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Countries joining the EU at some point decide to adopt the Euro as their own currency. How does this process unfold for the common citizen?

More importantly though, how can one maximize the value of their existing money when they get replaced by EUR? Is there a way to do that? Is the exchange rate fixed some time before the transition?

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    Is your concern simply the process of switching over to the new currency, or are you asking about how to somehow beat the system and make extra money on the event? – Ben Miller May 30 at 11:53
  • @BenMiller: not necessarily make extra money, more of not loosing money in the process. Exchange rates can go up or down and even a small difference in the exchange rate of the local currency to euro can amount to a considerable sum when you multiply it with one's entire life savings for example. If more money can be made than that would be a nice bonus :D – Pips May 30 at 13:23
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    @Pips where you can lose money is on merchants rounding up the prices. They are prohibited from doing so, but it can happen that an item which should have cost let's say 0.91€ at the peg rate, is listed as eg. 0.99€ . Nothing much you can do about it anyway. – Gnudiff Jun 2 at 6:21
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Given the precedent of Greece (where Euro was introduced after the initial rollout):

  • the European Council will determine an exchange rate ahead of time(should be months)1
  • Banks will accept the exchange of legacy currencies
  • Banks will begin to dispense euros from ATMs, as well as only euros will be available as withdrawals from the bank counters.
  • Merchants will accept the legacy currency, but give change only in euros.
  • Depending on the country, as was the case in Germany, the Deutsche Mark would no longer be a legal tender on roll-out day but would have to be exchanged at the banks, therefore not allowing both currencies to circulate in parallel.

So, all in all, you won't really lose money in any way when the switch is made and I would advise against speculating on the aforementioned exchange rate unless you have experience and expertise doing so*.

[*] If not made clear enough, following the announcement of the exchange rate, what in essence is a peg, should be strong enough to not allow deviations from it given the switch on a specified close-by future date as that would create opportunities for arbitrage and incentive for traders to maintain said rate.

  • German Mark actually stayed legal tender for another 3 years, and coins and banknotes can be exchanged indefinitely to EUR (nowadays, you'll probably have to go to one of the state banks). In contrast, French Franc stopped to be legal tender just 6 weeks after the Euro coins/banknotes were introduced, and cannot be exchanged for Euro any more (coins since 2005, banknotes 2012). – cbeleites Aug 3 at 14:28
  • @cbeleites 3 years is definitely wrong. The German wikipedia article says that the DEM was only legal tender until 2001-12-31, but that there was a volontary commitment by banks and shops to accept them until 2002-02-28. – glglgl Sep 27 at 9:06
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See for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deutsche_Mark

At the day of currency conversion, they set an irrevocable (fixed) exchange rate between the old currency and the Euro. The old currency can be converted (for a very long time) at this rate at any bank. From this day on, the two currencies are equivalent and can't drift against each other.

The only way you could potentially profit or loose would be if the fixed rate doesn't reflect the real value in the currency or that the conversion will result in a significant change of the Euro against a third currency. In this case you could try to exchange through a third currency (e.g. Mark->US Dollar, wait for conversion, US Dollar->Euro). However, the banks pick the exchange rate carefully, and the conversion costs will easily outweigh any type of potential gain.

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    A correction, during the original rollout of Euro to the first 12 countries (Germany included) decided the conversion rate so close to release because the Euro was just a virtual currency then so they could afford to. In cases where Euro was adopted after this initial rollout the rate was decided months in advance. – Leon May 30 at 13:44
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    @Leon But as soon as the rate is decided, the legacy currenty is just a sub unit of the Euro. So the "real" conversion is at that date, but the release of Euro cash can be much later. – glglgl May 30 at 20:28

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