We're doing a vacation rental apartment for our upcoming trip to Rome. This means we have to pay the balance of the rental to the owner in cash, on arrival. Since I like to know I have a place to stay when I arrive, I wanted to have the cash ready and waiting before departure.
My first attempt to get euros was with Wells Fargo. It sounded simple enough; go online, buy euros at a decent exchange rate, and have them shipped to me.
Well the first transaction failed due to "technical difficulties." Ok, I can deal with that. I tried again a couple hours later and got the same error. I called the phone number listed on the website (1-800-626-9430) and gave the guy my info. Little did I know he was just entering it into the website as well. Obviously, the response was, "Uh, I'm getting the same error." Thanks buddy. He said that perhaps my credit card was blocking the transaction.
Fair enough, so I called my credit card company. The lady who answered said there were not one, but three transactions listed for the full amount I was attempting to get. She assured me I would only be charged for one of the transactions at most.
Needless to say, I was getting fairly frustrated at this point, so I called Wells Fargo back and explained the situation. "Have you moved recently?" the woman asked. "Yes, about a week ago," I answered. "Bingo!" she responded, "We would never ship to a new address like that." I asked if I could just tell my credit card to approve the transaction, but she said that was not how it worked. I asked her how long I needed to be at this address before the transaction could proceed. Her response? Six months! Not terribly useful. So much for Wells Fargo.
Attempt number two was with Travelex. Their rates were basically the same as Wells Fargo (1.56 dollars/euro), and I discovered they actually had a physical location in my area. Great, I could just walk up and get my money.
I walked up to the counter the next day only to discover that their in-person rates were 1.68 dollars/euro. For a small amount of cash, this wouldn't make a huge difference, but we're talking about several hundred euros here, so it adds up. On the plus side they said I could order the euros online at 1.56, then pick them up the next day at the counter. "Great, I'll do that."
Or so I thought. The online transaction gave me a transaction ID, but it stated that the transaction failed. Again, I called the number listed on the Travelex website (1-877-414-6359) and gave them the transaction ID. The only answer I got was that, "some of my information could not be verified." I told the guy straight out that I had recently moved. He didn't say that was the problem, just that some of the information could not be verified. Ok, strike two.
Third time's the charm. I just walked up to the Travelex counter earlier today, gave them my credit card, and lo and behold, they gave me euros. On top of that, the rates had dropped slightly to 1.66, so I didn't have to bend over quite as far as I originally thought.
I guess the moral of the story is, if you're going to buy foreign currency online, make sure you do it before you move. Furthermore, if I had purchased a camera of the same cost, I certainly would not have gotten the virtual third degree.
I'd also like to point out Steven Frischling's excellent article on the topic of foreign currency exchange, from which I based this little adventure.
I'm ready to be in Rome.