“Whether traveling for business or on vacation, our customers need the convenience and flexibility of immediate access to foreign currencies,” said Gregg Napoli, executive vice president and head of Foreign Exchange Services for Wells Fargo. “By adding these new international teller sites, we can better help customers on the East Coast with their travel planning and finances.”
“Many travelers need foreign currency as soon as they arrive at their travel destination, for expenses like taxis, tips or meals,” added Jim Lawrence, Cobb community bank president.
The first East Coast states to receive Wells Fargo’s international teller sites were Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. Wells Fargo first began offering the service to customers in the West in 1999. Previously, non-participating banks had to make orders for clients at least four to five days in advance and would either ship the currency to the branch or to the customers’ homes. Wells Fargo spokesman Jay Lawrence said customers can still order currency via phone or Internet.
Wells Fargo has opened a total of 18 international teller sites in metro Atlanta, plus three more in Savannah and Augusta. It has opened 13 more sites in Alabama and Tennessee.
In Cobb, foreign exchange services became officially available on June 20 at its Cumberland, Merchants Walk, Shallowford Sandy Plans and West Cobb Marketplace locations.
Alia Holland, lead teller at the Cumberland branch, said she and three other tellers completed Web-based training to become foreign currency tellers and handle the more than 70 different types of currency offered through Wells Fargo’s service. Holland said she and others use a computer system that updates exchange rates daily to accurately handle the exchanges.
Branch manager Justice Nwaigwe said the service is free to Wells Fargo customers and a $5 fee is charged to those who do not bank with Wells Fargo.
“We have already seen people come through who are on their way to the airport and need currency, students or parents of students who are going abroad, and business people who are traveling overseas,” Nwaigwe said. “You can get more favorable rates here and if we don’t have it on-hand, we can order it and it will be here in two to three days.”
But Dr. Barry Morris, vice provost for global engagement and strategic initiatives at Kennesaw State University, said exchange rates vary greatly depending on the location, and sometimes rates are better in the U.S. while at other times, the international destination offers a better rate on-site.
“Most of the time, we probably don’t recommend students travel with a lot of cash so we recommend they travel with a debit card. Those fees vary by the bank, but they are a very convenient way to travel as you can access cash from almost anywhere,” Morris said.
Morris suggested checking the websites of the central banks in each country, the International Monetary Fund and major exchange companies that publish the rates in resources such as The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times for information on what the exchange rates are and how to get the best rate.