As of today, September 4, 2007, the current exchange rate for buying Euros with US Dollars is 1.426 which means in real terms if you’re walking into your local bank and wanting to exchange 500 US Dollars, you can expect to receive approximately 350 Euros in exchange (including service fees which are factored into the exchange rate).
This quote is based on a phone call a few minutes ago to an HSBC officer. So, this is an example of an exchange rate that would be offered to HSBC customers at this point in time.
Another option for purchasing Euros and other foreign currencies is available to AAA members (Automobile Association of America). Depending on which club you belong to (AAA is organized according to states) you can purchase foreign currencies for a minimum of $200 and a maximum of $1500.
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These services vary greatly between states. For example, Western NY State branch of AAA offers overnight delivery of currency.There are actually 100 currencies available for purchase including the Euro.
My only complaint with the AAA website is that the foreign currency information is not available to non-members. AAA might get a big increase in membership if they allowed non-members to see one of the advantages of being a member.
Although once you get to France, you can use your credit card (if you have a four digit pin number) to get cash from machines which accept Visa and Mastercard, having actual currency in hand upon arrival is always useful.
Your local bank may not have as quick access to foreign currencies as AAA and HSBC, therefore you’ll want to be sure and place any requests for currency exchanges well in advance of your departure.