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Buying Euros
A guide to the options available for buying Euros

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Buying Euros
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Buying Euros and other currency
As long as the UK holds onto its own currency, Sterling, there will be decisions to make for those of us who choose to either move to live in France (Life in France) or to spend time there. The decisions become more important as the amounts of money that we need to spend in France increase, so it follows that if we are trying to buy a property in France (Property sales in France) we will need to make these decisions very carefully.

Options for buying Euros
There are various options available to those who wish to exchange Pounds Sterling for Euros. The amounts of money that this might cost you can vary considerably depending on the methods you choose for exchange, so it is certainly worth a little time and effort to discover the most cost effective choices for you.

Buying Euros one basic principle to follow
There seems to be one basic principle in buying Euros, and if you can adhere to this you should be able to find a decent deal. There is an exchange rate set, and in order to get a good rate for yourself you need to exchange your money at as close as possible to this rate. Clearly, the companies who exchange money as a business are looking to make a profit from each transaction, so it pays to shop around until you can find the best rates. The rates are set daily, based on procedures between the European System of Banks. The rate is determined at about 2.15 each afternoon, Central European Time.


Bureau de Change - where you can buy euro currency
If you are travelling between France and the UK, or anywhere else and the UK, you will almost certainly have come across a Bureau de Change, under a company banner such as Travelex. They are usually situated at airports (French Connections) and on ferries (Ferries to France), so they are a very common choice for travellers buying Euros or other currency as they are easily accessible. You pay for this accessibility, however, with a poorer rate of exchange than you can get if you are prepared to put in a little more effort into buying Euros.

Buy Euro or buy Pound - just watch Bureau de Change rates
To take an example of a transaction whereby you want to buy 100.00 Sterling worth of Euros from a Bureau de Change (Travelex or similar) when the set exchange rate is 1.50 Euros to the Pound. You will get 140.00 Euros for your 100.00 Sterling, at the time of writing. If, however, you wish to exchange your Euros for 100.00 Sterling, you will have to pay 160.00 Euros for the privilege. Add to both these transactions a small fee (in the region of 2.50 per transaction) and you will see that the transactions have cost you quite a bit of money. Now this may be fine for holiday cash or other small cross channel expenses where the convenience factor comes into play and the charges are not that great. It is not, however, a wise move if you are buying Euros to fund a house purchase or planning to spend a lot of time and money in France.

Options available to buy euro currency are not always different
It is also worth noting that places which may appear to offer different options to a Travelex Bureau de Change (perhaps having different names and locations such as facilities offered by your post office or high street travel agents), actually quite often operate in the same way and therefore charge similar rates and fees. For large exchanges you need to consider other options.


How to transfer Euros from a UK bank account - direct bank transfer
This is also known by several other names, such as wire transfer, BACS, IBAN Payment, but they all amount to the same method of transferring money directly through your bank. It is a simple electronic transfer of Euros from a UK bank account to another bank, either within or outside the UK. You can arrange this through your own high street bank, and this can be a perfectly acceptable method of exchanging money and buying Euros for relatively small amounts. Fees are usually low, but the rates will probably be similar to those offered by any Bureau de Change. (Banking in France.)

Buying Euros online with an online money transfer
For ease and speed you may consider using an online money transfer such as the service offered by Western Union. If speed is essential, then this can be a very good choice for buying Euros, but unsurprisingly the cost can be high. The rate set by Western Union for transactions today is 1.34 Euros to the Pound, on a day when the day's exchange rate set by the European Banks stands at 1.42 Euros to the Pound. So for 100.00 Stirling, Western Union will give you 134.00 Euros. They will then also charge a transaction fee of 14.00 Stirling. Once more, although it is clear that this is not the cheapest way of buying Euros and exchanging money, it is quick, convenient and clear cut.

Check rates and fees before buying Euros
One thing to take note of, however, is that although Western Union have agents operating on their behalf, the charges and rates offered by these agents may not be the same as the rates and fees displayed on Western Union's website. It is essential that you check each individual company's fees, transaction policies and exchange rates thoroughly before committing to any deal.

Buying Euros with Moneygram
Moneygram is a way of directly sending money abroad without using a UK bank account, so it is very appealing to people who have no British account, yet need to exchange Pounds for Euros and send them to France in a hurry. Moneygram works through a series of agencies which may be situated in post offices or similar outlets. At the time of writing their transaction fee is a little lower than the fee set by Western Union, standing at 12.00 Stirling. There is no exchange rate posted on the website as all Moneygram transactions are executed in person, so don't forget to check the rate at the time of the deal. Simply take your cash, and necessary documents (ID, bank details for transfer, passports etc) and make the transaction at the outlet.

Buying Euros with credit cards
Most British adults have a credit card or two, or even three or four these days. A lot of people who are holidaying in France prefer to use a credit card than to obtain travellers' cheques or to exchange amounts of cash, but there is a price to pay. In general, the golden rule is never use your credit card abroad... especially to obtain cash. The rates and charges are always high on this type of transaction, so think ahead and only resort to this in an emergency.

Buying Euros with debit cards
You can use a UK debit card in France (in most places) without having to face excessive charges, but some cards are considerably better than others. The building society Nationwide, for example, is an excellent choice for anyone who frequently needs to buy Euros or to spend money in France from a British account. A Nationwide debit card gives a very good rate of exchange and makes no charge for transactions involving Pounds to Euros. Many other banks and building societies offer a lower rate, similar to Bureau de Change, and also levy a charge for each transaction.

Buying Euros using a currency broker or foreign exchange specialist
The stakes get higher when you want to make a purchase involving a large amount of money, i.e., buying a property in France. Many people opt to use their own banks, working on the devil you know principle, but invariably you will get a better rate of exchange if you turn to one of the specialist foreign exchange companies or brokers set up to make exactly these types of transactions (Advantages of using a currency broker or foreign exchange specialist). Companies such as Moneycorp ( and HIFX ( exist to deal with exactly these situations, and can be extremely useful (Currency services).. They can also give you a price for buying Euros (or any currency) to pay for a big future expense, agreeing a rate in advance to preclude unforeseen expenses caused by fluctuations in the exchange rate (Currency exchange options which save you money). So they are well worth checking out if you know that there is a big expenditure approaching... like buying a house! (Currency Exchange - Buying Euros at the Best Rates - Your FAQs.)

Financial advisers can help you to buy euro currency
If you are concerned about the issues involved in buying Euros and exchanging money to fund a large purchase such as property, you can get expert advice for a financial advisor, but be sure to choose an independent advisor who is able to consider the pros and cons of all the different companies and options to obtain the best deals on your behalf. It can be confusing, what with exchange rates going up and down, different companies offering complicated deals and perhaps levying hidden charges, so sometimes it can bring peace of mind to put the decisions into the hands of an expert.

Too much choice available when buying Euros?
One of the problems you will face when deciding how best to exchange your Pounds (or other currency) for Euros is that there is almost too much choice out there... or so it seems at first glance. You can walk into a bank or post office on the High street, pop along to your local travel agent, or wait until you get to the airport or even onto the ferry and visit a Bureau de Change. The rates and fees for all of these will vary, so by all means shop around, but remember these are really choices that are only suitable for small amounts of money. For large amounts, regular transfers or when buying property, use one of the expert companies that specialise in such deals. There's a lot of choice... make sure you make the right one.

Additional articles which may be of interest:

Savings and investments in France
Getting your UK pension paid in France
Tax in France

About the author
Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.

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