Did you ever need to pay for a copy of a birth or marriage record held in some archive outside of your own country? This can sometimes be difficult. Not every repository of genealogy data in the world is equipped to handle credit card transactions. While credit cards are becoming more pervasive, you may well find places that still require cash or checks. The problem is that they normally require payment in the currency of their own country. How do you pay them when you cannot easily purchase pounds or francs or crowns or rubles?
There are several ways to send foreign currency. First of all, you can go to your local bank and buy a cashier’s check in almost any currency. However, the fees are quite steep. Many banks or credit card agencies charge a minimum of $25.00 for sending cash abroad. That isn’t cost-effective for a $5.00 check!
One service that I have used in the past is Ruesch International. They will sell you checks in foreign currency. However, Ruesch now seems to be focusing on business transactions and has raised their fees to $20.00 and more for single purchases of checks. Information is available at http://www.ruesch.com although you will have to make a phone call to place the order. There is no on-line ordering at that site. Ruesch is focused on business solutions.
A second method is with International Currency Express. This company charges $10 to purchase a draft (check) in a foreign currency. The draft(s) will be mailed to you, not to the payee. You can expect delivery within 3 to 7 days. You then enclose the check, along with the order form or whatever other paperwork is needed, into an envelope and mail it to the payee.
International Currency Express will write drafts in Euros, or in Australian, British, Canadian, Danish, Fiji, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Swedish, Swiss or Tahitian currency.
International Currency Express is simple and it works well. You can find details at: http://www.foreignmoney.com
A third method is to use PayPal. Yes, the payment service that is well-known for use on eBay and other auction Web sites will send money overseas. You can use PayPal to send payments in U.S. Dollars, Canadian Dollars, Euros, Pounds Sterling, and Yen. However, the recipient must have an e-mail address and must be comfortable with using PayPal. I don't think that is practical for sending money to government archives or other data repositories in foreign countries. However, if the recipient of the funds is comfortable with the process, PayPal might be a suitable solution at an even lower cost than the other two mentioned previously. You can find more information at http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=p/ema/index-outside.
Obviously, genealogy isn't the only use of foreign exchange drafts. If you are planning a vacation and need to send a room deposit to that bed and breakfast where you are planning to stay, use of a foreign draft can simplify the process.
I’d still suggest using a credit card wherever possible. The currency conversion fees charged by VISA, MasterCard and American Express are much lower than the fees listed above. In addition, credit cards are safer. You can usually get your money back from a credit card company in case of non-delivery of the goods, something that is much more difficult when using checks. However, when the receiving agency will not accept a credit card, check out the above alternatives.