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Beware of ATMs and currency exchange services on cruise ships (insane fees)!

By on September 18, 2022 0

I’m always surprised when people use the ATM on cruise shipsespecially for small amounts, or use the customer support desk as the fee structure for either service is a complete rip off.

The general rule of travel is to only use ATMs of real mainstream banks and never apply the Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) option when withdrawing cash.

We’ve covered “scam machines” and their high surcharges, and the ways they attempt to trick users into choosing the expensive convenience conversion to their home currency (DCC) repeatedly.

I just finished a two week cruise with Celebrity Cruises in the Mediterranean and I couldn’t believe how often I saw people using the ATM on board the ship (EDGE) and there were even receipts lying around, showing small amounts of withdrawals.

Keep in mind that each time you withdraw from an ATM onboard Celebrity cruises, you incur a $6.50 fee plus any fees charged by your bank for using an ATM outside of their system. These charges can add up quickly and keep in mind that the onboard currency

The same goes for exchanging cash at the customer support desk. I overheard a conversation where a gentleman tried to exchange 50 euros to US dollars and was even offered $40. Never mind that it’s usually nearly impossible to get an equal trade amount, this was one day when XE showed me roughly parity (US$50 = EUR50.02). Why on earth would Celebrity take a $10 fee on such a small transaction? ? Jesus, it’s 20%!!

I’m sure these fees are also fairly representative for most other cruise lines.

There are better ways to get money on a cruise ship!

One option is the casino, you can still make a room charge, for example for slot credit and the charge will then be applied to your credit account as a cruise line charge through the final folio. You won’t have to pay cash advance fees this way. Depending on your booking type, the cruise line will charge a 5% fee for standard bookings. This transaction fee is waived for Blue Chip Club Onyx levels and above, similar MGM Rewards levels associated with the booking as well as onboard after guests.

If you are one of the people who have a 5% fee waiver, you can also generate a huge amount of credit card points and reach the minimum credit card spend level just by charging a lot of credit slot machine in your room, then cashing it out 1:1. You can withdraw up to $5,000 daily through your Seapass account as long as your bank continues to authorize your credit card. I usually bike ~$20,000 per cruise and later deposit it in the bank after disembarking IF the cruise ends in the US so I can access my bank.

The currency on board Celebrity, as I mentioned, remains the US dollar no matter where the ship is currently sailing. This means that it is very difficult to use it in Europe because you would end up with USD banknotes in your hand and how would you unload them without incurring a loss for exchange fees even at the best bank.

Conclusion

Cruising and access to cash is always an illustrious topic. Some people travel with a cash reserve during the cruise and also tip the crew very generously in addition to the automatic tips that most cruise lines apply. If you need other currencies, it largely depends on the cruise itinerary. In European ports you pretty much need euros, having cash in USD is not useful. For Caribbean and Central America cruises, you can use USD almost anywhere.

If you find yourself in a situation where local cash is needed, try to find a bank in advance that offers free international ATM withdrawals, then use a retail bank in town. Right at the port, you often find “fraudulent ATMs” with very high fees that are not associated with a retail bank. They often look sketchy too, and considering credit card skimming, I feel better using an ATM attached to a known bank.

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