Melvyn Mangion of the National Euro Changeover Committee answers your questions:

Availability of euro cash

At present, some people might erroneously assume that, since the rate has now been fixed, one can freely purchase euros without incurring any bank charges. However, this is not the case for the simple reason that the euro is not yet our national currency. All transactions will continue to be processed in Maltese liri and this will remain so until December 31, 2007.

Charges will formally drop with effect from January 1, 2008, when the euro officially becomes our national currency and the Maltese lira will be gradually phased out during the dual circulation period "£/€" throughout January. However, the public will see the Maltese euro coins with effect from December 10 when banks will be providing €11.65 worth of coins packed in a mini-kit when exchanged for Lm5.

The purchase of mini-kits for the public as well as businesses will be the only Maltese lira-to-euro transaction during December that will not include bank or administrative charges. These starter kits cannot be used before January 1.

For the convenience of the public, banks will be exchanging Maltese lira cash over a period of three months until the end of March. Subsequently, the Central Bank of Malta will also be exchanging Maltese coins for a further two years and notes for ten years. It is therefore highly recommended that if you have a considerable amount of cash at home, you should deposit it at your bank of choice so that your money will be automatically exchanged to euros on January 1 without incurring any cost and with the assurance that the value of your money will remain the same.

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