Cash Chats 64: How to pay when on holiday

Part two of my summer holiday specials, this time looking at the cheapest ways to pay when overseas, whether that’s by cash or card.

A full transcript can be found further down the page.

This week’s links

Travel money: my top ways to spend on holiday

Curve smart card and app review – and get a free £10

How I get the best value travel money

The best cashback and reward credit cards (May 2021)


(This transcript is auto-generated so please do forgive any errors and strange formatting.)

Welcome to cash chats with me Andy Webb from be clever with your This is the podcast to help you make the most of your money. In episode 64 I’ll be sharing the best ways to spend when on holiday. Welcome back to another episode everyone it’s great to have you listening as ever.

Now a few weeks ago I talked about my travel checklist – the things that I would
do before I go on holiday to make sure I’m not met with any shock costs. So
whether that’s from making sure my mobile phone bill doesn’t cost me the
earth when I’m away, through to making sure that things like suitcases are
going to be able to fit on the plane or making sure I’ve got the right level of
insurance.That was all a few episodes ago but one thing I didn’t go into just
because they wouldn’t have been time was travel money. Whether that’s cash whether that’s
cards. Lots and lots to talk about and it can
save you a huge amount of money when you’re away. So that’s gonna be the focus
of today’s episode. before I get onto that though a little bit as ever about
what’s over on the blog, to make sure you know about things you might want to read up about.

Now first of all is a review of Amazon Prime. If you don’t know what this is
it’s kind of like a membership scheme that amazon offers it costs 79 pounds a
year but by paying that money you get lots of benefits. You get free Next Day
Delivery and there’s no minimum order on that so you can kind of buy things which
run to 20 quid get them shipped out next day. You get access to film and TV
streaming, there’s all sorts of random bits and pieces – free ebooks on your
Kindle once a month, all these things. Now £79 pounds is a lot of money so
I’ve kind of gone through all those features and worked out
if I think they’re good or not. It really all depends upon how much
you’re likely to buy from Amazon, how much you’re like to use that whether
it’s good or not. But they’re also a couple of tricks to bring down the price. you can get a free trial every month but explain that and I’ve explained how
You can get that trial more than once and there’s also a way and that you can
get six months for free which is even better and then
after that six months you get it half-price for three years. The way to
get that is to get the Amazon student membership. You might think I’m not a
student how on earth am I going to do this? But there is a way that anyone can
get an NUS card – National Union Students card – and in return then be
eligible to get Amazon Prime student and save a lot of money so I go into this on
the blog about that.

And the reason I’ve done that is because on the 16th of July,
Monday the 16th of July, it is Prime Day. Now this is Amazon’s biggest
sale they do every year, even bigger than the Black Friday sales. Lots of discounts
mainly on those Amazon products like Kindles and echoes but also on on pretty
much any kind of random thing you can think of. There’s something that’s
reduced. A lot of the time you know that you might just be buying stuff because
it’s an offer I don’t think you’re gonna find the things you necessarily need but
there’s always something there , something of interest. But the only way you can get
access those discounts is if you are a Prime member so that’s why I’ve done
that review .Take a look at that and if you do want to take part in that Amazon
Prime sale there is a link to get that 30 day free trial just to start
things off.

I’ve also written about this week a new thing from Compare the
Market. Now if you’re a regular listener I’ve told you before about Meerkat
Movies and the trick you can use to get two for one movies each week through
Compare the Market for just about one quid. That’s all you would need to pay to
get access to this – so a little workaround. Well they’ve just added
something extra to that or they will be adding it in a week or so and it’s
called Meerkat Meals it works a lot like a Tastecard or Gourmet Society
membership. You get two for one on meals out as well as a cinema. It’s not an
instead of or a choice of, it’s as well as. So I’ve had a look at that and I’ve had
a look at how that compares to those other membership schemes because there
are differences of when you can use them, where you can use them, the type of
discount you get. So for example with Meerkat Meals yes you get it on mains, starters,
and desserts. But you don’t get it on sides so you’re gonna have to pay
extra on top if those places you go don’t have it all all included.
There’s also differences about what days you can use things like that. So if
you’re interested in that have a look and you can also find out that trick to
get both Meerkat Meals and Meerkat Movies for around 1 pound 1 to pound 20 for
12 months.

And finally the other sort of new big new article I’ve written is
around cash back credit cards. Now I have an Amex American Express credit card
which I try to do most of my spending on – pay off if each month in full
obviously to clear of that debt. That gets me around 1% every month that’s one
of the best Amex rates you can get out there. But I also had a TSB platinum
credit card which did something similar. It was capped at five pounds cash back
every month but that’s now finished – that ended at the end of June – so I’ve had a
look at different options and I’ve gone through those in the article about what
some of the other cashback options are because obviously if you’ve
got on American Express you’ll know this – not everywhere it takes it. Lots of
places so, most places will take it, but not everywhere does.

That’s it, that’s the main stuff over on the blog. don’t forget if you don’t get my
newsletter which comes out every Thursday please do subscribe
because any of those new articles are
right there, but any of the deals as well and the top deals that come around I will
send that out on a Thursday either first thing or at lunchtime so you’ll be able to
pick up some things which often are quite short lived, sometimes they might
be ending that day or over the next few days. So do please subscribe if you’re
interested in that so you don’t miss out.

Right let’s get on to the main bulk of today’s episode – episode 64 of cash chats the best ways to spend on holiday.

Now when you’re away, the world has changed so much hasn’t it – not just at home but also away – we’re likely to use our cards aren’t we. We like to use our debit cards, our credit cards. Contactless is huge now. In fact we’re more like to pay with cards than we are with cash. But when you go abroad you need to be careful. Because most of our normal debit cards they are going to charge you extra fees. In an article that I recently wrote for Moneywise magazine I had a look at some of those main providers and what those actual charges are. If you want to read a little bit about this article and other things go to becleverwithyour and there will be much more about everything I talk about in today’s episode. But for example Barclays when you use a Barclays debit card abroad you will be charged 2.75% for each time you use it, whatever you spend. Now if you get cash out then you get charged one pound fifty. So that’s quite a big charge. Both times you’re getting hit. And this carries on. You know it’s a similar rates with Halifax – two point nine nine percent, not just that charge on what you’re spending but also 50p per transaction. So if you make a small transaction lots of those those 50ps will very very quickly add up. Taking money out the ATM – again one pound fifty and it’s it’s similar really a cut across the board. Santander’s one is particularly high. It’s two point two five percent when you spend money – that extra they call it a load fee which is added to your spend – but another one pound twenty five for every time you spend. If you think about, it you’re out you having drinks, you’re getting a round in, an extra two point two five percent plus an extra one pound twenty five on top that’s a lot of money. And you’ve getting money out regularly – you’re getting you know fifty quid out or fifty euros, 50 dollars, whatever it might be, out of the cash machine each time, it could very very easily cost you around two pounds and three pounds fifty out of those major banks each time you do it. So very quickly, as you can tell, that’s going to add up. So don’t do this. Do not use your normal debit card. And normal credit cards are rarely that much better. You’re going to get hit with not just fees, those load fees, ATM fees, penalty charges, but you may also get interest added on top of that. So avoid the stuff that’s in your wallet already. What you need to do is get yourself some specialist cards. I have had different ones over the years, some of them come and go, but the one that has stayed with me for a long long time, definitely since 2012 if not before, is the Halifax clarity credit card.

Now yes it’s a credit card so you will get charged interest if you don’t pay it off in full but there is no charge at all for spending. Nothing at all. So you will get exactly what the MasterCard rate is when you spend your money and that’s the best you’re gonna get really. There’s also a deal right now so if you open this up before the 31st of August 2018 and spend on it abroad before the 30th of September 2018 you will get 20 pounds cash back. So I think that’s a really really good card and a really good incentive to sign up to it now if you’re going away over the summer. One thing there is if you use it to get money out of a cash machine you won’t get charged an ATM fee by Halifax but you will get charged interest for every day that it is before you pay that money off. So it’s not going to be too much. Say you take 50 quid out and it could work out about 79p to a pound. Something like that. Or you could just pay off . I you’ve got your app banking you can pay it off straight away. And I think that’s a really really good card.

Now an alternative and this is one that I’ve just received – I haven’t used it abroad – but I’ve just got it is the Tandem credit card. I talked about one of these new cashback cards that I’ve written about on the blog a moment ago. Now this one offers 0.5 percent cashback not just at home but also overseas, any time you spend money on it. And again it doesn’t charge you any money to use it when you’re spending so you’re actually going to be earning as you go along. They’re both pretty good additions, they would be the ones that I probably use more than anything when I next go away. The only issue is obviously with a credit card, well there’s a couple of issues. One of them is you will need to have the credit check to get it. So if you don’t have a great credit rating you might not get them and also your limit – how much you are allowed to spend on them – will be affected by your credit score. So you might not get that much on there. Now again, like I said, if you’ve got access to the Internet when you’re abroad you can quickly transfer some money over from your bank to pay off that and bring down the balance if you are likely to be hitting it. Say you’re away for a couple of weeks and there’s for family or four it very quickly could get get up to a thousand pounds. Especially if you’ve got to pay for the hotel and all these things. So do bear that in mind.

There are also a couple of current accounts as well and I’ve got both of these banks as well. These are companies which are startup banks. Digital banks. You can only access them and manage them through the smartphone apps. One it’s called Starling and one is called Monzo. Again fee free spending, no charges at all for taking cash out with Starling bank so that’s better than the credit cards which charge you interest. Monzo is the same but I think it’s 200 pounds a month you can take out after that you do get charged a percentage. But it depends how much your likely to need cash when you’re away. But definitely Starling is one of the better picks out of those two. And as long as you don’t apply for any overdraft aspect of them then you won’t need a credit check you can get just a new current account. You don’t need to switch to get these you can keep your old bank if you want.

And you’ve got another alternative too if you are a
bit worried about opening up a new credit card or current account. A few different options. One is a prepaid card. Quite good as well I suppose if you want to keep to a budget then you don’t have spend more money than you have. You can just load this card up with that money and when it’s gone it’s gone. And also if it’s lost you don’t lose any more money. Fraudsters can’t suddenly rack up a huge bill. The one that I’ve used is called We Swap. That was pretty good. There’s lots of deals out there that give you a bit of an incentive when you’re on your first swap of currency. There’s also Revolut. I’ve not used that one but lots of people do rave about how good it is. But again I prefer that the Halifax clarity and the Starling and Monzo banks. They’re the ones that I’ve mainly been using. But there’s lots of options out there to try.

One last one you can consider it’s called Curve and this is a bit different I’ve written a review about it and I’ll put that in the show notes. This does charge you 1% so you won’t get as good a rate as you would with those specialist travel cards but it is still a lot better than your NatWest, Santander, your Nationwide and what they’re going to charge you. But what Curve does it link to your existing bank account behind it so when you pay with it you don’t have to open anything new. Curve card isn’t an account it’s just a card. It’s a bit like using Apple pay, if you’ve used that on your phone or Samsung pay or Android pay. Your cards are all connected and you pay just by using your handset or specialist card, tapping it or swiping it or
whatever it might be to pay money. And you get charged 1% so it’s a very very simple way to do things without getting anything new. It might be useful as a backup.

And that’s important. I think it is useful to have something else in your wallet in case something does go wrong. Recently we had all these Visa cards stop working didn’t they. So if that’s your only card – a visa – and you can’t spend anything or you’re stuck and a few of the start-ups have had issues where payments have been declined. Revolut for example they have had that situation I think Monzo did have that as well last year. It’s quite short-lived, often these problems that get solved quite quickly, but if you’re abroad and you’ve only got one of these specialist cards then your alternative to pay for things could be adding easily 5% on onto your spend. Or you might get pickpocketed. We had that happen to us in Argentina. Fortunately we had some spare cards in a different wallet back at the hotel. I don’t know if this has happened to you but it’s happened a few times to me. You spend something and it gets declined. Why is it being declined? You phone up the banker who say we declined it, we stopped your card because the suspicious activities overseas. Now a lot of the banks say now that you don’t have to phone up and tell them you’re going abroad. But I still do that, or go on online banking or on the app because often there’s a feature there to let them know you’re going abroad, just to reduce the chance of that happening. Even then it still can happen so if I was you, take a couple of different cards with you, ideally a Visa and MasterCard, though a lot of these ones I’ve told you about today there are actually all MasterCards. But get one of these in your wallet and that should be probably how you do most of your spending. Most places that you go to they will accept a card when you’re paying and most of them will have cash machines that you can go to to get cash out when you need cash. And you should be more or less covered.

But that doesn’t always happen and that’s why I think you still need to get some cash with you. This is what I do. You still need to have some cash. I don’t take a huge amount with me. I probably only take enough to sort of that would definitely get me from the airport to the hotel and survive that first night if I need to, if I haven’t prepaid for that first night at the hotel or whatever it might be. So in case something does go wrong with cards I’ve got some cash. Now it does depend where you go of course some places which are far flung you might not be able to use cards as much. Back in 2013 I think, it was when we went to South America, we had lots of problems in Bolivia and Uruguay where we just couldn’t get cash machines to work at all, and some places did require cash.So we were quite stuck. And since we were going to lots different countries as we were away for a while, it made it more difficult for us to take lots of currencies. But if you’re going somewhere which you know might be a bit tricky then you might want to take a little bit more money with you. But read up online about what the advice is for that destination.But whether it’s a large amount of cash or a small amount of cash how do get that cash?

Now lots of people make some very very common mistakes.One of them is to leave it to the last minute and get it at the airport. You might think yeah fine whatever. Do you know what the airport is probably one of the worst places you can get your travel money. The exchange rate which is on offer once you’ve gone through security and you’ve checked in, waiting for your plane, you are gonna get the worst rates. So do avoid that as much as you can. The best thing you can do is to order it in advance. Now obviously exchange rates go up and down so it’s difficult to say exactly how far in advance you should order it but I would personally try and get it… well it depends where you’re going. If you’re going to Europe and you’re getting euros or you going to America and you need dollars places have that. You can get that relatively quite late. You can get that the day before no problem unless you need like really large sums of it. Other countries where the currency they might not have it on hand you do need to sort of plan a bit further in advance. But it’s very very easy to do this, it doesn’t take any time at all and you’ve got it and you don’t need to worry about it. It it’s all in hand.

There is one little trick that if you have forgotten because you’ve been so busy and you are already on the way to the airport, you can order with Travelex as long as there was a Travelex Bureau De Change at the airport and you’ve got four hours clear, you can order online and collect it at air side. And you will get a much much better rate than just rocking up and asking for the same amount of money. But you need to order four hours in advance on there, via their website.

But better than that though really is to use a comparison site. The one that I use is from Money Saving Expert it’s called Travel Money Max and you put in your currency that you want, you put in how much money you want to exchange and you put in your postcode and it will quickly tell you where near you you can go and collect some money at the best rates that are available to you. You simply click through and order those rates. Again you will get a better rate when you order it rather than just turning up at the the whatever the places you get it. Often if you’re in somewhere like London or Manchester there were lots of these kind of small bureau de cnahges which are really competitive and they give you really good rates. So I was used to pop to the one near Oxford Street or one in Liverpool Street in London which gave me the best rates – not as good as so specialist credit cards that I was talking about before but still the best rates out there . Now I live in a smaller town in Yorkshire there aren’t any of these places but some of the best rates do tend to be maybe at Debenhams, maybe Asda, maybe at Sainsbury’s. But if you do one of these comparisons you will find that one that is is best for you.

One final thing actually on travel cash is to make sure you don’t fall for the 0% Commission trick you see all the time when you’re walking around. We don’t charge any commissions, zero percent on your travel money. To me that says that I’m getting the exact rate. There’s no commission. So surely I’m getting the perfect rate here and just go in you swap your money? That isn’t the case at all. They still are making a profit, which you can understand they’ve got to sort overheads to cover and and so on, but it’s just the way it’s presented to you. It is a huge lie that so many of us fall for. They can set the exchange rate to whatever they want it to be and there is a massive difference from one place to the next. It really really changes and varies so much so do not go somewhere just because it says naught percent commission. Do not go somewhere just because that’s where you’ve got your normal bank accounts, or just because that you’ve always gone to the post office store or you always go to the travel agents. Go on to a comparison site like Travel Money Max and find out what the best rate is near you and order it in advance. That should have you sorted.

I mean obviously you know if you have got large amounts of money that can be quite worrying to have that with you so you might want to try and mix it up with the prepaid cards. You don’t really get traveler’s checks anymore and they were quite expensive but at least you did have that bit more security. But most places now I think you should be okay to back up a mixture of cash and cards you should be okay.

Now finally a couple of last little points about when you’re actually spending that money when you’re abroad. The first one is always to pay in the local currency. Sometimes you get a machine when they bring the card machine over to you and you put the card in it recognises that you’re from the UK so asks do you want to pay in pounds? Always say no. You should be paying in Euros, in dollars, in yen, whatever it is, pay in the local currency. Because that means all that hard work you’ve done with getting your specialist credit card which doesn’t charge you any fees, that’s gonna work. You know the exchange rate is going to be set by your card provider. If you do instead click yes and pay in pounds that’s chosen by whoever whichever country you’re in, their rate is selected there whether it’s the terminal provider, whether it’s the processing people, the bank who owns that sort of processing, they will make that choice for you. So you will not get that specialist rate and even if you’re using a normal British debit card it’s probably gonna be better for you to do the same thing, to do that.

Now this is a personal one. You don’t have to do this one, but I like to try and pay upfront as much as I can. it just reduces that risk of something going wrong. So whether that’s the hotel, whether it’s a coach or car hire, an excursion perhaps, if you can pay it before you go not only do you know exactly what you’ve paid because you’ve done it there and then, you’ve paid for it, but it like when I mentioned before about how I had a card stolen from me or we couldn’t access cash at all in some of those countries, it reduces how much you’re gonna have to spend on maybe a more expensive card that you’ve got in your wallet – your normal bank account. Or it just the means that you know you don’t have to carry as much cash there with you when you’re away.

Well there you go. That hopefully will get you all set for your holidays.We’re in early July now so if you’re going away, even at start of the school holidays, you’ve probably got about still got enough time to order one of those specialist cards and get it ready so when you are away you are saving a decent sum of money.

Please do leave a review over on iTunes it really does help me with the podcast. I get to know what you think about it, what you like and it does help other people find it too. So until next time. Cheers

One thought on “Cash Chats 64: How to pay when on holiday

  1. Went to Canada with a friend who used Starling. I had a Revolut card. We got pretty much the same exchange rates – both use the IBL rates, so both are excellent.

    Revolut has a few advantages though, it allows you to maintain a balances in different currencies, so if you receive any income in foreign currencies and plan to spend it in the relevant country, it’s useful as you don’t need to pay any conversion fees.


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