purchasing euros in advance

With the dollar still sliding, we would like to buy euros and pounds sterling now, 6 months before we leave. Where is the best place to look? (I used the search function and couldn't find any posts/questions for this particular question). I live in the Seattle area, and have never done this before. Do I want to go to a major/national bank - like Bank of America? I doubt my credit union will do this. Would the local AAA office know?

Posted by sidney
suwanee, georgia, USA
78 posts

Your credit union will do it as long as you can pick it up. They obviously wont mail it.

Posted by Michael
Charlotte, NC, USA
95 posts

Buying 6 months out can be a little risky as there is no telling what our dollar is going to do, though based on recent dollars history it could be a good deal.

I did buy some before our trip coming up so make sure you shop around for the best rate. Our credit union did the transaction for us without any charges and gaves us pretty close to the rate you would see on xe.com or other similar sites. Bank of America does it as well and you can do it thru their website. I think if you have an account with them, they'll do just like the credit union and withdraw from your account otherwise you'd have to do a cash advance on a credit card. They do have a delivery fee I believe though of 7.50. I think their rate is a little high though compared to what I rec'd from our Credit union.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
14127 posts

I don't think there are any credit unions that have international currency operations. They probably have to get the Euro from a major banks that does; so their rates will be as high, or higher.

I once spent almost a year tracking the exchange rate from a number of banks. Every morning I would get up and look up in international rate on Oanda and then the rates on their website. At that time, Wells Fargo had the best rate I could find. They averaged 5% over the interbank rate. Bank of America was 5-1/2%. I just checked a few minutes ago, and today they are at 4.7% and 5.3%, respectively. I also followed Amex, and they were a little higher than the other two.

I know that the WF rate is only at a few main branches - Denver, Boulder, and Co Springs, here in Colorado. They probably give that rate at the downtown Seattle branch. If you want to use a local branch, you might have to pay shipping from the main branch.

You can also buy them online from WF and pay that rate plus $8 shipping.

During this period, I checked at the local AAA office near me. They could get Euro. It was more than WF, but I could pick them up right there, and the extra wasn't worth the trip into downtown for the lower rate at WF.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
14092 posts

Lee sums it pretty well. It is called "future currency trading" and if it was easy everyone would be wealth. Lot of people more skilled than you and I in this area have lost fortunes. I could get a hundred Euro or so going in but you chances of having any significant saving by buying now is pretty low. There are many other ways to saving some dollars.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
14127 posts

On the other hand, I had about $200 in German Mark when I came back in 2000. Since then, every time I go over, I take the money along so as not to have to rely on an ATM when I first arrive. Then I bring the same amount back for the next trip. That $200 is now worth $350. Not a bad investment for 8 years.

Posted by Gela
San Jose, CA, USA
420 posts

I have purchased Euros (and other currencies) in advance at a Travelex office. If you are a AAA member, you get a discount off their fee. You can also order Euros on line through travelex - they will mail the currency to an address (obviously you need to be home to accept the shipment).

My Credit Union does not provide foreign currency service. Many banks do. I actually bought some excess Euros from friends who returned from their trip. Given the Euro situation, I think buying a bit at a time might save you some $s. (I buy gas weekly for the same reason even if my tank isn't that empty).

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
14127 posts

I don't know what the rate is with the AAA discount, but Travelex's online rate is today 8% over the interbank rate.

I found the following rates online for €1:

Interbank (Oanda) $1.563
Wells Fargo $1.636 (+4.7%)
BofA $1.647 (+5.3%)
Amex $1.680 (+7.5%)
Travelex $1.689 (+8.0%)

Posted by Guy
Durham, NC, USA
41 posts

I just called Wachovia and AAA and the exchange rate, with fees, came to about $1.64 per Euro. It ATM withdrawals, with fees, will come to about $1.60.
Personally, to save the $40 per $1000 I'm just going to use an ATM in Rome.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
14127 posts

If you are really paying $1.60/EUR at a European ATM (~2%) you are really unusual. Most major banks (what most people here will use) will charge you 3.6% including foreign currency exchange, plus a few dollars more for "out of system" ATM. So, taking cash is not a bad idea.

My bank here in Denver, 1st Bank, does not have a foreign currency operation, so they pay the "Network" the amount converted to $, at the interbank rate, plus 1% (Cross Border Transaction fee, which includes currency conversion). Then they add $1.50 (which amounts to 1/2%) for out-of-system ATM.

Posted by Sharon
Mukilteo, WA
61 posts

My own sense of it all is that as long as the price of a barrel of oil continues upward, the dollar will slide down proportionally. I don't see that there is going to be any sort of huge upswing for a while yet. For sure not under the current president... If it were possible to put this trip off for a year or more, I would. But my husband's health dictates, and there is no such thing as a cure for Parkinson's. We're looking at being abroad for close to a month, and no matter how much I pinch pennies, this isn't going to be inexpensive.

If we budget 200 eu/day for 20 days, that's a lot of pennies. I'd rather pay the 3 or 4% at the current exchange rate. Even if the dollar should recover before we go, I don't see that it will be enough to make me regret getting euros now. Same for the pound sterling - in 2004 it was $1.60/pound - now $2+ I'll take the risk.

Appreciate all the posts, especially giving rates - an eye-opener!

Posted by Angela
Chicago/Rural WI
811 posts

My two cents about currency conversion and getting money while traveling:

On our latest trip to Europe in April, the net conversion (after out of system ATM charges - generally 3% of the transaction amount) from using ATM's abroad was about .06 Euro less than the conversion charged to us by Harris Bank on the Euro's we bought domestically before we left. So, I would advocate just getting money as you travel. You may want to contact your bank to make sure your daily withdrawl limit is big enough so you don't have to stop for money all the time. And make sure you come home with Euro's for your next trip.

Posted by Greg
Kentwood, Michigan, USA
166 posts

My advice is buy them now. I bought euros almost a year ago and paid 1.35 and I was glad I did. I just returned home from a month in Italy and my travel companions thought they would wait until we arrived in Italy to do their exchange, were they sorry. They used their Capital One Visa and exchanged their American dollars for euros when necessary and it cost them about 2800.00 more than it cost me for the same exact things. If the euro goes down it won't be but a few pennies, don't be surprised if it continues to rise.


Posted by Maggie
10 posts

Sharon, if you go to the bank/Credit Union with which you regularly do business, you should be able to obtain Euros through them. If you're not in an immediate hurry to obtain them, say within a few weeks (depending upon how large your bank is eg; Bank of America vs local community bank), you might be able to put your order in with your friendly customer service representative, asking that they "combine" your order with others, that way, the fee might be split between you and the "others". Again, depends upon your bank. Probably will have better luck with a local community bank that is willing to be flexible. Why pay higher fees than you have to?