Q: Where can I buy euros online? I saw a site that was very good, but lost the name.
—I., Bellevue, Wash.
A: There are several ways to buy euros and other foreign currencies online or by phone. Keep in mind you'll pay a high premium. Order just a small amount, especially with the value of the euro dropping, and plan on getting the rest from automated teller machines overseas.
The best rates are usually available through commercial banks, although you can also order from AAA (www.aaa.com), which processes orders through Travelex (www.travelex.com), or from private foreign exchange services such as International Currency Express (www.foreignmoney.com)
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Shop around by checking the day's official exchange rate (www.oanda.com), sometimes called the interbank rate, then compare charges among the various suppliers.
Example: Three hundred dollars would have netted 235 euros if purchased online through Bank of America last week. The bank's rate was $1.28, six cents above the day's interbank bank rate of $1.22. BofA adds a $7.50 delivery fee for amounts under $1,000.
Wells Fargo's rate also was $1.28, plus a $12 delivery fee. AAA's rate through Travelex was $1.31, or 229 euros, plus a $10 delivery fee. International Currency Express had the worst rate — $1.37 or 219 euros plus a $10 delivery charge.
Don't use a credit card to pay for foreign currency. Pay with a Visa or MasterCard debit card or by making an online withdrawal from a checking or savings account. Many credit-card issuers view foreign-currency purchases as cash advances, and charge high cash-advance fees and/or finance charges.