October 5, 2003

Currency Games

There are many things one has to decide when moving to Europe, not the least of which is when, and how, to convert dollars into pounds or euros.

I don’t know if you’ve been following the dollar/euro currency gyrations, but we sure have. On the right side of this page, in the Links section, is a link to the Yahoo Euro/Dollar currency conversion chart. Take a look at the 3 month chart, then take a look at the 2 year chart. The graph is enough to give someone who wants to buy property overseas heart palpitations.

In the months leading up to our move, I spent a lot of time online trying to figure out how to open a bank account where I could make currency transactions quickly and easily. Schwab doesn’t do it, and neither does Fidelity. And as far as I could tell from my research, there are no banks in the States that let you move money seamlessly amongst currencies. (Note to US banks, there’s a business opportunity here.)

Possibly the most interesting thing I learned during my research is the un-reported story concerning the Euro-Dollar struggle that is taking place in and around the Iraq war. I was reminded of this while reading Project Censored’s list of the most under-reported stories for 2002 and 2003. #19 on the list is U.S. Dollar vs. the Euro: Another Reason for the Invasion of Iraq. I had seen the documents they refer to over a year and a half ago (#1, #2, #3), and reading them had made me want to convert all of our dollars to euros right then and there (and looking at the graph you can see that it would have been a very good thing to have done). But I still hadn’t figured out how to do the conversions without going down to Thomas Cook Currency Exchange and coming home with a pocket full of euros.

We did find a bank that made it easy to do currency transactions, Swiss Quote Bank is what we’re using. It’s trivial to buy and sell dollars, euros and swiss francs up to 18 hours a day, and the service is fantastic. The only downside is that one must do a wire transfer to get the money out of the account, they don’t have any credit cards, or checks (Note: I think that has changed…I think you can now get a credit card).

In the meantime, we are looking at properties in England, France and Italy, and holding our breath that some terrible economic news doesn’t cause currency fluctuations that will make our dream more difficult.

Posted by: Frank @ 1:47 pm — Filed under:

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