It’s estimated that a whopping £21 million is wasted every year by travellers buying currency at the last minute at the UK’s major airports. If you want to avoid the pitfalls of high commission charges, poor exchange rates and unexpected fees, it’s clearly beneficial to plan ahead in order to get the best deal on your foreign currency.
Pre-Paid Debit Cards
Pre-paid debit cards are a traveller’s best friend, as they allow you to load them with funds before embarking on a holiday, and can be topped up with ease. You can use these cards at most ATM’s or swipe them in-store, and currency conversion is generally automatic. These cards have the added advantage of helping you stick to a budget, as you are able to load them with only the amount you want to spend. They are safe and the transaction fees are standard, making them a convenient and cost-effective solution.
Order Foreign Currency from Your Bank
Your bank can provide you with foreign currency, and you should be able to order this well in advance. By using your local branch’s money exchange system you’ll save a fair amount, as the rates are far more favourable and the currency conversion generally follows the market. Your own bank may also offer preferential rates to account holders, so always ensure that you ask in advance if lower rates are available. You can also change money at foreign banks, but it is important to keep an eye on the exchange rate and ensure that you are offered a reasonable conversion.
Buy Cash Online
Ordering currency online and collecting it at the airport is a cheaper option than exchanging cash at the last minute at the Bureau de Change. By ordering your currency online, you can cut costs and enjoy the convenience of collecting your foreign money just before you climb on to a plane. Before you order online, check the commission fees and make sure that there are no minimum charges, handling fees or flat fees enforced. Often the smaller the amount of currency purchased, the more expensive it is, and the Bureau de Change should list their rates and fees upfront.
Use Your Credit Card
Credit cards generally offer some of the most best rates for changing money, as the companies that back these products are enormous and have access to better rates than an individual or smaller entity. However, if you opt to use your credit card as a way to pay for things abroad, you have to be aware that a transaction may not be processed in real time and that it may take a while for the money to be deducted from your account. This could mean that when the deduction is processed the exchange rate is higher and you end up spending more than you initially budgeted for.
In previous years, travellers’ cheques and the Bureau de Change were almost the only options for travellers wanting to buy foreign currency. Although travellers’ cheques are still popular, there are many other faster, easier and more cost-effective ways to get foreign currencies. When buying foreign currency for your holiday, it’s best to plan in advance and find an option that is suited to your lifestyle and your budget.