How much cash should you take on vacation?
One of the most frequently asked questions I get from clients pre-departure, is about how to manage foreign currency. I generally recommend arriving in a country with $100 equivalent of local currency for tips, quick purchases (not all small shops or cafes accept cards), etc. Some retailers require a minimum amount in order to process a payment (usually 10,00eur and sometimes 20,00eur), that's why it is always useful to have some cash with you. Also, some hotels require that the city taxes to be paid must be in cash.
For the best rate, call your local bank branch and ask if they can order euros for you – it typically takes about a week. Once you arrive, your hotel concierge will be able to recommend the closest ATM and the one with the best exchange rate. I usually recommend withdrawing money from the ATM rather then exchanging it, as the fees are lower, but please double check your fees with your bank, sometimes it can get quite expensive.
Visa and Mastercard are generally widely accepted and I recommend using your card as much as possible, but make sure it’s with a card that doesn’t charge foreign conversion fees. I’ve found Capital One (most), Chase Sapphire Blue, HSBC Cash Back card and AMEX (gold or platinum) are best. AMEX, however, is not widely accepted. Call ahead to your card company also to let them know you’ll be travelling and to where, so they don’t flag/freeze your account with suspected fraudulent spending.
One other tidbit I like to share - while on the subject of foreign transaction fees - you'll notice on your receipt from retailers in Europe, the option for you to pay in euro or USD. While it may seem convenient to pay in USD, understand that retailers have the option to charge up to 8% for this conversion convenience, which can really add up over the length of your trip. Always circle or opt for euro. Be sure to check your bills as some vendors will default to this as a "convenience." It's called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) and you can read more about it here https://thepointsguy.com/.../06/dynamic-currency-conversion/