Exchanging money in Barcelona can be a bit like choosing what to eat at your local Chinese buffet.
Some of the options look perfect, some of them look sensible, some of them look really weird and some of them trigger alarm bells in the part of your brain designed to sniff out a potentially horrible situation.
We’re going to make your Barcelona money exchange experience as easy as possible with our handy-dandy money exchange guide. For ease of understanding, we’ll use American dollars and Euros as our two currencies. Enjoy!
THE BASICS ABOUT THE EXCHANGE RATE
An exchange rate is the value of your country’s currency as compared to another country’s currency. A great site to check the exchange rate is www.xe.com. This site tells you how many US dollars equal one euro. Over the years, this rate has gone up and down, hovering between 1.25 dollars per euro and 1.17 dollars per euro.
This rate is the set rate for the dollar. However, the rate your bank charges you to transfer money between accounts is different. Typically banks add at least three percent to the exchange rate. The usual explanation is that the rate at which banks buy and sell currency is different than the actual exchange rate.
THE BEST WAYS TO EXCHANGE YOUR MONEY
Our recommendation is to use you US ATM card to make withdrawals at bank ATM’s in Barcelona.
This recommendation used to be airtight for customers of Bank of America and Citibank, two banks who allowed you to withdraw money without any fees. The partnership these two banks had with Spanish banks ended recently, however, and now travelers face a 3% fee for using international ATM’s.
The main advantage to withdrawing money from an ATM is that you receive the real exchange rate when you withdraw your money. If the exchange rate is $1.30 per euro, you’ll get $1.30 per euro.
Many banks will charge you an extra one-time fee to withdraw money from an ATM. Many times the fee is $5.
Now, before you send an irate email to your bank about their ridiculous charges, remember this — the sum of fees your bank charges will be much lower than the fee a Spanish bank would charge to convert your American cash into European cash.
Make sure you call your bank before you leave to let them know you’ll be traveling abroad. Have your itinerary nearby so you can let them know which countries you’ll be exploring and on what dates.
Curious about your bank’s overseas ATM charges? We’ve included a table at the end of this post that includes fees for the major American banks.
We also suggest using a prepaid debit card from your bank or your credit card company. Prepaid cards usually apply the real exchange rate to your purchases without a litany of fees. You can customize the card’s expiration date, which is a great feature for you when you’re traveling abroad.
The cards allow you the security of a bank-issued method of payment and you’ll be able to check your card’s balance online. This is a convenient, easy-to-track option if you don’t feel comfortable carrying money around.
Dedicated Exchange Companies
There are many of these to choose from, but not all are created equal. Our preferred option for currency exchange is Ria Currency Exchange.
They tend to offer the best exchange rate without commissions, have various locations throughout Spain with three branches located along Barcelona’s famous Ramblas and easily beat airport rates. In fact, you should avoid exchanging at airports as they usually have the worst rates.
Banks in Spain normally will not exchange currency unless you have an account with them making Ria a great option for those times when you need to exchange US dollars, British pounds or nearly any other currency into euros.
You can check their rates here and get a bit of discount using the following promo code: BCNEXP.
(courtesy of www.nerdwallet.com)
|ATM Withdrawal||POS Purchase|
|Ally Bank||1% of amount||1% of purchase|
|Bank of America||$5 + 3% of amount||3% of purchase|
|BB&T||$5 + 3% of amount||3% of purchase|
|BBVA Compass||$2 + 1% of amount||3% of purchase|
|BMO Harris Bank||$2.50 + 3% of amount||3% of purchase|
|Charles Schwab Bank||N/A||N/A|
|Chase||$5 + 3% of amount||3% of purchase|
|Citibank||$2.50 + 3% of amount||3% of purchase|
|Citizens Bank||$3 + 3% of amount||3% of purchase|
|Comerica||$5 + 3% of amount||3% of purchase|
|EverBank||1% of amount||1% of purchase|
|Fifth Third||$5 + 3% of amount||3% of purchase|
|HSBC||$2.50 + 3% of amount||3% of purchase|
|Capital One 360||N/A||N/A|
|KeyBank||$2.50 + 1% of amount||1% of amount|
|M&T Bank||Greater of $5 or 3% of amount||3% of purchase|
|PNC||$5||3% of purchase|
|Regions||$5||3% of purchase|
|SunTrust||$5 + 3% of amount||3% of purchase|
|TIAA Direct||$2 + 2% of amount||2% of purchase|
|USAA||$0* + 1% of amount
*Up to $15 of other banks’ charges refunded each month. No USAA fee for the first 10 withdrawals each month. $2 USAA fee applies to subsequent withdrawals.
|1% of purchase|
|US Bank||$2.50 + 3% of amount||3% of purchase|