Monday, February 11, 2008

Small money! I want small money!

I was flipping through my notebook in class today looking for a blank page when I found this half-composed blog!

A year and a half ago, Damon and I visited my sister, who was living in Las Vegas at the time. We stayed at the casino/hotel where she worked. At some point we found ourselves in need of cash and found an ATM on the ground floor. To our surprise (and great annoyance) we discovered that it would only dispense amounts in multiples of 100, instead of multiples of 20 like a usual ATM. And not only that, the money came out in the form of oh-so-spendable $100 bills! Only in Vegas, we grumbled to ourselves. Little did we know . . .

A year later, I stood at a Heidelberg ATM and requested 60 EUR. (My standard withdrawal in the US was $40, but cash is used more often here.) I got used to requesting money only in multiples of 20 in the States and have yet to break the habit, though it seems most German ATMs have the nifty feature of allowing any amount to be withdrawn (perhaps multiples of 5). After requesting the 60 EUR, I expected 3 20s to pop out of the machine. Or maybe it would be something really cool like 2 20s, a 10, and 2 5s.

But no.

Out came a 50 - a giant bill that barely fit in my wallet - and a 10. The smallest number of bills, of course . . . and also the beginning of some minor psychological pain here in the land of exact change.

Think cashiers will hate you for large bills in the US? Just try it in Germany. First I stretched that 10 EUR bill out as long as I could, then I dug around for 1 and 2 EUR coins, trying to put off the inevitable breaking of the 50 and subsequent trauma. In the end, I lucked out, getting a drink with a fellow student in Mainz and offering to pay for theirs if they would just be the one to hand over the 50. I guess they are more used to it and the icy glare or the big put-out sigh don't hurt them anymore.

Of course I've also been dumb enough to forget about this and have it happen all over again. But I swear, next time I'm withdrawing no more than 40 at once, to avoid the 50s!


  1. Interesting... I get 50s all the time over here in Weimar, and I rarely have problems breaking them. I try to keep a few small bills around so that I can buy really small things, but using 50s for a 5€ purchase isn't a big deal here.

    The only time I've ever had problems was in Wein when I asked for 300€ and got 3 100€ notes. Now that was a challenge...

  2. You think too much... it's perfectly fine to pay with a €50 bill, unless you're buying 2 Brötchen for 60 cents, and even then it shouldn't be a problem for well-organized stores.

    But if you withdraw cash from the teller, as opposed to the ATM, you can specify which bills you'd like.

  3. Speaking of buying Broetchen, I once wanted to buy a pastry at the bakery, and I only had a fifty euro note. So, before going to the bakery, I stopped by the bank (the bank, for goodness sakes! Where they keep MY money) next door where I keep my money to break the bill. The lady at the counter asked why I wanted to break it. When I informed her that I just wanted one pastry from the bakery, she gave me an undisguised look of disgust, a small snort, and said, "Doesn't the bakery take 50s...oder was?" (btw, I've also tried paying for a couple items at said bakery with a 50, and they usually ask me if I don't have something smaller even if I buy more than just a pastry. Why are these huge bill dispensed if no one wants them? ;))

  4. My husband was so confused when I told him he couldn't pay at Taco Bell (or a small shop, or the gas station, or the pizza place, or, or...) in the US with a 50. They simply don't take them. Main reason is the amount of cash that must stay available in the register or un-timelocked part of the safe. I used to work retail and we were told to drop (drop bunches of money into the time-locked portion of the safe) all the time. Protection for robbery, you know. Do they not have a lot of robberies here or what?! You can pay with a 50 just about everywhere in Germany! (Although the French refused to take a 50 Eur on the Eiffel Tower on a 20 Eur purchase. Snobs.)

  5. See, I went to Ikea a while back and my total came to 175€...and I paid with 20s...the woman laughed at me and asked if I had anything bigger. Go figure :)

  6. hmm, requesting EUR 40 at ATMs of 'my' bank (almost always) results in a 20, a 10, and two 5 notes (and similar EUR 60: two 20, a 10, and two 5 notes); bank's associated ATMs give, for example, four 10 notes. Isn't this just dependent of the bank (institution) itself? In any case, paying with a EUR 50 note is, in general, not a big deal (surprisingly, paying with a DM 100 note at earlier times was much more difficult).

  7. Wow, I'm surprised no one has problems except Damon and I (and well, he lives with me so we have a lot of the same stories).
    Well, my sister did too, but that was also in HD. She wanted to buy a card with a 20, and the guy saw a 5 in her wallet and told her he wanted that instead, in a friendly but forceful way.
    Maybe my problem is that maybe only once a week am I buying anything that costs over 5 EUR at a time. All I make are little tiny purchases - like a bakery sandwich or an apple at lunch, or one bottle of shampoo because that's all we need, etc. I do make sure to pull out the icky 50 if I'm buying something over 10 EUR, but that's not so often!


I love commenters!