American Express, the world’s largest issuer of travelers cheques, officially announced Tuesday its new euro-denominated travelers cheque, which is expected to be the world’s first euro payment device for consumers. The new cheque, featuring a pastel-colored world map and tri-lingual acceptance instructions, will be printed over the next several months in time for the start of European Monetary Union (EMU) on January 1, 1999. Denominations are set at 50, 100 and 200 euro.
While the euro becomes the official currency of the euro-zone on January 1, 1999 — with national currency exchange rates fixed to the euro — there will be a three-year transition period before euro notes and coins go into circulation on January 1, 2002. During this time, consumers will be able to use the American Express euro-denominated travelers cheque to pay for goods and services as merchants begin to convert to euro pricing. It will be the first opportunity for most consumers to use a euro-denominated payment product.
American Express anticipates that travelers to the euro-zone, initially made up of eleven countries(1), will find the product extremely convenient because it allows them to travel with only one currency travelers cheque, saving on the cost of changing money between various foreign currencies. As a forerunner to euro notes and coins, the euro-denominated travelers cheque will help consumers become accustomed to the euro in advance to 2002.
Beginning in January 1999 the euro-denominated travelers cheque will be available worldwide at select financial institutions, exchange bureaus, travel agencies, including American Express Travel Service Offices. and through the American and Canadian Automobile Associations (AAA / CAA). The number of locations selling the product will increase throughout the year. In the U.S., American Express Cardmembers can also order by telephone with delivery by mail through American Express’ TravelFunds Direct service. The toll free number is 1-800-221-2782.
The euro-denominated travelers cheque has a contemporary look with a world map on the front of the cheque, and acceptance instructions in English, French and German on the back. In addition, the new cheque includes security features like those introduced last year on the U.S. dollar- denominated $50, $100, $500 and $1,000 travelers cheques. Those security features include a colorful holographic foil displaying images of a Centurion, alternating with the American Express “Blue Box” logo and euro denominations, an embedded security thread and a Centurion watermark.
With sales of $25 billion in 1997, American Express Travelers Cheques are a popular method of carrying travel money because they are replaceable if lost or stolen. According to global research commissioned by American Express, travelers rated travelers cheques “very safe” more often than any other type of payment, including credit and debit cards and cash(2).
“The American Express euro-denominated travelers cheque will be indispensable in the euro-zone,” said John A. Ward III, President of the Travelers Cheque Group. “We foresee it becoming one of the biggest volume travelers cheques in the world because it eliminates the need to carry multiple euro-zone currencies. The launch of the euro-denominated travelers cheque is the first in American Express’ program of euro-friendly products and services to ensure customers make a smooth transition to the euro.”
During the three-year transition period, American Express will continue to offer travelers cheques denominated in local currencies as well as the euro. As with all travelers cheques, local currency travelers cheques will continue to be valid indefinitely and will be honored at any future date. Beginning on June 30, 2002, local currencies and local currency travelers cheques will no longer be sold as the euro will be the only legal currency used in the participating member countries of EMU.
The American Express Company, headquartered in New York City, is a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network services company founded in 1850. It is a leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, financial planning, investment products, insurance and international banking.
The eleven participating European Union member countries are Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
According to a public opinion survey of 1,950 travelers from 13 countries conducted in April 1998 by Research International of London for American Express.