Ready to go to Spain
You and your family will soon become experts at international banking transactions. You will want quick access to your funds, and you will also want to protect your money against loss. This part covers your banking options.
The Spanish monetary standard is called the euro. The current exchange rate is approximately 1.33 euros to $1. You can check today's rate by visiting this exchange rate currency calculator.
The new currency will be made up of eight euro coins and seven euro notes. The coins will be issued in 2 in 1 euros, as well as in 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 cents. Each coin will display a common face on one side and a participating nation's motif on the opposite side. Regardless of the national motif imprinted, you'll be able to use euro coins anywhere within the 12 member nations.
In addition to the coins, seven euro notes will be circulated in denominations of 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, and 5 euros. Unlike the coins, the notes will have a common design on the front and back. Like the coins, they will be considered as legal tender in all member nations. The euro will be expressed by a symbol that looks like ?.
Additionally, the euro's official abbreviation will appear as EUR. For more information about the euro, check out the following websites:
The easiest way to handle your money is with an American ATM card. The advantage to using your card is that you will be assessed the wholesale exchange rate that applies to large foreign currency transactions. You should check with the issuer to make sure your numerical PIN number will work abroad. You can only draw from a primary (usually checking) account. Cirrus and PLUS are widely accepted ATM cards. Be sure to check with your bank about using your ATM card in Spain and about any fees that might be assessed. Please note: you should know your pin number and have an alphabetical pin number. There are no letters present on spanish ATM's.
Bring most of your funds in travelers checks. This is the safest and most convenient way to carry your money. With travelers checks, you have immediate access to your money and checks can be used to open a local bank account.
You decide in which currency to purchase your checks. If you buy euros denominated checks, the exchange rate is fixed at the time of your purchase. US dollar checks have a variable exchange rate based on when you change them. Most banks charge a fee for this service.
Be sure your checks are from an internationally recognized source such as Visa, American Express, MasterCard or Cooks. If you are a member of AAA, you can obtain free American Express travelers checks at your local AAA office. (AAA will accept a personal check in payment if you have an American Express card.)
Credit cards are not used as frequently in Spain as other European countries.
But while Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted than American Express for purchases, American Express offers its card holders some very useful financial services. Check with each company before you depart.
With an AmEx card and your passport, you can go into any American Express office and write a personal check in US funds using your checkbook from your checking account back home. This service is not available to Optima card holders. You will receive a portion of your funds in local currency and can purchase travelers checks with the rest. This is the simplest way for your family to transfer money to you in Spain. Remember to leave deposit slips with your family so they can deposit additional funds in your account if necessary. And don't forget to pack your checkbook. Your family can also cable money to you through American Express.
Visa and MasterCard
Both cards are widely accepted at shops throughout Spain. You may also draw cash at participating banks; be aware, however, that interest accrues from the first day. Check with your issuing bank for further information.
Drawbacks to Plastic
Even with careful planning and strict adherence to a budget, it is frighteningly easy to overspend. Finance charges can add up quickly if you extend payment on goods or take out cash advances.
Obtaining a Major Credit Card
The card you present overseas must be in your own name as given on your passport. At a cardholder's request (your family), most major lenders will issue a dependent's card.
Banks open around 8:30 am and close at 2:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Banks are closed on Saturdays.
In An Emergency
If you find yourself in dire straits, the State Department can help your family transfer money back to you (provided you are a US citizen). To do this, your family must wire money through Western Union or their bank, or send a cashier's check or money order to the State Department in Washington, DC. A trust account is established and a telegram is sent to the appropriate US embassy or consulate overseas, authorizing next workday disbursement to you. The State Department fees for this service range from $15-$40.For further information about this service, check the State Department's website.