Barcelona Money Saving Tips

In this economy, every cent saved helps. To make your euros go further in Barcelona, follow our money saving tips.

1. Shop at El Corte Inglis for the Tourist Discount

El Corte Inglis is the place to one-stop-shop in Barcelona. El Corte Inglis' nine floors hold everything from gourmet groceries, toiletries, electronics, toys, clothes, shoes, and souvenir items. Many of Spain's famous brands, such as Desigual, Custo and Zara, have special sections showcasing their items.

The big advantage of shopping at El Corte Inglis over other stores is the tourist discount of 10% off. Simply show your passport at the Tourist Information Center on the ground floor, and you'll receive the discount card good for that day of shopping. Unfortunately, if you return again during your trip, you'll have to wait again at the Center to receive another card.

When you buy an item, show your discount card at the register and El Corte Inglis staff will subtract the discount from the total price of your items. Food and books are excluded from the discount.

Location: You can't miss it. On Placa de Catalunya (takes up a city block) at the top of Las Ramblas. Metro: Catalunya. When you enter the store, follow the signs or ask one of the doormen to direct you to the Tourist Information Center. The Tourist Information staff speak fluent English.

2. Avoid the Biggest Rip-Off - Dynamic Currency Conversion

When you use your credit cards in Barcelona, many merchants will offer you the option of paying your bill in dollars instead of euros. For the convenience of paying in dollars, called Dynamic Currency Conversion, the merchant adds a fee at their discretion from 2% to 9% of your total transaction. You'll find Dynamic Currency Conversion being used in high-end department stores like El Cortes Ingles, hotels and boutiques.

Merchants say that American travelers prefer to see their bill and pay in dollars, so the fee is fair. We say it is a way for merchants to pad the bill and "rip-off" tourists. For example, a hotel charging a 5% fee for a 1600€ stay will cost you 80€ for the convenience of paying your bill in dollars. This does not include any transaction fees your credit card may charge you for an international transaction.

The good news is that you can easily refuse Dynamic Currency Conversion. When you use your credit card, the merchant will show you two prices - in euros and in dollars. Select "euros" and you will pay no additional fees.

If your hotel bypasses the currency selection step and presents your bill to you in dollars have the staff void the dollar transaction, and re-run it selecting the "euro" option.

3. Use Your Credit Card for Most Purchases

You'll receive the best exchange rate possible by charging purchases on your credit card. You'll also receive fraud protection, so if you have an issue with a hotel (e.g., not the luxurious room you prepaid for), merchant or tour, you'll be able to dispute the transaction and receive a refund. When using credit cards in Barcelona, follow these tips:

- Call your credit card provider and let them know the dates and location of your travel. Otherwise, their automatic fraud protection algorithms may de-activate your card mid-trip.

- Travel with at least two credit cards. Even by calling before hand, we've had our cards unexpectedly shut-off. If you're in a pinch, have another card handy to use until you can sort-out the misunderstanding with your bank.

- Carry a photo ID. When charging purchases in Spain, you must also show a photo ID. To avoid sightseeing with your passport, use your driver's license instead.

- Verify your card's fees for foreign transactions before leaving home. You'll be surprised in the differences in fees between cards - even cards issued by the same bank. Note that Frequent Flier and Hotel Affiliated Visa/MasterCards are notorious for having some of the worst fees.

- Get a Capital One Visa Card - The card with the best rates for overseas travel is hands-down a Capital One Visa. Most cards charge the standard Visa fee of 1%, an overseas 1% transaction fee and a 4% surcharge on international purchases. The Capital One Visa charges no fees - not even the standard 1% Visa fee. If you are planning on spending a few weeks overseas, this card will save you hundreds of dollars over the course of your trip. Just remember to pay it off - the monthly interest rate is brutal.

4. Use an ATM to Get Euros and Up Your ATM Limit.

Don't worry about purchasing euros in the United States or buying travelers checks. Travelers checks are virtually obsolete (good luck getting anyone to cash them) and you'll pay outrageous fees to procure euros from your local bank or AAA office.

ATMs are easy to find in Barcelona, but you'll pay a fee, usually $5, for each transaction. Before leaving home, call your bank and increase your daily withdrawal limit. Then, minimize your fees by withdrawing a large amount all at once. Stash what you aren't going to use that day in your hotel safe.

Another reason to up your limit is if you need to pay a large deposit on an apartment, tour, or train tickets. We were surprised to find that we could not pay by credit card for the overnight train to Paris (cash only for trains outside of Spain). Luckily, we upped our limit and could easily withdraw 500€ that day.

5. Collect Your VAT Refund

As a tourist, if you spend over 90.15€ at one merchant, you can receive a VAT (IVA in Spanish) refund of 18% on your purchases. When you check out at a store, show your passport and ask the staff for the paperwork. When you depart Spain, show your purchases and documentation to the Spanish Customs Agents.

Depending on where you depart Spain (e.g., air, train, boat), you may be able to receive the refund at designated banks or exchanges at your point of departure (e.g., airports) or you'll need to mail-in the VAT documentation. If you mail-in your VAT info, give over 3 months to receive the refund check in the mail.


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