Personal Finance: Internet Investor

EUROPE HAS a new currency but not one you can actually touch. The euro is but a virtual currency for the next two years, until the notes and coins actually come into circulation. However, anybody who is used to handling their finances through the Internet is unlikely to be dismayed at the prospect of dealing with the virtual reality of the euro. The question is whether you really need to.

For all practical purposes, unless you have significant income or outgoings in euros, you are not likely to need a euro bank account. However, if you are a frequent traveller in Europe or you own a holiday home on the Continent, then you are probably going to be joining in the single currency sooner than the rest of us.

If you do decide you need a euro account, the new Citibank Euro Account, launched in December, may fit the bill. Through its website, the bank is now offering customers the option of online euro current accounts and euro savings accounts. Current account customers get a Visa Delta card. Citibank is offering to clear cheques and drafts drawn in any EMU-participating country free of charge. This month, the bank is adding euro bankers drafts and euro time deposits, accounts offering more attractive interest rates in return for notice of withdrawals.

Citibank also has an EMU bulletin service on its global website which offers a pan-European perspective. It includes a euro calculator and some euro price comparisons and a list of FAQs - frequently asked questions. If you are looking for greater depth and more general information about the new single currency, check out EmuNet. The site offers a mix of daily news, official documents, practical information, commentary and analysis. It is not selling anything, other than the supposed benefits of the euro.

Of course, for the seriously rich, a Swiss bank is still the obvious port of call. Switzerland may not be part of the euro zone, but geographically it sits at the heart of what's already being called Euroland and that's also where UBS claims to be. It is in fact Europe's largest banking group and offers detailed euro commentary for well-heeled private clients.

If you are not feeling the financial pinch after the festivities, Shelter (the charity for homeless people) is now able to receive donations over the Internet. The Charities Aid Foundation and MM Group are piloting a scheme enabling spontaneous and tax-effective donations to be made using a single, secure charity website. Secure donations to Shelter can be made by credit card and the CAF CharityCard for tax-effective giving.

Citibank Euro Accounts: www.citibank.co.uk

Citibank EMU bulletins: www.citibank.com/uk/ custinfo/index

EmuNet: www.euro-emu.co.uk/

UBS: www.ubs.com/pbeuro

echarity:www.echarity.com

Robin Amlot can be reached at RobinAmlot@aol.com

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