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EURO CURRENCY MINI-FAQ by Yves Bellefeuille <email@example.com> QUESTION: I'm planning a trip to Europe. How will the new euro currency affect me? SHORT ANSWER: Until the year 2002, you can, and should, completely ignore the euro and continue to deal with French francs, German marks, etc., as if the euro didn't exist. LONGER ANSWER: What is the "euro"? =================== On 1 January 1999, the exchange rates for 11 European currencies were permanently fixed relative to each other, and relative to a new currency, the euro. Greece joined the system on 1 January 2001, making a total of 12 countries. These are the rates: 1 euro (EUR) = 40,3399 BEF (Belgian francs) = 1,95583 DEM (German marks) = 166,386 ESP (Spanish pesetas) = 6,55957 FRF (French francs) = 0,787564 IEP (Irish pounds) = 1936,27 ITL (Italian liras) = 40,3399 LUF (Luxembourg francs) = 2,20371 NLG (Dutch guilders) = 13,7603 ATS (Austrian shillings) = 200,482 PTE (Portuguese escudos) = 5,94573 FIM (Finnish marks) = 340,750 GRD (Greek drachmas) For example, 20 French francs are worth 3,05 euros, and this will never change. Similarly, 20 French francs are now worth 5,96 German marks, and this will never change. These 12 countries are sometimes called the "euro-12", the "euro zone", or the "euro area". Note that the new currency is called the "euro", with a lower case "e". It's probably acceptable to call it the "euro currency", for clarity. The name "euro dollar" is completely incorrect. The euro's sub-units are called "cents". [FAQ maintainer's comment: The euro's predecessor was called the ECU, or European Currency Unit. I think that the old name was preferable, since "euro" is much more confusing.] Can I pay in euros? =================== For now, the euro is only a "bookkeeping" currency. It's possible to quote a price in euros, bill in euros, and even make a cheque in euros. Giving a price in both euros and the local currency is already common in many countries. However, there are no euro bank notes and coins. These will only appear in 2002. Therefore, if you're paying in cash, you'll continue to deal with Italian liras, Finnish marks, and so on. In most countries, credit card bills now show the amount in both the local currency and euros, using the fixed conversion rates listed above. In many countries, you can also use either the local currency or euros if you're paying by cheque. (Sjoerd van der Voet <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes that retail cheque and credit card payments in euros won't be allowed in The Netherlands until the year 2002.) Travellers' cheques in euros are also available. When you cash them, you should get the local currency at the rate quoted above, but you may have to pay a commission or charge. The general advice is to get travellers' cheques in your own currency, not in the currency of the country you're visiting, so if you live outside the "euro area", you should probably avoid travellers' cheques in euros. Changing euro-12 currencies =========================== Banks and "bureaux de change" can still charge a commission or fee when changing between the 12 currencies participating in the euro system. This can either be a fixed fee or a percentage of the amount changed. However, there can no longer be different rates to "buy" and "sell" currencies; the fixed rates mentioned above must be used for all transactions. The European Central Bank states that each national central bank must have "at least one location" where one can change bank notes from other euro-12 countries to the national currency at the official rate. Here are the WWW sites for the national central banks: Banque nationale de Belgique - Nationale Bank van Belgie: http://www.bnb.be/ Deutsche Bundesbank: http://www.bundesbank.de/ Banco de Espana: http://www.bde.es/ Banque de France: http://www.banque-france.fr/ Bank of Greece: http://www.bankofgreece.gr/ Banc Ceannais na hEireann (Ireland): http://www.centralbank.ie/ Banca d'Italia: http://www.bancaditalia.it/ Banque centrale du Luxembourg: http://www.bcl.lu/ De Nederlandsche Bank: http://www.dnb.nl/ Oesterreichische Nationalbank: http://www.oenb.co.at/ Banco de Portugal: http://www.bportugal.pt/ Suomen Pankki: http://www.bof.fi/ In France: You can change other euro-12 currencies to French francs (not the other way around) at the "Banque de France" offices found in many cities. You can also change many non-euro-12 currencies to French francs at the official rate, without commission, at these offices, so they are an excellent place to change money. In Germany: Other euro-12 currencies can be changed to German marks at the "Landeszentralbank" offices found in many cities. Identification is required to change more than DEM 5 000. The Deutsche Bundesbank warns that the process can be quite lengthy, since each note is checked to make sure it isn't a forgery. In Italy: Other euro-12 currencies can be changed to Italian liras at the "Banca d'Italia" offices found in many cities. The maximum that can be changed is ITL 3 000 000. In the Netherlands: Bank notes (not coins) from other euro-12 currencies can be changed to Dutch guilders at the official rate at the following locations: Amsterdam: Westeinde 1 (near Frederiksplein, between Reguliersgracht and the Amstel) Eindhoven: Dr. Holtroplaan 1 Hoogeveen: Schutlandenweg 1 Wassenaar: Rijksstraatweg 334 These locations are open Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 12:00. Identification is required. A maximum of NLG 5 000 may be changed at any time. What about non-euro countries? ============================== The euro, and the 12 currencies participating in the system, will continue to fluctuate relative to other currencies. For example, as of 12 January 2001, the euro is quoted at: 1 euro (EUR) = 1,4197 CAD (Canadian dollars) = 0,9486 USD (US dollars) = 0,6418 GBP (UK pounds) = 111,70 JPY (Japanese yen) = 1,5401 CHF (Swiss francs) Three countries in the European Union are not currently participating in the euro system. They are: Denmark, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Countries not in the EU (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and "Eastern European" countries) are completely unaffected by the euro. How should I plan for my trip? ============================== If you're planning a trip to Europe and you live outside the "euro area", you should ignore all of this and be ready to pay in Dutch guilders, Irish pounds, and so on, as you always have -- at least until the year 2002. More information: ================= For more information, see the European Union's WWW page at: http://www.europa.eu.int/ and the European Central Bank's WWW pages at: http://www.ecb.int/ http://www.euro.ecb.int/ Acknowledgements: ================= Thanks to Bjorn, Mark Brader, Padraig Breathnach <email@example.com>, Simone Fortina, Konrad Hinsen <firstname.lastname@example.org>, David Leslie, Luca Logi <email@example.com>, Arwel Parry <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Andre Ruysschaert, and Sjoerd van der Voet <email@example.com>.