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I am exploring my options to transfer money from the US to Europe. While a provider like Transferwise looks like a good default option, wonder if there is anything wrong with simply using my US Visa Debit card at an ATM in Germany to withdraw cash, and deposit that.

As long as my bank does not charge a transaction fee, and the German ATM no withdrawal fee, I should only pay the Visa exchange rate, which (at least today) seems to be competitive.

But this option seems to be rarely mentioned in related discussions. What am I missing?

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    I used to do this all the time, albeit the other way around. The biggest issue were withdrawal limits at the ATM, and that US ATMs only give out $20 bills typically. Otherwise, I never had any issues with this. – Najel Dec 13 '17 at 20:04
  • Most banks do charge transaction fee when withdrawing from ATMs, e.g. my bank charges EUR 5. One might want to consider whether that would cost more or save them money eventually. Some banks in my country did offer fee-free cash withdrawal for the first several withdrawals of the month. – xji Dec 18 '17 at 10:30
  • I am pretty sure that my bank (TD) does not charge a fee, and even refunds any fees that the ATM’s owner might charge. – Joachim Breitner Dec 18 '17 at 16:53
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I think it's relatively rare to have a card that doesn't charge any kind of foreign transaction fee, but if you have one I think you're right.

Bear in mind that the Visa exchange rate does include a spread from the mid rate, but for USD/EUR it seems relatively small at present - about 0.3-0.4% away from mid each way. Transferwise in contrast has quite high fees from USD, from 0.7%-1% (minimum $3), so Visa would easily win.

(Source - when I looked just now, Transferwise were quoting 1.175, Visa rates were 1.17172 / 1.17938)

USD/EUR is a very liquid currency pair with small spreads. For many other pairs, Transferwise will be a better option. For example for GBP/SEK, the spread from mid is about 0.8%, whereas the Transferwise fee is 0.4% + 80p, so Transferwise would win for any amount above £200.

  • Good to see you in unexpected places, Ganesh :-) – Joachim Breitner Dec 13 '17 at 14:35

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