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I'm thinking of going from Portugal to the USA, but I want to take some money with me so I have some cash when I get there. I specifically want to carry cash because I don't have a credit card or ATM card, so I won't have an easy way to get money in the USA (at least not immediately).

According to Uncle Google, 1 Euro is 1.142935 USA Dollars as of today (2015-02-13 10:13 UTC+00:00).

Since I want to get as close as possible to that exchange rate, in which country should I exchange my money? Is it better to exchange my euros for dollars in Portugal (before I leave) or in the USA (after I arrive)?

  • What type of Visa will you be staying in the US on? – EkoostikMartin Feb 13 '15 at 16:12
  • @EkoostikMartin It doesn't matter. Or it does? Do I need Visa to exchange money? – Ismael Miguel Feb 13 '15 at 16:13
  • If you're only exchanging a small amount of cash, it doesn't matter much which side you exchange it on. Exchanging a large amount of cash is probably not a great idea no matter which side you exchange it on. – BrenBarn Feb 13 '15 at 19:07
  • @BrenBarn I was thinking about 1000€ or a bit more. Here, it isn't a small amount. It may sound like scrap for some. Not here. – Ismael Miguel Feb 13 '15 at 21:24
  • @IsmaelMiguel: You said in the comments that all you really want to know is whether to the currency exchange before or after leaving, so I edited your question to focus on that part. Let me know if you think that's an accurate characterization of your question. If it is, I can edit my answer to remove the "bloat". – BrenBarn Feb 13 '15 at 23:28
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in my experience no-cash transactions are the best deal. Take your Portuguese credit card, get some cash ($60) for emergencies. Only pay with your credit card. It's much cheaper because it's all virtual.

The best would be to set up an American bank account and transfer the money there. You can also get Paypal account, they offer credit cards too. The virtual banks, credit unions are the best option because they don't charge you for transactions. They don't have expenses with keeping actual money.

Find some credit Union that accepts foreigners and take it from there.

You can exchange your money on the airport because it's in tax free zone. I recommend the country of the currency since they sell you their 'valuts' and you are buying dollars. Not selling Euros... Make sure to find out what is the best deal.

  • Since someone cleared all comments and made it look like that I didn't gave a damn about this answer, I will parcially repeat the contents of the previous 'discussion': Basically, I don't have credit or debit card, I only have a bank account without online access and I always have my money in my hand. All I've asked for is if I should exchange it here in Portugal or in the USA. One of the suggestions from @Grasper was to do the exchange in the airport (? Did I got it right?) since it is tax-free. – Ismael Miguel Feb 13 '15 at 17:03
  • yes, and you should upvote my answer. – Grasper Feb 13 '15 at 17:06
  • I've upvoted it. But you should edit it to add the part about the airport. The downvote wasn't mine. Sadly, I agree with the downvote considering the current state of the question because it doesn't answer the question. With the edit, that would be reverted. – Ismael Miguel Feb 13 '15 at 17:10
  • I also edited it! – Grasper Feb 13 '15 at 17:17
  • This is exactly what I wanted to know! Thank you! The last part says it all for me. I don't have to suffer the 'bulky wallet syndrome' when going to the USA. (If you recommended the oposite, I would do it anyway but I would need some extra care). Thank you a lot! – Ismael Miguel Feb 13 '15 at 17:24
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You can find lots of answers to this question by googling. I found at least five pages about this in 30 seconds.

Most of these pages seem to say that if you must convert cash, converting it in the destination country is probably better, because you are essentially buying a product (in this case, dollars), and it will cheaper where the supply is greater. There are more dollars in the USA than there are in Portugal, so you may be able to get them cheaper there. (Some of those pages mention caveats if you're trying to exchange some little-known currency, which people might not accept, but this isn't an issue if you're converting euros.)

Some of those pages specifically recommend against airport currency exchanges; since they have a "captive audience" of people who want to convert money right away, they face less competition and may offer worse rates. Of course, the downside of doing the exchange in the USA is that you'll be less familiar with where to do it. I did find some people saying that, for this reason, it's better to do it in your own country where you can shop around at leisure to find the best rate. That said, if you take your time shopping around, shifts in the underlying exchange rate in the interim could erase any savings you find.

It's worth noting, though, that the main message from all these pages is the same: don't exchange cash at all if you can possibly avoid it. Use a credit card or ATM card to do the exchange. The exchange rate is usually better, and you also avoid the risks associated with carrying cash.

  • This does answer to the question, but it has so much "bloat" that I dont care about. The ONLY thing that matters is this: "Most of these pages seem to say that if you must convert cash, converting it in the destination country is probably better." That's all I wanted to know, that's all I care about. And when I said "I'm thinking about moving to the USA.", I trully meant thinking. And if I do, I won't be alone. I will be at someone's house. And 1000€ is a lot of money. I'm paid 612.92€! Every month! So yes, it does matter for me. – Ismael Miguel Feb 13 '15 at 21:58
  • @IsmaelMiguel: If that is the case, I suggest you remove the part about moving the US from your question, to make it clear that you are only asking about currency exchange. However, in that case I believe your question is a duplicate of the one I linked to on the Travel StackExchange site. – BrenBarn Feb 13 '15 at 22:33
  • @IsmaelMiguel: Also re the 1000€ thing: I'm not saying it's not a lot of money. But "a lot of money" is relative. It's a heck of a lot of money to be carrying around. But it's a tiny amount of money to finance a relocation. This is why I say your discussion of moving to the US muddles the question. The goal of doing everything with carried cash (at least in a safe way) is almost totally incompatible with the goal of relocating to the US. If you want to ask about currency exchange, just ask about currency exchange. (Or don't, because like I said, you can already find the answer by googling.) – BrenBarn Feb 13 '15 at 22:43
  • I'm just asking about where I should make the currency exchange. You answered with legal stuff that have nothing to do with the question – Ismael Miguel Feb 13 '15 at 23:23
  • Now the answer is "up-vote worthy"! It's an answer more focused on the real "business". Sadly, I've already marked an answer as accepted :/ And honestly, I dislike one of the sources, but that's another business. – Ismael Miguel Feb 14 '15 at 0:01
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My experience (from European countries, but not Portugal specifically) is that it's better to change in the European country, as many banks will give you US $ as a matter of course, while in the US (insular place that it is), it can be rather difficult to find a place to exchange money outside an international airport. In fact, I have a few hundred Euros left from my last trip, several years ago. Expected to make another trip which didn't come off, and haven't found a place to exchange them.

PS: Just for information's sake, at the time I was working in Europe, and found that by far the easiest way to transfer part of my salary back home was to get $100 bills from my European bank. Another way was to withdraw money from an ATM, as the US & European banks were on the same network. Unfortunately the IRS put a stop to that, though I don't know if it was all banks, or just the particular one I was using. Might be worth checking, though.

  • Never though about that. But you do make a really important point that I've never though about. I have to have a full wallet, but I guess it might be the best. The negative side is if they refuse to exchange due to lack of Dollars. Which might happen. – Ismael Miguel Feb 13 '15 at 23:19
  • @Ismael Miguel: But if you're still at home in Portugal, you probably aren't in a great hurry to do the exchange. – jamesqf Feb 14 '15 at 5:26
  • Oh no, I don't have any hurry. Why would I have any hurry? – Ismael Miguel Feb 14 '15 at 6:04
  • You can take any major currency (such as Euros) to any national bank chain in the US, and they will gladly give you dollars for them. The exchange rate they offer will be quite close to the current spot rate. – dg99 Feb 14 '15 at 15:20
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I would just rely on the salary from my job in the US. If you don't have a job in the US, you're very unlikely to get a visa to move there and look for work, and so the question of how to take money there (except for a holiday) doesn't arise. (Unless you have dual Portuguese/American citizenship.)

  • I've deleted my previous comment since I said things that contradict the question. But those aren't important. All I want is to know where I should exchange the remaining money I have. I don't want to throw pearls to pigs. I don't want to hand my money to someone. I like to have that little extra money in case something goes wrong. Also, in my opinion, there are a bunch of other dificulties when dealing with money. When moving and having to pay for a place, you need money. I just want to know where I should exchange it. Legal questions aside. – Ismael Miguel Feb 13 '15 at 10:45
  • Does not answer question in it's present format. – BrianH Feb 13 '15 at 15:25
  • @IsmaelMiguel If we're not worrying about what's legal, then your cheapest way to get US dollars is to steal them. Whether you're best to try mugging, burglary, armed robbery or fraud is a personal decision based on your skill-set and preferences. – Mike Scott Feb 13 '15 at 16:03
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    @MikeScott I can do those. But first, I need Dollars to buy myself a gun in the USA (For those reading, this is pure sarcasm. I would never do any of those. I just want to know in which country I should make the exchange). – Ismael Miguel Feb 13 '15 at 16:08

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