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Currency conversion in Europe June 2015

Posted by John Reed on

Currency conversion Europe 2015

My wife and I went to Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, via Canada, in June, 2015. My wife then went on a cruise with girlfirends to Russia, Estonia, Latvia, and Finland.

I recommend that you use a Schwab debit card and a Capital One credit card because neither levies a percentage charge when used in a foreign country.

Then there are conversion rates. Not levying a fee is no good deal if they give you a lousy conversion rate.

The Wall Street Journal rates while we were there were:

1 CHF (Swiss frank) = $1.08

1 EUR (euro) = $1.13

1 DKK (Danish krone) = $.15

1 SEK (Swedish krone) = $.12

1 CAD (Canadian dollar) = $.82

1 RUB (Russian ruble) = $.02

So how much did Capital One charge us?

1 EUR = $1.13

1 CHF = $1.08

1 DKK = $.15

1 SEK = $.12

1 CAD = $.80-.81

1 RUB = $.02

So it would appear that Capital One did not try to make a profit on the conversion rate.

Schwab charged me:

1 SEK = $.12

1 DKK = $.15

1 CHF = $1.08-1.09

So Schwab also did not try to make a profit on the conversion either. Good. Heartwarming that you can trust these two companies on foreign currency.

On one occasion, I gave the Capital One Visa card to the Hotel Dei Cavalieri in Milan. But they charged me in USD so they could profit from the conversion. Their rate was 1 EUR = $1.16, a 3¢ ripoff x 18 euros = 54¢ which mounts up if you do it to everybody.

The Hotel Giardino Lago did the same in Switzerland—3¢ mark-up per CHF in spite of my using the Capital One card and intending to pay the bill in CHF. 65¢ total on that one.

So it’s not enough to use a Capital One credit card to avoid being screwed on currency conversion. I think it’s technically possible for you to do demand to pay in the local currency using the credit card, but it’s too hard to enforce and make sure they did not force you to pay in USD and overcharge for the conversion.

So use your Schwab debit card to get the local currency you need and pay in cash. That is the only way to avoid getting ripped off at many, if not most, foreign merchants when you are abroad.

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