Miami currency exchange agents waiting for euro to come to them
By Paola Iuspa
Some foreign currency exchange agencies are eagerly waiting for European travelers to bring in their euros.
Instead of buying the new European notes and coins from US and international banks, which would mean paying a fee for the currency, many Miami agencies are waiting for tourists to be their suppliers, agents said. The new currency was officially adopted in 12 of 15 member nations of the European Union on Jan. 1.
"We have some in reserve," said Peter Abbot, owner of Abbot Foreign Money Exchange in downtown Miami. "We are going to wait for more tourists to come to exchange. Tourists gradually will start bringing euros."
While there is fluctuation, the euro is worth US $0.89, he said.
Although Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain started conducting banking and financial transaction in euros in 1999, citizens overseas continued using their national money for everyday shopping.
That changed the beginning of the new year. Now members of the European Monetary Union will have to convert their German marks, Italian liras, Spanish pesetas and French or Belgian francs to the new notes and coins at commercial banks or exchange agencies before a individual deadlines. For example, Germany's last day is Feb. 28 while France and Spain have set a June 30 deadline. Belgium's last day is Dec. 31, said David Lester, a manager with International Currency Exchange Currency Services at Miami International Airport.
"After that deadline," he said, "only the central bank of each of the 12 countries will continue exchanging national currencies for euros. But we don't know for how long."
Some local foreign exchange agencies also will stop accepting the old currencies after the deadline. Others are expected to do it sooner.
"I will continue taking the old money until my broker tells me to stop," said an officer with USA Money Exchange in Miami Beach. He said he did not have many euros, but did not want to buy them from banks because he considered the exchange rate high and did not want to pass the cost to clients.
"If they come to my window and ask for euros," the officer said, "and I don't have any, I tell them I don't have any.
"I will start worrying about it after Feb. 28," when the old notes are no longer legal in at least nine of the 12 European countries.
"I will accept them until Feb. 2," said Tiser O'Casha, owner of O'Casha International Inc. on Miami Beach.
Mr. Lester said his company, with offices worldwide, would continue exchanging national notes after the currency exchange deadline because his agency has direct access to central banks.
About 150 air travelers a day have been exchanging euros for dollars and vice verse since Jan. 1, said Mr. Lester, whose brokerage firm buys euros from the Bank of America's foreign exchange department. His agency charges customers a 1.5% transaction fee. For a $1,000-exchange, the company gets $15, he said.
Mr. Abbot and Mr. O'Casha said they charge up to 0.5%.
Mr. O'Casha said that as of last week, he had not yet made any transactions for euros but that he has not had many tourists at 12-year-old agency since Sept. 11.
Agents with American Express in Coral Gables said most of their euro transactions are with locals traveling to Europe. They said few Europeans visit Florida at this time of year.
While western Europeans are learning the math to do the currency conversion, they also need to become accustomed to changing the article before the word 'euro' when discussing transactions. The name of the national currencies in most languages has been feminine, but the term 'euro' is masculine.