Here’s how to get the most Euros, Dollars and more for your Pounds when you’re getting travel cash for your holiday.
It’s been a while since most of us have been overseas, so it’s worth a quick reminder of the best ways to get your currency.
Now, coins and notes aren’t going to be the best way to pay, and I rarely use them. In fact, the last time I went overseas the bulk of my spending was with my credit card (a fee-free one naturally).
But from giving a tip through to buying from street vendors not everywhere takes cards. So havings some cash with you makes sense, and here’s how you can get the best exchange rates.
Ignore “0% commission” signs
One of the most misleading signs on the high street is the one that says “0% commission”. It makes you think that you’re not getting charged anything to change your cash – but you will be.
Rather than add a commission on top of your swap, the bureau de change will simply set their own exchange rate! You can read more about this in my “Why 0% currency commission is a lie” article.
Don’t get travel money at the airport
Since bureaus and banks are allowed to set their own exchange rates, it makes sense that the worst rates around will be at the airport. Once you’re there, and particularly once you’re through security, there is nowhere else you could go to get travel money than the bureaus in the departure lounge.
The only workaround if you really have left it too late to go elsewhere is you can order in advance online to collect at the airport, and you will get a better rate than just walking up to the booth. You will often need three or four hours notice though.
Compare for the best exchange rates
Instead of just popping to your bank or the Post Office as many do, it’s better to compare all the different rates available in your area. The tool I use for this is Money Saving Expert’s Travel Money Max. You can choose between collection, delivery and even airport collection, and you’ll be shown the best rates.
Your choice will increase massively if you live in London, but you’ll still get a decent range of options elsewhere. Do check whether you need to order in advance to get the rate you see – some will charge you a worse rate if you don’t.
Don’t use a credit card to swap your cash
Once you know where you’ll get your cash, you want to avoid any extra charges on your swap. This means paying with cash or a debit card. That’s because using a credit card is what’s known as a “cash advance“.
With this you’re effectively taking money off your card as cash and then using the cash to make the transaction – even if you don’t actually get your hands on any physical notes and coins to hand over.
Get a specialist card for extra cash machine withdrawals overseas
Don’t take too much cash with you. Apart from the risks of losing it, if don’t spend all of it you’ll get a poor rate when you try to swap it back to sterling. So instead I’d recommend you only take out enough to cover essentials for the first few days – depending on the infrastructure at your destination of course. Then, if you need more cash, you can use an ATM.
Though some of these will have local fees set by the bank you use, you won’t have any charges on the exchange rate at all if you use a specialist card such as Starling.