Money Exchange in Germany- It’s as Easy as Your ATM at Home
It’s travel season, so I’m getting a lot of questions about money exchange in Germany. Cash is still king in Germany! Around 80% of all transactions happen with CASH, so you will need to get used to walking around with bills. Changing money used to be a hassle… long lines at money changers who charged high fees! I’m happy to report that getting Euros, the currency used in Germany, is a lot easier today than it was years ago. And, in my mind, much more secure. In the past few years I’ve traveled to Germany a few times, and I’ve never had trouble getting Euros. Here is the easiest way to handle getting money in Germany.
What currency is used in Germany?
Let’s start out with the basics. Germany, like much of Europe, has used the Euro since 2002. (Still have some old Deutsche Marks that someone tucked away in a drawer from years ago? Don’t fret, you can take those to a bank to exchange them for Euros.) The Euro comes in fairly standard bill denominations of 200€, 100€ , 50€, 20€ and 5€ (you might see a 500€, but they are being phased out). The bills are all different sizes, and are rather pretty. Unlike in the US, there are no 1€ bills… instead you will get a coin (2 toned). They also have 2€ coins. The small change is called Eurocents… and you will see 1c, 2c, 5c, 20c (no quarters!!) and 50C. The numbers are CLEARLY marked on them. Use them on small purchases like Eis, or be prepared to come home with a pocket full of Kleingeld (small money).
Money Exchange in Germany
The best way to get Euros in Germany is through an ATM machine, known as a Geldautomat. They are EVERYWHERE. Look at banks, shopping centers, train stations, post offices, hotel lobbies, and of course, the airport. Language will not be a problem, because you can select English at all of them. There might be a few dollar charge to access your money, but it is still MUCH less than the percentage charged by the professional Money Exchanges.
The only drawback to ATM machines is the daily limit. If you are worried that you might need more than the standard amount that your bank allows every day, contact your bank to see if you can get the limit raised.
If you are new to ATMs… practice at home. And please don’t forget your PIN code!
And I can not stress this enough…. BEFORE YOU GO TO GERMANY… Give your travel information to your bank. Let them know the dates that you will be using your debit card in Germany. They will put a stop on your card if you don’t (I know this from rather annoying personal experience… I traveled with someone who “forgot” to notify the bank. Spending most of Sunday trying to get a hold of anyone who could help fix the problem internationally was a royal pain. Save yourself serious aggravation… just make that phone call BEFORE you go).
This information is important for credit cards too…Call your credit card companies, and give them the travel dates. Although cash is important for most purchases, credit cards useful for hotels, car rentals and larger purchases (you want to bring that 6 Foot tall Nutcracker home with you? It will probably cost a bit more than you have in bills.)
Also (and yes, I am the kind of person who triple checks locks), I find that having a Credit Card with a PIN code and the ability to get a cash advance is a nice back up in case something goes wrong with the Debit Card.
Keep in mind, that it’s a good idea to photocopy both sides of the debit and credit cards, and keep the information, along with important international bank phone numbers (they are generally on the card), somewhere safe with you in case of theft or loss.
Should you Exchange Money BEFORE Going to Germany?
Because there are ATM machines in the German Airports, exchanging money in the US before you go is not essential. However, if you are like me, and want to make sure every possible thing is taken care of in advance, you can go to a bank at home and change some. My bank usually has around 50€ or 100€ on hand, and I will pay the fee just to have something in my wallet. There are also Money Exchange Geld Wechsel or Wechselstube in the International Terminal at the airport. You could bite the bullet, and exchange a small amount while waiting for your flight. Then get more from the ATM in Germany when you land.
I also end up taking a handful of Kleingeld (small change) along that came back with me on the previous trip. (That way I can get a snack the second I hit the ground… there are BAKERIES in the Airport). Although I’m sort of convinced that I’m carrying the same coins back and forth across the Atlantic. (And every now and then, I find them in the cup holder of my car… sadly, useless for American parking meters).
Why Not Take Dollars to Exchange in Germany?
Twice in the past 10 years I’ve taken dollars and tried to get them exchanged for Euros in Germany. It’s not worth the hassle. Because of counterfeiting fears, banks won’t take the dollars unless you have an account with them. (Although, large banks in big cities may still do it). And I can’t remember the last time I used Travelers Checks…. and the last time I checked, you will have to pay a fee that is higher than the ATM fee. You will find a Money Exchange or Wechselstube at the Airport that can change dollars or Travelers Checks.
Current Exchange Rates
If you are looking for the current up-to-date exchange rates, click –> Current Exchange Dollars to Euros
Money Exchange in Germany is EASY! Just be sure that you contact your bank BEFORE you go… and make sure that there is money in your account! Then, go have some worry free fun in Germany!!
Basically, I completely agree with your recommendation of getting money on the ground in Germany. I travel there once or twice a year for pleasure and have never had any trouble getting money from ATM’s upon landing and I have landed at airports in Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Berlin. Yes, it might not be the BEST exchange rate but honestly the difference isn’t going to amount to that down payment on a vacation home in Cancun. And yes, there will be a fee for getting Euros from the place you get the money from as well as your own bank in the U.S. but it’s still enormously easier to do than to hassle with it in advance. I have never needed any local currency in any airport in Europe to buy anything and I have flown in and out of airports in Germany, Portugal, Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary and Turkey and always used a credit card if I didn’t have Euros.
Thank you for all your wonderful travel tips. I wish I spoke better German so I could at least try to speak it but all my friends there speak wonderful and better English than I speak German so I never have any trouble.
true… you don’t need Euros in the airport… and it isn’t a hassle getting them anywhere.
I’m just an overplanner, and like to have them in my pocket.
It is a big problem, because they don’t have exchange offices and you can’t change you money that you have in you pocket anywhere.
It really is. You can go to a change office at the airport… but I’m usually thinking about bags and the next step of the journey. Banks no longer exchange without an account.
It’s best to use the ATM.
What can I do with my 5 million,500,000 & 100,000 1923 reichsmarks dems.
I think you can sell them on Etsy or Ebay. I’m fairly certain the bank won’t exchange them directly.