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ECONOMY

What dollar-euro parity means for American visitors and residents in Europe

The euro and the dollar have reached near parity for the first time in 20 years. Here is what that means for Americans in Europe.

What dollar-euro parity means for American visitors and residents in Europe
Photo by Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash

The euro is almost at parity with the dollar for the first time in two decades, and American news outlets are deeming it a “good time to be an American in Europe.”

For Americans on holiday in Europe this summer, they can rejoice over wine, taxi rides, and even luxury items being “cheaper than they have been in decades” all thanks to a strong dollar. 

According to American news outlet, CNBC, the near parity between the euro and the dollar mean that Americans “travelling to one of the 19 European Union countries that accept the euro” will get a “15 percent discount on purchases today relative to a year ago due to the exchange rate.”

But the benefits are not just for American tourists – Americans residing in Europe, as well as European tourism sectors, stand to gain from the nearly equal exchange rate too. For the tourism industry in Europe, which was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, the weak euro might actually be beneficial, as it might entice more American tourists to spend their holidays here.

For tourists

Americans had become accustomed to budgeting extra for European vacations when taking the exchange rate into consideration. In 2008, the New York Times reports that a €5 glass of wine might have cost Americans the equivalent of $8, compared to the $5.20 it might cost today. Here is what Americans wanting to get a good bang for their buck in Europe this summer should know: 

First, it might not be advisable to go book your trip right now simply because the exchange rate is advantageous for American travellers. Willis Orlando, a travel specialist at Scott’s Cheap Flights told CBS news that “other factors like large crowds still mean higher prices at hotels.”

Unfortunately airfare and lodging are more expensive this summer than they were last year (up 20 to 60 percent in some markets) due to high demand and inflation. On top of that, the airline industry is in crisis, attempting to handle staff shortages and high volumes of tourists, which has led to strikes, cancellations, and long-wait times in airports across Europe.

READ MORE Airport chaos in Europe: Airlines cancel 15,000 flights in August

However, if you do have a trip planned already, you can look forward to your dollar going a longer way at restaurants, stores, and when shopping.

If you want to maximise your benefits from the currently favourable exchange rate, you can take a few money-saving steps:

Use an ATM to withdraw local currency – Instead of converting dollars to euro at the airport or at a conversion teller, who will charge a commission in addition to the exchange rate, simply use an ATM once in Europe. 

Pay with your credit cardForbes recommends this for American tourists, but when paying with your credit or debit card beware of foreign transaction fees. Also be aware that many businesses in Europe do not accept American Express. Another tip is to pay in ‘local currency’ when using your credit card, as if you pay with dollars you could wind up with a conversion fee. 

Consider pre-booking – If you want to lock in the current exchange rate, then consider prepaying for your trip. However, you might not need to do this, as the dollar is expected to “remains strong for months to come,” according to CBS News.

Take advantage of tax-free – The Value Added Tax (VAT) is the sales tax in Europe. If you spend over a certain threshold of money at a single store, you can request a tax-free form to receive a refund on the VAT. You can file this form at the airport or train station when departing.

For Americans living in Europe

The close exchange rate is beneficial for Americans who are residents in Europe as well. The principle is the same – for example, if you have a rent payment coming up, and you have been wondering about the best time to transfer money from your American account to your European bank account, consider doing so now. Your American dollars gaining value means they will go a longer way than they did even just six months ago. If you want to transfer a large sum, check with your American bank account to see what the maximum transfer amount is prior to doing so. 

The euro-dollar near parity also benefits Americans residing in Europe who might be looking to buy property in France, as well as those who have any income dollars, whether that be in salary, pensions, or investments. 

Of course, for Americans living in Europe and making their income in euro, the opposite is true that travelling back to the United States will be more expensive now than last year. In this case, it would be worth considering locking in your rates by prepaying for bookings.

The dollar will likely remain strong for the next few quarters, as its value-increase is due to the Fed raising interest levels in the US, making it more attractive for investments than Europe, who is currently suffering from a shortage in gas supplies due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. 

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FRENCH POLITICS

What now for France’s public service broadcasters after TV licence axed?

Questions remain over the future of France’s public service broadcasters after bill abolishing annual €138 licence fee leaves future funding plans for the broadcasters vague.

What now for France's public service broadcasters after TV licence axed?

Households in France will no longer have to pay for an annual TV licence after parliament approved scrapping the annual €138 per household charge, meaning that this November the usual tax bill will simply not arrive.

The measure is part of a €65 billion package of financial aid to help people cope with the spiralling cost of living.

Revealed: What will you get from the cost-of-living package?

But abolishing the TV licence was not without its critics, while questions remain over the future funding of France’s public service broadcasters.

The €138 annual fee has been used to finance the TV and radio channels in the public sector.

It raises €3.7 billion a year – 65 percent of which is allocated to France Télévisions, 15.9 percent to Radio France, 7.5 percent to Arte, 7 percent to France Médias Monde, 2.4 percent to audiovisual archive agency INA and 2.1 percent to TV5 Monde, a Senate report revealed.

TV licence funding currently supplies about half of the total turnover of France Télévisions, while the rest comes from advertising.

Proposing the licence fee cut, president Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to define a budget “with multi-year visibility”, with fixed financing amounts. But, no long-term concrete plans are currently in place.

The government has said there is no question of public service broadcasters losing money, insisting it will replace the licence fee “euro for euro” with public subsidies financed by VAT. 

This model, however, is guaranteed only to the end of 2024 – after which the government will have to present different financing strategies to Parliament.

Despite the bill passing, Senators lined-up to criticise the absence of a concrete long-term funding strategy.

Les Républicains’ Jean-Raymond Hugonet said the plans were being pushed through too quickly for populist reasons and argued it was a change that should have come with a definitive public broadcasting strategy. 

Socialist senator David Assouline said Malak had “hailed the glory” of French public broadcasting but was “creating the conditions to weaken it”.

Assouline has long been a critic of the plan. “From the moment there is no more dedicated funding and we have to draw from the general state budget, we will end up being told that it all costs too much and that we have to cut expenses, close a channel, or even, as we already hear sometimes, privatise,” he told a demonstration against the plans in July.

Concerned staff at France Télévisions and Radio France went on strike at the end of June in protest at the changes, saying that getting rid of the fee amounted to a “threat” to the independence of the channels in question. 

Unions and cultural experts have expressed concern about the possibility that broadcasters’ independence would be eroded if financing was at the whim of the government of the time. Bruno Patino, the head of Arte France, has told AFP that he feared for his channel’s future if the funding model changed.

Another critic, cultural economist Françoise Benhamou told Le Monde: “The disadvantage of budgeting is that we are much less protected from the vagaries of politics, since the latter decides on the budget.”

And LFI MP and journalist Clémentine Autain said in July: “This is a highly political and dangerous measure. Democracy needs a strong public audiovisual service, with a fair financing system that guarantees independence.”

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