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At the beginning of the 20th century, refugees from across Europe were creating an immigration boom – flocking to the 'promised land' in search of a new beginning.


Many were fleeing persecution, famine and poverty, and arrived in New York by boat with only a few possessions and a small amount of foreign currency.


The US authorities required immigrants to hold US dollars before they were allowed to enter the country. As a result, a number of opportunistic moneychangers operated at the Ellis Island Immigration Inspection Station. Many of these operators took advantage of the immigrants’ desperation to swindle them out of their life savings and valuables, offering unfavourable exchange rates. (Source: Page 97 and 98, Ellis Island: Immigration's Shining Centre).

Ellis Island, New York

Courtesty of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC, USA

Trust and vigilance

American Express Foreign Exchange 1905

In 1905, the US Immigration Department appointed American Express as the official provider of foreign exchange services on Ellis Island, supporting settlers with fair exchange rates to start their new lives and ventures.


In the years that followed, millions of new arrivals conducted their first business transaction on American soil at the small American Express teller's window on Ellis Island, before transportation to the mainland to begin their new lives, to grow businesses, and to build the entrepreneurial spirit that would come to define the new American century.

Supporting entrepreneurs, supporting growth


That same entrepreneurial spirit flourishes today in the thriving start-up culture of all developed countries, including, of course, New Zealand.


Like the entrepreneurs that arrived at Ellis Island to complete their first currency exchange with us, we proudly support New Zealand businesses to grow in the global marketplace.


Facilitating small business and global growth

Safe and simple international money transfer is a cornerstone of economic growth. We facilitate overseas payments and help customers to manage foreign exchange risk, so New Zealand businesses can focus on expansion, at home and abroad.


Our business has changed dramatically since that Ellis Island contract of 1905. What hasn’t changed is our relationship of trust with the business builders of today. They display the same entrepreneurial spirit we have supported for over a century with a service built on trust, vigilance and security.

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