Author Topic: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?  (Read 4710 times)

dundee

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 33
Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« on: June 09, 2015, 02:36:56 PM »
Dear Mustacians:

My daughter is planning to go to Madrid, Spain for a semester of study abroad. I have a few questions to minimize my expenses -

1. Does anybody have any experience with 'low cost' smart phone plan for 4 months in Spain? Should it be purchased locally there or is there anything available in the US that can be brought over?

2. What is the best way that she can withdraw cash money while in Spain without having to pay bank charges ($5 and up)?

Any pointers from your experience would be helpful.

THank you.

valsecito

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 58
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2015, 02:56:14 PM »
Not Spanish, but EU member state citizen, so I hope I'll be able to help you at least a bit.

1) No idea.

2) transferwise.com to transfer funds to an EU bank account from the US.
 A bank account in the EU. Most EU countries have at least some low cost or free banks. In my native Belgium, there is Argenta and Keytrade bank for example that will offer free bank transfers, a free maestro debit card and a free Visa or Master credit card. Intra EU bank transfers in euros legally have to be executed at the same price as a domestic one, so in practice, it doesn't really matter where in the EU you open the account. It's just easier I guess to find a decent and free bank in Spain.

ZiziPB

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3274
  • Location: The Other Side
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2015, 02:59:02 PM »
Hi, here is what I would recommend:

- she should get a local SIM pay-as-you-go plan in Spain .  What kind of phone does she have and on what network here?  She can probably have her phone unlocked here and should be able to use it in Europe.  If it is a Verizon 4G LTE phone, it is unlocked already.  Otherwise, you can call your provider and request an unlock for foreign travel.  Verizon does this routinely.  When she gets to Spain, she should get a pre-paid SIM card and swap it for the one in her phone.  She should be able to add money to it as she uses the minutes/texts or data.

- cash - free ATMs are really easy to find all over Europe.  The only thing to find out is whether your bank charges fees for withdrawals at foreign ATMs and whether they charge any type of currency exchange or foreign transaction fee.  I bank with a small local bank that does not charge any fees, so that works fine for me and my daughter who has been studying in Scotland for 4 years now.  Purchases made with a debit card should be free but your bank may charge currency exchange or foreign transaction fees so you need to ask. If your bank charges fees, open a cash management account at Schwab or Fidelity for her.  No fees and they refund any fees charged by other banks (worldwide).

Good luck to your daughter.  She'll have fun!

4alpacas

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1897
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2015, 03:02:00 PM »
ZiZiPB answered your questions.  However, I would also recommend looking into getting your daughter a credit card with a chip/pin that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees. 

ZiziPB

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3274
  • Location: The Other Side
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2015, 03:03:19 PM »
ETA: opening a local bank account may be a lot of hassle or outright impossible if she is there for a short period of time only.  She can easily get by with a US based debit card and a credit card (Visa would be best - but, again, make sure that it doesn't charge any foreign transaction fees).

ZiziPB

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3274
  • Location: The Other Side
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2015, 03:28:10 PM »
ZiZiPB answered your questions.  However, I would also recommend looking into getting your daughter a credit card with a chip/pin that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.
Agree with 4alpacas as to the credit card but I don't think there is any US issuer that offers chip and pin cards at this point. Chip and signature seems to be it. These work fine in Europe except that they require a signature and can't be used in fully automatic systems that don't have human assistants.  Debit card may also need a signature for transactions (not ATM) if it doesn't have a chip.

iamlindoro

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1520
    • The Earth Awaits
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2015, 03:38:03 PM »
ZiZiPB answered your questions.  However, I would also recommend looking into getting your daughter a credit card with a chip/pin that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.
Agree with 4alpacas as to the credit card but I don't think there is any US issuer that offers chip and pin cards at this point. Chip and signature seems to be it. These work fine in Europe except that they require a signature and can't be used in fully automatic systems that don't have human assistants.  Debit card may also need a signature for transactions (not ATM) if it doesn't have a chip.

There are a number of Chip + PIN cards in the US now.  Until late last year, most of them were from relatively obscure institutions that a lot of people hadn't heard of (Like Navy Federal Credit Union).  Many of the large banks have now got at least one or two options.

The best combination of a good travel card + Chip and PIN is probably the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite card.  You'll get the Chip and PIN card, plus 40,000 points after meeting the initial spend, amounting to a $400 travel credit (which you can basically apply to most expenses she has in Spain).

One note is that you have to use the Arrival+ as Chip and Signature once before it will operate as Chip and PIN.  Don't ask me why, I just work here.

GizmoTX

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1393
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2015, 03:45:42 PM »
A Schwab checking account is fee free & refunds all ATM fees all over the world. It also offers free checks & mobile deposits.

Barclaycard (Arrival Plus World Elite), BankAmericard, & Capital One cards all have chips & don't charge foreign transaction fees. The only places that didn't accept them were train ticket machines -- get coins or buy in advance. It doesn't matter whether they are VISA or MasterCard, but the other kinds like AmEx, Discover, or Diners rarely are accepted.

Phone overseas: is this for calling locally or back to the US? The most economical way to call internationally is to use Skype or similar service over wifi. Whenever we travel, airplane mode goes on until we return to the US. However, messaging, texting, email, browsing, & Skype all work over wifi.

iamlindoro

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1520
    • The Earth Awaits
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2015, 03:59:21 PM »
Barclaycard (Arrival Plus World Elite), BankAmericard, & Capital One cards all have chips & don't charge foreign transaction fees. The only places that didn't accept them were train ticket machines -- get coins or buy in advance. It doesn't matter whether they are VISA or MasterCard, but the other kinds like AmEx, Discover, or Diners rarely are accepted.

I just want to clarify again that Arrival+ is true Chip and PIN.  You can use it in train vending machines, etc.

http://thepointsguy.com/2014/05/new-barclaycard-arrival-plus-with-chip-pin-capability/

ZiziPB

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3274
  • Location: The Other Side
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2015, 04:03:18 PM »
Barclaycard (Arrival Plus World Elite), BankAmericard, & Capital One cards all have chips & don't charge foreign transaction fees. The only places that didn't accept them were train ticket machines -- get coins or buy in advance. It doesn't matter whether they are VISA or MasterCard, but the other kinds like AmEx, Discover, or Diners rarely are accepted.

I just want to clarify again that Arrival+ is true Chip and PIN.  You can use it in train vending machines, etc.

http://thepointsguy.com/2014/05/new-barclaycard-arrival-plus-with-chip-pin-capability/
Thanks for the tip, iamlindoro. This may be my next card ;-)

Kris

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4407
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2015, 04:23:53 PM »
Barclaycard (Arrival Plus World Elite), BankAmericard, & Capital One cards all have chips & don't charge foreign transaction fees. The only places that didn't accept them were train ticket machines -- get coins or buy in advance. It doesn't matter whether they are VISA or MasterCard, but the other kinds like AmEx, Discover, or Diners rarely are accepted.

I just want to clarify again that Arrival+ is true Chip and PIN.  You can use it in train vending machines, etc.

http://thepointsguy.com/2014/05/new-barclaycard-arrival-plus-with-chip-pin-capability/

I have a Visa from State Department Federal Credit Union in D.C. that is also true chip and PIN.  I had to open a checking account to get it, but it was completely worth it.  Never use the checking account, and the credit card has made foreign travel so, so much easier.

iamlindoro

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1520
    • The Earth Awaits
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2015, 04:26:27 PM »
Barclaycard (Arrival Plus World Elite), BankAmericard, & Capital One cards all have chips & don't charge foreign transaction fees. The only places that didn't accept them were train ticket machines -- get coins or buy in advance. It doesn't matter whether they are VISA or MasterCard, but the other kinds like AmEx, Discover, or Diners rarely are accepted.

I just want to clarify again that Arrival+ is true Chip and PIN.  You can use it in train vending machines, etc.

http://thepointsguy.com/2014/05/new-barclaycard-arrival-plus-with-chip-pin-capability/
Thanks for the tip, iamlindoro. This may be my next card ;-)

No problem!  Great card, and relatively churnable too.  You have the option to set the PIN when you activate via phone.  Then just go swipe and sign at least once and the PIN begins to work.

Here's another article (mostly fluff, but just an example of using it for train tickets at CDG):

http://thepointsguy.com/2014/05/using-the-arrival-plus-chip-pin-to-buy-train-tickets-at-cdg/

cashstasherat23

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 244
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #12 on: June 10, 2015, 07:54:50 AM »
I studied in Barcelona about two years ago, and while we were there, we used pay as you go flip phones. Was it convenient? Not really...but we survived without having data at all times! You can buy the phones in a cell phone store (I think I went to Yoigo or Vodafone?), although make sure you specify the prepaid sim version, and it is definitely a dumb phone, but useful for texting and calling when you need to find your friends. We all used those, and then just used our smart phones once we found wifi. Don't remember how much the phone cost, but it was minimal.

To call home, we all just used skype or viber, but make sure you download those apps before you get there!
« Last Edit: June 10, 2015, 07:56:53 AM by cashstasherat23 »

kendallf

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1065
  • Age: 53
  • Location: Jacksonville, FL
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #13 on: June 10, 2015, 08:13:22 AM »
I've spent a bunch of time in Madrid, and I second (or third?) the Barclay Arrival + recommendation. 

On the phone, any GSM unlocked smart phone will work fine with prepaid SIM cards.  I borrowed an Android smartphone in Malaysia recently and bought prepaid SIM cards; it's really nice to have Google Maps available on remote rides (I did some riding out away from the city).  I currently use my Republic Wireless phone as a wifi only "call home" phone overseas; no SIM card option there unfortunately. 

I'm considering a switch to Ting for this reason (they lease GSM BW from T-Mobile, so you could swap SIM cards overseas.) I also (a couple of phones ago) had a dual mode GSM/CDMA Verizon phone that roamed just fine throughout much of Spain (on Vodaphone, I think).  They offered a short term international roaming option that wasn't too expensive. 

expectopatronum

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 225
  • Location: Texas
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2015, 08:21:47 AM »
1) If she has a smart phone already, she should take that and suspend service (so she doesn't pay for it). Get a cheapy for basic communication and meetups. Works great, and wifi is likely going to be so available that she won't need the full smartphone service. She can email/Skype from it on wifi. You may even find that GPS service still works on the smartphone even with everything suspended. This has worked very well for me overseas in general.

2) I know Bank of America is part of the Global ATM alliance, so I don't pay fees at ATMs if I use a certain bank in that country - such as Deutschebank in Germany, or BNP Paribas in France...You can google it to find out if they're in Spain. Husband worked overseas for 2 years and used Citi; I think they refund fees(?) and had no % transaction fee. I knew someone else who used...CapitalOne I believe? With some hunting and recs on this thread, hopefully you can find something that will work for her.

dundee

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 33
Re: Study abroad in Spain - Cell phone? money withdrawal?
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2015, 11:07:05 AM »
THank you all for your helpful information.

My daughter has an iPhone 5 and currently uses Straighttalk. I will investigate whether it is unlocked and quad band GSM.