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Germany offers a variety of landscapes from the coast in the north to the Bavarian Alps in the south.  The country boasts a multitude of historical towns and cities, romantic castles, and excellent museums.  The tourism infrastructure is well developed and most of the people speak English. 

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CURRENCY CONVERSION AND BANKING

Military Finance is always confusing, and this is especially true when moving overseas.  Read our Military Finance Tips and Essential Information to ensure to find out more about your Military Money Matters.  Armed with this knowledge, you can protect your interests and ensure that you get everything that you are entitled to.

By following our guide to currency conversion and banking, you can save over $1000 over your tour in Europe.  And you don't have to do anything but use the right ATMs and banks!



CURRENCY CONVERSION
Living in Europe as a Military Servicemember or DOD civilian means that you will need to keep track of the currency exchange rate between the Euro and the Dollar.  These rates change daily and may fluctuate quite a lot over time. 

The best way to keep track of the exchange rate is on the internet at such sites as http://xe.com/, which allows you to view every world currency. 

CURRENCY CONVERSION ON POST
The banks and credit unions on post also post exchange rates and allow you to exchange euros for dollars (and vice versa).  The exchange rates available at these businesses, however, deviate from the open market rate by 1 to 2 cents. 

You can view the different exchange rate offered by Service Credit Union, a credit union facility available on post in Europe, by clicking here.

If the open market exchange rate for 1.00 Euro is $1.25, the on post banks and credit unions will charge you $1.27 per Euro.  The reverse is also true: if the exchange rate for $1.00 is 0.90 Euro, you will have to pay 0.92 Euro on post.  In other words, you will lose 2 cents on each and every dollar/euro you exchange simply by going to a facility on post.  This also applies to withdrawals of Euro from ATMs on post, and to money transfers to German accounts when done using a bank or credit union on post. 

While 1 to 2 cents may not seem like much, over time the money adds up.  This is especially true for large sums of money (such as when you are paying for rent if you live off of post).  For example, if your rent off post is 1500 Euro, you will lose 30 dollars each and every time you pay your rent.  Over a period of 24-36 months (depending on the length of your tour), you will end up losing $720 to $1080 simply on paying rent.  Factor in utilities and vairous ATM withdrawals every time you want to use Euro or purchase anything off post, and you will end up losing a lot more money simply by using the on post exchange rate.

The best exchange rates, believe it or not, are offered by credit card companies.  So if you really are looking to save, use your card whenever possible instead of paying in cash.  Just remember to track your expenses and to pay them off at the end of the month.  This will take some fiscal discipline, but if you follow this plan you can save!

MONEY TRANSFERS
In Europe, most monetary transactions are made via wire transfers, rather than paid by checks, credit, or even in cash.  When you receive a speeding ticket and have to pay the local government, you must wire money from your bank account to the local government's account.  When you pay your rent, you will have to transfer money from your bank account directly to your landlord's bank account.

Unfortunately it is impossible to transfer money from a US routing number to a European routing number (without paying an exorbitant amount in fees).  Therefore it is necessary to open up either an account on post or at a bank on the economy.

The facilities on post are special in that they have both a US and a European routing number, enabling you to transfer money from your account in the US (or direct deposit your pay) into your account on post.  However, any money deposited in that account is kept in dollar amount.  When you end up transferring money to a European account to pay for a speeding ticket or to pay rent, the bank or credit union will change your dollars to Euro using their poor exchange rate and end up costing you money.

OPENING A LOCAL BANK ACCOUNT
One way to avoid the exchange surcharge is to open up a bank account on the economy.  All you need is a phone number and a physical address (NOT your APO address) so that you can get your locally addressed bank statements. 

Whether you live on or off post, you have a physical address, so this should not be a problem.  However, this is especially important for people who live off post, because they will end up exchanging large amounts of currency to pay for rent, energy, and heating. 

Most European banks have online banking, which makes a money transfer to pay rent, utilities, or a ticket as easy as getting on the Internet.  Be sure to ask for this capability if you open a local account.

EC CARDS
An additional advantage to having an account at a European bank is that you will get an EC card.  An EC card is simply a debit card to your European bank account.  Where it differs from any other card is that EC cards are accepted at just about every business in Europe. 

Many businesses in Europe do not accept credit cards (notable among them are the popular furniture store Ikea and pay-at-the-pump gas stations in France) and you will have either the choice of carrying large amounts of cash at all times, or using your EC card.

WITHDRAW EURO FROM ATMs OFF POST

In addition, NEVER withdraw Euro from an ATM on post.  Go to an ATM on the economy whenever you have to withdraw money.  You DO NOT need to have a local bank account to withdraw money from an ATM off post, you just need a ATM card with the MasterCard or Maestro logo.

Keep in mind that these ATMs will charge you a withdrawal fee each time to withdraw money.  This withdrawal fee with vary from machine to machine, as it does in the US.  If you bank with USAA, you do not have to worry about this hassle because USAA will reimburse your ATM withdrawals up to $10.00 each month.

The best exchange rate credit cards

Finally, when traveling to other countries in Europe (or around the world) do not exchange your money at the "money exchange shops" available in airports and in shopping districts. 

GETTING MONEY INTO YOUR LOCAL BANK ACCOUNT

One disadvantage to having a local bank account is that it is difficult to get money into it! 

You cannot wire money into it from your US account, and opening up an account at a facility on post would defeat the purpose of having a local account (because the bank/credit union on post would still be exchanging your dollars into Euro in order to transfer it into your local account).  Therefore it becomes impossible to automatically deposit money into your local bank account. 

You could write a check to deposit money, but the check must clear both the European banking facility and your US banking facility.  Plus, large checks typically are held at a Customs account to ensure that the money being sent does not violate any legal issues.  A check written to deposit money into a German account could take up to a month to clear and enter the local account.

One quick way to get money into your local account (while avoiding the exchange surcharge) is by withdrawing your money at a local ATM, and then entering the bank and making a cash deposit.  Using a local ATM would enable you to get the better exchange rate, and a cash deposit of Euro makes your money immediately available for wire transfers. 

In order to limit the number of trips to an ATM you have to make (and to still be able to get enough money into your account), write a letter to your US bank at which you have your checking account and ask to raise your one-day ATM withdrawal limit to an acceptable amount that will cover your monthly payments. 

European ATMs have a one-time withdrawal limit of 500 Euro.  So in order to get 1500 Euro into your account to pay your rent, you will have to make 3 separate transactions.  However, this does not mean you will have to go to 3 separate machines around town to withdraw money.  Simply make one 500 Euro withdrawal, and after your card is ejected, put it right back into the ATM.  You can make as many consecutive withdrawals at the same ATM as you need (up to the new one-day limit you set with your US bank, of course). 

Once you have all your money in hand, walk in to the deposit line of your bank and you will have your money available in your account to make your necessary payments!

This may seem like a tedious process, but it only takes 15 minutes every month, and when you consider the fact you will be saving thousands of dollars over the course of your tour in Europe, this is time well spent. 

Even if you do not want to go through the trouble of opening up a local account, we must emphasize to you that you should NEVER withdraw Euro from an ATM on post.  This is a small sacrifice to pay for the money you will save over time.

DAMAGED SHIPMENT?

SEE OUR GUIDE TO CLAIMS FOR LOSS/DAMAGE TO HOUSEHOLD GOODS/BAGGAGE

Castles

Heidelberg CastleHeidelberg
Heidelberg is the very image of romantic Germany.  The city's 17th Century red sandstone castle ruin and the old bridge are two of the most majestic sights in all of Germany.

Neuschwanstein CastleNeuschwanstein
Venture into the Bavarian Alps and visit the fairy tale landmark upon which the Walt Disney based his Disney Land Castle: Mad King Ludwig's Schloss Neuschwanstein.

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