Tuesday, July 31, 2018


August is a traditional vacation time for Spaniards (really most of Europe). Sevilla is a net exporter of vacationers at this point (i.e. more people leave Sevilla for their vacations then come to Sevilla for their vacations). Shopkeepers also hit the road at this time. For example:
Rolled down shutters were definitely more common as we walked around town today. An interesting tradition among shopkeepers is to paint their shutters with some representation of the shop. In honor of the August vacations and the closed shops, here is a collection of some paintings that I saw on closed shop shutters.

I don't know what kind of shop this was, but it had lovely scenes from around Seville painted on its three shutters:

 This is the shutter of a "gift shop for men":
 The shutter of a photocopy and office supply shop:
 A produce stand:
 A pharmacy. This one I really don't get. It's like the Caduceus, but around a martini glass and then pills. What's the message here? Or am I just supposed to laugh. I'm kinda laughing:
 I think this is an office furniture place:
 A luthier shop:
 A hardware store, not sure why the venus is there, but maybe offering to fix the missing head and arms?
 A bakery, pretty much nailed that:

Two last items, we received our bike share cards in the mail today. Not sure of their practical value, since we've both already memorized our access numbers. But, it's nice to have something official I guess.
And, I liked this selfie that I took while taking pictures of store fronts today:

ATMs The Definitive Word

Having explored the ATM situation here in Sevilla extensively, for the good of the internet, I summarize our findings here. First, the winning combination: 
If you come here to Spain from the US and all your assets are in USD and you want euros cheap, before you leave, get an ordinary CapitalOne 360 checking account with a debit card and put some money in it. When you get here, look for a BankInter ATM machine (locator), go to the nearest one and withdraw some euros. At some point, you'll be given the option to conduct the transaction in USD or euros. Do the transaction in euros. There is no fee and the exchange rate will match the day's rate to about 3 decimal places. Basically, free currency exchange.
Now for a bit more detail. The option to do the transaction in dollars or euros comes up a lot here with both debit and credit card transactions. Choosing the most advantageous option is complicated and depends on the card issuer.

Some cards charge a foreign transaction fee. In this case, doing the transaction in euros will result in an additional charge from your card issuer (your US-based bank or credit card company). Sometimes the fee is a flat rate, sometimes it's a percentage of the transaction. It's really difficult to figure it out sometimes and you maybe should just call your card issuer beforehand to get the details. There are some cards that don't have a foreign transaction fee (e.g. CapitalOne cards, and a few others). But a lot do, especially if you're just using your local bank.

If your card issuer charges a foreign transaction fee, then you should consider doing the Spanish transaction in USD. But, there's a catch there too. In that case, the Spanish vendor may charge a transaction fee for working in USD. Now you really have to work. You've got to compare what the Spanish vendor is going to charge to what your US card issuer is going to charge and pick the cheaper. When you're standing at an ATM machine on a busy street in Madrid with 4 Spaniards lined up behind you waiting for the same machine, you have to be prepared. I recommend taking your phone and snapping a picture of the screen that gives you this option USD or euros and canceling the transaction right away. Then, go off to a discreet location and do the math.

This is no fun (and I'm a mathematician). By far, the best approach is to get a card(s) with no foreign transaction fees and do all of your transactions in euros while in Spain (or elsewhere for that matter). Both our credit cards and debit cards are CapitalOne so we do credit and debit transactions in euros.

Even here, however, there is one last catch. There are still the old ATM fees that have nothing to do with currency exchange. Your card issuer might charge a fee for not using one of their machines, and the Spanish bank that owns the ATM might charge a fee. This is why I'm happily writing this blog post. The BankInter ATM does not charge a fee and CapitalOne doesn't charge a fee for using it (so I guess it must be in their ATM network somehow).