Do you get your holiday money at the airport? Don’t!

You’re wasting money if you leave your money to the last minute. Here’s how to get the best exchange rates

Last month I headed over to a festival in Barcelona for the weekend. The sun was shining, the music was great. All in, a lovely time (thanks for asking).

Being the money geek that I am, I’d prepped my travel cash in advance. As well as a Halifax Clarity credit card,  I made sure I got the best exchange rate as possible on my travel cash (more on how in a bit).  

Waiting for my plane at the airport, I thought I’d take a look to see how much I’d saved – and I was shocked just how low their rate was!

The rate when I exchanged my money was 1.4 (which means I’d get €1.40 for every pound). At Gatwick the best was €1.24. A difference of 16 cents, or 11 pence.

Ok, that’s not a huge amount, but when you start thinking about how much you spend on holiday, especially if you are a family, and it can quickly rack up. 

For example, based on the rates when I travelled, getting the cash in advance would make these savings:

  • £100 in euros would save me £11
  • £500 in euros would save me £55
  • £1000 in euros would save me £110

How to get the best rate

First, it’s worth applying for the Halifax Clarity credit card. For most of the year this sits in my spare wallet, hidden at home. But when I head overseas, it’s how I do most of my spending. It’ll give you fee and interest-free exchange rates (as long as you pay in the local currency and not pounds). It’s the cheapest way to spend. There are also some bank accounts which have similar offers (more below).

But of course, you’ll want to take some cash, and as long as you don’t leave it till the last minute, you’ll be able to get pretty decent rates.

I use Money Saving Expert’s Travel Money Max to compare all the possible options. It’s very simple. Just enter how much money you want to exchange, and the currency you need. You’ll be able to select when you are travelling and how you want to get the money – either delivery, collection, or collection at the airport.

As I live in London, there are quite a few bureau de changes that let you pre-order and collect at a rate far better than the bank’s just a few days before travel. Even if you don’t have this option, delivery and pre-ordering to collect at the airport will usually beat just turning up at the bank and Post Office, or (even worse) the airport.

There you go, really easy, so there’s no excuse to leaving it to the last minute.

>> More tips to save on your holiday money

Beware cash machines overseas

A quick note about just getting your money from an ATM on your hols. Unless you’ve got a special bank account this can be quite expensive. 

Most UK banks will charge a fee between 2% and 3% for each transaction, AND an extra fee for using a cash machine, which can easily be a couple of quid. They also charge you an extra fee if you pay with them!

The two main banks that offer fee free withdrawals are Metro and Norwich & Peterborough.

I’ve a Metro account, which was very handy when I travelled around South and Central America as it meant I didn’t need to bring all those different currencies with me. Unfortunately a year or so ago Metro changed it to fee-free in Europe only. 

Norwich & Peterborough’s Gold Classic account does work worldwide, so I’ll be looking to open one of those before my honeymoon this autumn.


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