a Wise account, where you can hold multiple currencies with limited fees. There are probably other “neobank” alternatives but not all may be open to non-EU citizens.
    – jcaron
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 8:19
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    gatorback - click to wise.com, it's that simple. it would be like if you were on a car list and you asked "I've had this great idea, is there a car with all four wheels driven so I can use it offroad?" the answer would be "yes, it's called a Jeep" :)
    – Fattie
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 15:05
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    Not sure if you can get this from the US, hence a comment and not an answer, but check out Revolut. That gives me a physical card, which I can use in ATMs or to pay for things, and which can be linked to accounts in different currencies. I use this whenever I am travelling and just create an account for the currency of the country I'm visiting and transfer some money to that account. All of this is done from their app and just takes a few seconds.
    – terdon
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 17:15

5 Answers 5

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IMO by far the easiest way to do this is to open a multi-currency account. See for example https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/banking/multi-currency-account. The most popular one is probably wise.com (formerly Transferwise).

You have separate accounts in US$ and Euros (or GBP etc) but it's very easy to transfer money between the accounts and the exchange rate and fee tend to be A LOT better of what you'd get with a regular bank.

The Euro account comes with an IBAN which makes it very easy to send and receive money from/to many different countries quickly and mostly for free. Given the abysmal state of the US banking system, you will have to use ACH transfer inside the US. Many accounts also come with an ATM card as well (fees do vary though).

In my case, I receive most of my international payments on my Wise Euro account, transfer it to my Wise US account and from there ACH it to my regular US checking account (or wherever I want it in the US). Works the other way around just as well.

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  • NB: Although you get bank routing details with Wise, they're not technically bank accounts. The difference becomes relevant should Wise fail, because AFAIK deposits held there are not covered by the regular deposit warranty schemes (on the other hand, Wise also don't lend out money so they might be less likely to fail than a bank is).
    – gerrit
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 13:50
  • "the abysmal state of the US banking system" is quite an exaggeration. Look into FedNow. Commented May 17, 2023 at 16:43
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    @PeterGreen according to wise.com/us/blog/deposit-cash-wise-account : "Can you make a cash deposit into a Wise Account? - You cannot deposit cash to a Wise Account." Commented May 17, 2023 at 20:30
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    @DimitriVulis: Not to mention, we've had Zelle for quite a while now.
    – Kevin
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 23:05
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    Sure there is Zelle and Venmo and maybe FedNow but none of these is anywhere near as easy, commonplace, cheap and fast like an IBAN. A transfer from my Belgian account to my son's regular bank account in Germany takes about 9 seconds and doesn't cost anything. No 3rd party needed
    – Hilmar
    Commented May 18, 2023 at 13:39
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The obvious option would be to open a European bank account, which you can then use to make local payments (likely debit card only) and low cost or free transfers (SEPA payments) in euros.

The catch is that many EU countries do not allow non-residents to open bank accounts. A notable exception, however, is Spain, where you can get a certificate of non-residency (Certificado de No Residente) from the police and use this to open an account. Wise has the full scoop, and note that you'll need to be physically present in Spain to do this.

Whether you'll save much with this long term is another question, as monthly bank account fees etc may apply, but the convenience might be worth it.

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    How is this a better idea than just opening a Revolut or Wise account? AFAICT both seem available to americans? Commented May 16, 2023 at 12:10
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    Americans can't open bank accounts in Europe. A rare silly answer from L.S., I have to say! Obviously you just click to Wise, which exists exactly for the purpose described and everyone uses. (or a competitor.)
    – Fattie
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 15:02
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    @DavidMulder Revolut has shady Russian origins and has gotten into crypto in a big way, I wouldn't trust them at all. Wise seems a bit more above board though. Commented May 16, 2023 at 23:50
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    @Fattie - I guess these folks are just lying, then. What seems potentially "silly" to me is dismissing a cited answer without providing evidence other than "trust me, bro."
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 13:25
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    I'm sorry, it's just kind of hilarious that you equate having to use a specific bank and present utility bills to something that only twelve people have ever done, miss the part where the first people had no issues with another bank before trying Santander, and use the word "impossible" very liberally. The answer already points out the difficulties that one might face in Spain and that some countries might not do it at all.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 15:25
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Slight frame challenge here: You don't need an account denominated in Euros in order to spend money electronically in Europe without fees.

Many U.S.-issued credit cards, especially those that are focused on travel, charge no foreign transaction fees. I have at least half a dozen of them myself. They're very common in the U.S., including some that do not charge annual fees. Just tell the merchant to charge your card in Euros and your bank will automatically convert USD to Euros, typically at something very close to the current inter-bank rate.

Additionally, if you want Euros (or any other currency) in cash, you can get a checking account with a debit card with a U.S. bank in USD that does not charge fees for foreign transactions and which also reimburses ATM fees (including those charged by the owner of the ATM.) Then, as with using credit cards at merchants, just tell the ATM to withdraw from your account in whatever the local currency is (i.e. Euros in the Eurozone) and your bank will exchange it with USD at the current exchange rate and also reimburse you whatever fees the ATM may charge. Personally, I use a Schwab checking account for this purpose, though there are other similar accounts available. The Schwab checking account is completely free and charges no fees whatsoever to withdraw foreign currency, so I can just go to any ATM and withdraw the local currency. Schwab then credits whatever fees the ATM owner may charge for the transaction back to my account.

This is all far easier than maintaining a Euro-denominated account and works just as well wherever you travel, not just Europe. Your accounts all remain denominated in USD and merchants just charge them in whatever their local currency is. Just make sure to tell the merchant, ATM, etc. to charge your account in the local currency and let your bank do the conversion for free rather than having the merchant do it. There is no reason whatsoever to pay the merchant to charge your account in USD. They almost always give you very unfavorable exchange rates.

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I think a multi-currency account is a good option.

Revolut might be interesting since it provides

  • 'free' currency conversion
  • free card payments
  • (limited) free cash withdrawls (which is important in more countries than one would hope)
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    Revolut is a total scam. You just use the obvious - transferwise, or one of their smaller competitors. After a couple weeks you can get the transferwise plastic card to use, and you're set.
    – Fattie
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 14:31
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    Why is Revolut a total scam? Commented May 18, 2023 at 12:24
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The overwhelmingly obvious answer here is that you get a Wise account (formerly know as TransferWise).

It exists for precisely, exactly what you describe.

Note that it's not a stupid "online business", it's a real money-handling business, so you can't open an account "in seconds", you haveto send papers etc.

Note too that, somewhat annoyingly, it takes a good 1-2 weeks for them to send you the magic plastic card, this can be annoying if you have travel coming urgently.

Wise has a couple smaller competitors but (as of writing) unfortunately realistically it's just Wise.

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