Travel money: how to get the best deal

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Finding a good deal on your travel money means getting the best return for your pounds sterling. This guide will show you how.
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Deciding how to manage your spending on holiday has become increasingly complex due to the wide array of options available. From credit cards and challenger banks to traveller’s cheques and the traditional airport kiosk, it’s hard to know the best approach.

Here we explain the advantages and drawbacks of each method and the steps you should take to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

What is a good deal?

You need to find the best exchange rate with the lowest additional charges, like delivery fees, to get a good deal.

Compare foreign currency deals online and in-store to find which company will give you the most cash in total.

But remember, taking travel money with you is not the only way to spend abroad so make sure you explore all your options before your trip. 

Compare the fees, charges and exchange rates from currency providers to the rates you’ll pay with prepaid, debit and credit cards.

What are the costs?

Currency exchange involves several different charges such as:

Exchange rates

This shows how much foreign currency you can get in exchange for your money.

Travel money providers buy foreign currency at its wholesale price and sell it to you at a profit. That is why there are so many different exchange rates.

The higher the number you can find, the better the exchange rate. For instance, if you see a rate of £1 for €1.20, that is better than £1 for €1.18 and worse than £1 for €1.24. Read our guide to learn more.

Commission charges

Travel money providers take these charges for administering your order.

The charge is normally incorporated into the rate, so although many companies advertise 0% commission, they could still be charging you by offering a less competitive exchange rate instead.

Delivery costs

Delivery charges may apply if you buy your travel money online or over the phone. The cost varies. Some companies offer free delivery to your home address while others offer free delivery for collection from a branch or airport.

Credit card charges

If you buy foreign currency with your credit card you will be charged:

  • On your credit card — buying foreign currency is treated as a cash withdrawal. This means you will incur a cash advance fee and daily interest charges.

  • By the travel money company — most charge a transaction fee of up to 3% for using your credit card to pay for your currency.

How should you buy travel money?

Ordering travel money online and in-store, have different pros and cons:

Pros and cons of ordering travel money online

Pros

  • More choice

  • Better rates

  • Broad range of currencies available

Cons

  • Need to wait for delivery

  • Delivery charges

  • Could get lost in the post

Pros and cons of ordering travel money in-store

Pros

  • On most high streets

  • Cash available straight away

  • No delivery charges

Cons

  • Less choice

  • Limited stock

  • Takes time to compare

Can you order in advance?

Yes, this is known as pre-ordering, and it means you:

  • Avoid delivery charges by picking up the currency in store

  • Need to allow plenty of time for arrival 

Advanced planning gives you time to weigh up the pros and cons of the different travel money options, including online cash orders and travel money cards.

If time is tight, read our last-minute travel guide to find out what your options are.

Case study – Gavin's story

"Excellent website for currency exchange: I have used it many times, it is simple to use and very fast and clearly shows the best exchange rates in an instant. I would recommend it to anyone."

Top tips for getting the best deal

  • Focus on the overall cost: do not just look for the highest exchange rate, because you could find a lower rate is better overall if there are no commission and delivery charges.

  • Do not use your credit card: use your debit card or simply swap your sterling cash into your chosen currency to avoid excessive credit card charges.

  • Avoid cheap tricks: do not be swayed by companies offering 0% commission on travel money as this applies to almost every travel money company.

  • Prepare in advanceshop around for travel money well before your trip so you can compare deals and make the most of free delivery options which take longer to arrive.

  • Remember your card: if you have a debit card, credit card or prepaid card that does not charge you to spend or withdraw cash abroad, it might pay to wait until you get to your destination and simply withdraw your foreign currency from a cash machine.

Spending abroad can be costly, so make sure you compare the market for the best exchange rates available on your travel money before jetting off.

About Dom James

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