Saturday, May 27, 2006

Foreign Exchange Notes

Having just returned from Europe, we can confirm that the dollar keeps losing value against the Euro. During our travels in Greece during May, we found the exchange dropping dismally, if by pennies, each day.

Foreign currency often feels like "play money" therefore it's always wise to fix firmly in your mind what items or services cost in dollars. How much is that 33 euro pashmina scarf is USD$? Multiply by .25 and find the true cost is over $40.

Several ways to exchange currencies while in-country:

1. Cash exchange. Check both the exchange rate and the commission. Often hotels will change money for guests without charging commission.

2. ATMs. Money can be withdrawn through your ATM checking or credit card and automatically exchanged. Make sure you use your own network provider; fees and commissions are a shot-in-the-dark as they are not generally disclosed prior to the transaction. Save your receipts.

3. Credit cards. Cash can be withdrawn as a cash advance. However, most cards charge an exchange fee of approximately 3%. Contact your credit card company before you leave home to do two things:

a. Find out the exchange fee;
b. Advise your credit card company you're leaving the country. Many companies now automatically do not authorize purchases unless you've advised them you're leaving the country.

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