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More information on a Citibank account
 

You can transfer money from your sterling account to your euro account at a very competitive rate (the buy/sell spread seems to be minimal, according to my calculations shifting money in both directions, around 1.8% - this may have got worse recently though). To withdraw money, you get a visa delta card which can be used in pretty much any ATM in Spain at no cost provided your card is linked to your euro account.  I say at no cost -- if you ask them they say charges are up to the discretion of the bank which operates the ATM, but I think I have never been charged and I just head for the nearest ATM so I must have used most of them by now.  Normally you can withdraw up to 600 euros a day. Some machines only allow 300 but some machines allow 500.  But you can just put your card in twice to get 300 twice. You can also use the card as a debit card for direct purchases, again (apparently) at no cost. It works very well - you can go into an internet cafe and transfer funds between your accounts and walk to the nearest ATM and withdraw them immediately. One minor drawback of the Citibank account is that unless you live in central London you will have to do all your banking by internet or by phone (which is also free), which is probably fine for most people. I have had no problem doing this - indeed it works very well. You may also have to make this your main account in order to avoid any charges since you must maintain an average balance of 2000 pounds across (i.e., adding up) all you accounts each month to avoid a charge (i.e.,  you can drop below 2000 some of the month so long as you make up for it, and you don't need to have £2000 in your euro account ); otherwise they charge €20 a month for the euro account unless you have an enhanced current account (which costs).

As of summer 2010 there will be a charge at an ATM (cash machine) if your card is not linked to your euro account - the exchange rate is still decent I think.  Also charges if the card is used for purchases when not linked to your euro account.  You have to call Citibank to switch the card over to your euro account before you travel - this is free and pretty straightforward, and you get used to using the phone service for some other banking services. (They went through a sticky period when you had to wait to get through to someone - coinciding with their near bankruptcy during the financial crisis, so presumably a cost cutting measure, but now it seems OK again.)

Recently (2007)  they have introduced monthly charges for the account. However this seems to be for an enhanced version; the basic "access" account which is free appears to be as it was; people who didn't take action were moved onto the more expensive account. The website is inconsistent about what account you need to have a free euro account irrespective of your balance, but I understand it is the Citibank Plus one.

There is a discussion of the account on a BBC moneybox  programme  (5/6/04) and you can check out the transcript. Their details about the amount  you need in your accounts to avoid any charges appear to be inaccurate however; see above.

A new change is that now (summer 08)  you can transfer  money  out of the account  or your sterling account (it makes little difference)  to other Spanish bank accounts for free (previously there was no free way of getting the money out of the account other than by card without a Spanish Citibank account). Other bank accounts only seem to allow you to transfer money  free if you also have an account in Spain with the same bank, and to get the latter, you may have to be living in Spain already or to have some Spanish connection, but maybe these free transfers are now more common..

As of summer 2010 you will have to pay a charge if you withdraw euros from an ATM when your card is attached to your sterling account. So it is vital to call citibank to link your card to your euro account before you travel abroad.

I have looked for similar deals from other banks but have not been able to find one. Some have off-shore euro accounts, but these seem rather complicated.  By comparison I have found Citibank very easy to use. Tell me if you know of better deals.

 

                                                                              

                                                                                          The Owl and the Sparrow

                                                              2003

                                                      Revision 2012

                                                                                                          

 The Owl and the Sparrow is a book about a battle that takes place in a forest. The battle is between the birds on one side of the forest,  which they themselves  call the good side of the forest, and the birds (vultures) on the other side,  the dark side of the forest.

 Owl is the leader of the good forest and his adversary is the Condor, reputed as being the darkest force in the forest.  Into  the story enters an apparently naive sparrow who is seduced by Condor into the dark side of the forest against the rulings of Owl. Owl refuses to send help because he does not want to endanger the lives of more birds, but also because he is furious with the sparrow. He says that  sparrow was asking for trouble.

 Also on the good side of the forest are an incredibly silly group of finches who like to play games and torment the vultures. But their silliness  and game-playing skills are no match for the profound darkness of the vultures, and some are captured, and terrorised.

  Golden Eagle rules over the whole forest, but he gets little involved because he has left Owl a set of rules. Finally he gets angry with what he sees happening on both sides of the forest, and  realises that rules are not enough. So  out of his concern and love for the birds , he sends his  son, Silver Eagle, to the  forest.   The book covers the events that follow including  a bitter battle and the discovery that there is an unknown traitor within their camp.

 

Author Ruth Thomas

Editor Joan  Mitchell

First version typed up and suggestions made by Deborah van Welie

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