The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
A good friend of mine in the United States recently encountered a payment problem: she discovered that a 90-year-old classmate of her mother in England had self-published a set of books about the history of the small town where the two classmates and several generations of my friend’s ancestors had lived. My friend wanted to purchase the set. However, these self-published books are only available directly from the author, and the price was listed in Pounds Sterling. The books are not available in any store. The question arose, "How to pay for these items?"
When doing business with an international company, use of a credit card solves the currency conversion easily. You supply the credit card number to the seller; when the transaction is processed, the seller receives payment in his or her local currency, and the sender is charged in his or her local currency. The credit card company makes the conversion, typically adding a small fee for the service.
Using a credit card works well for purchasing items from a company that already has a credit card merchant account and is equipped to receive money via credit cards. However, these books were self-published by the author, a private citizen who was not prepared to accept credit cards. She could only accept cash, cheques, or money orders, as long as the amount to be paid was specified in Pounds Sterling. How could my friend send payment in the author’s currency from the United States?
Almost all banks will handle currency conversions for you although at rather high fees. When asked, my friend's local bank offered to transfer the money in Pounds Sterling for an extra fee of $35 U.S. That seems exorbitant for sending a check for about $25 U.S. (The price of the books was listed in Pounds Sterling but was roughly equivalent to 25 U.S. dollars.) It seems silly to pay more for the check than for the books!
I suspect many genealogists encounter the same payment problem when ordering books or photocopies of records from another country.
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