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Euro To Simplify Changing Money

December 21, 1998

PARIS (AP) _ Laura Llado can’t wait for Europe’s new single currency. It will eliminate the hodgepodge of money and exchange rates that confound travelers on the continent.

``Now, you have to change every time you go to another country,″ said Llado, a businesswoman from Puerto Rico. With the euro, ``you will change once and can go everywhere. You won’t have to think about it.″

Actual euro coins and bills don’t go into circulation for three more years. But on Jan. 1, the currencies of the 11 participating countries will be fixed against the euro.

This giant step is shaking up _ and is likely to shake out _ the money-changing business.

Overnight, the need to hunt for the best exchange rate from one moneychanger to another will vanish.

``There will be no more fluctuations between currencies,″ said Nicolas Sireyjol, director of card services for American Express in France.

With the rates fixed, the only way for exchange bureaus to make a profit on changing money will be by charging fees or commissions, and those charges must be clearly indicated on the customer’s receipt.

Three years from now, when the euro goes from being a virtual currency to a real one, it will simplify the changing of money for the 290 million residents in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

They no longer will have to change money when they go to another euro country. Travelers coming from outside the currency zone will only have to change money once.

There will be no need to change money just to get a coin for a baggage cart in Belgium when you arrive from Germany. Have a few extra euros from a stay in Paris? You can use them at a vending machine in Berlin.

In the short run, things will be a bit more complicated.

As of Jan. 1, currency values will be posted twice: against the local currency and the euro.

A traveler who wants to change Spanish pesetas into French francs, for instance, will see the value of both currencies in relation to the euro on the display board.

Once the euro is in circulation in 2002, currency exchange bureaus will lose a lot of business _ and some are likely to go out of business.

``We will see a shrinking of the market,″ said Bill Stewart, director for the Chequepoint exchange company. ``It’s the death knell for little back-street exchanges.″

He said 29 percent of his business is from European customers, most of whom won’t need the company’s services in 2002.

Chequepoint is already diversifying. The company now sells maps, telephone cards and guidebooks. It also offers Internet access so travelers can check their e-mail, as well as a car rental service.

To survive, Stewart said, ``We have to create an image that doesn’t just say `change.‴

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