Thursday, June 18, 2009

Getting money in Egypt

Planning on visiting Egypt? No need to bring lots of cash with you. Just use your ATM card and the money comes out in Egyptian pounds, with your bank doing the currency conversion for you. Most American banks will charge a $5.00 fee for international ATM withdrawals, in addition you will be charged a small percentage of the transaction. So if you withdraw 3,000 LE (which is the daily allowable limit and $532.00 in USD) your total fee for the transaction would be about $10.33, which will appear on your bank statement. It is a small price to pay to avoid standing in long lines to exchange money at banks and cash exchanges. The cash machines accept Visa, MasterCard, and work with several different networks. All of them have an English/Arabic option, and some of them even talk to you.

Don't even bother with traveller's checks. No one takes them in Egypt and you will have a hard time finding somewhere to sell them back.

The one drawback to using ATM's in Egypt is that you will often have to go to 2 or 3 machines before you find one that is not out of money or out of order.

It is becoming more common to find stores, restaurants, and vendors that accept credit or debit cards with the Visa/MasterCard logo. However, I have had several occasions when I have tried to pay with credit only to find the transaction declined. The problem turns out not to be with my card or account - but a problem with the credit card machine at the point of purchase. Egypt is not a credit driven country and it may be best to just pay cash. There have also been several reports of people's ATM cards being cloned when used at points of purchase.

Do not forget to call your bank/credit card company to let them know you will be using your cards and account in Egypt. Otherwise, they may suspect fraud and decline your request. Make sure you have your bank's phone number with you when you travel in the event you need to call them.

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