Compare Exchange Rates, Travel Insurance and Currency Cards

Do not buy your currency from a street trader 0

_batman-slap-street-dealersThe world over there are street traders or money changers. I would like to think that most are honest but there are a disappointing large number of legal changers.

Even the ones that give decent rates and legitimate currency are just front men for the drugs, people trafficking and prostitution industries using you to launder their illegal earnings into untraceable currency.

In many countries using street money changers is a crminal offence and you can be arrested for using them because the authorities want to crack down on this form of money laundering.

The problem is compounded when you are dealing with a currency you are not familiar with. We probably have all seen Euros or US Dollars but even them we would be hard pressed to spot a fake. When you are faced with ‘used’ notes in a unfamiliar currency that you have very little of in your wallet already to compare like with like then your chances of spotting a forgery is almost zero.

If you are unlucky enough to accept a forged note then you are at greater risk of getting into legal problems if you try and spend it, even unknowingly. If all your travel money ends up being counterfeit then you could be in big trouble and your holiday could be ruined. it is entirely possible that your travel insurance will not cover you if they feel you have been in any way negligent.

You really must check the legal position of using street money changers before you leave and just remember that if the deal is too good to be true then it almost certainly not legitimate. The only real way to get the best exchange rates is to trade in millions of Pounds/Dollars/Euros and have the banks deal with you as an equal. The biggest currency houses can do this but I am not sure how a street corner dealer is going to manage it.

Travel Insurance 0


This is part one of a four part series on buying travel insurance, seeking compensation if things go wrong and the British Consular Service. We will be publishing one page a month during the summer 2014.

Firstly I would like to make it clear that we do not sell travel insurance. We do have a travel insurance page provided to us by Holiday Extras, but this is only to offer an easy route for our site users who need to buy travel insurance that suites them. What we are though is a Foreign Office “Know Before You Go” partner and like them we want you to have a great holiday and not have it turn into a nightmare.

Over the course of this series we will cover the official travel insurance advice and what to do if things go wrong, what embassies and consulates can and cannot do to help you and your options for getting compensation if things do go wrong.

A lot of people already have some form of cover provided by their credit card or bank account, as part of their home insurance and you should carry an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) if you travelling in Europe. These often provide really minimalist cover and should not be considered an enough cover. If you needed to be brought back from the Canary Islands then you are looking at a bill of up to £16,000, from the USA then it could be anything up to £45,000. That is just the air ambulance costs your medical treatment would be on top of that. Your travel insurance exists only to protect you from these and other expenses should things go wrong.

The main expenses you are most likely to incur in an emergency are medical and health expenses should you be injured or simply fall ill. The cost of using the emergency services. You being sued should you cause an injury or damage property and the cost for replacing lost or damaged property. In an non-emergency then you are looking at being refunded for money you have paid out should your holiday be cancelled or if you need to return home early through no fault of your own.

Travel insurance is a commercial product and you can spend very little or you can spend a lot but when you do want to make a claim then that is when you will really tell the difference. These companies are not charities, they are there to make a profit. They balance the possible maximum you could claim for, the frequency that people make claims and try and set the premium so that the amount they have coming in is more than the amount they pay out. If you compare to policies and they appear to cover the same events with the same amount of cover but the prices are significantly different then the missing factor is probably how often the insurer actually pays out.

One way they [insurers] can avoid paying out is to exclude specific activities. When you get to the small print then you may find either that you need to pay extra if you want to be covered for jet skiing or that jet skiing invalidates your policy. Not so useful if you are on a water sports holiday.

On the other hand your policy should definitely cover you should something happen to your airline which is something completely outside your control. This is called SAFI or Standard Airline Failure Insurance. Over the past few years, during the recession, we saw many small airlines and travel agencies go bust. The UK may be out of recession but the Eurozone still has its problems so this is a must.

You do have a choice between a single trip policy which is what most people buy if they are only going on holiday once a year or an annual/multi-trip policy. What people don’t often realise is that if you have an annual policy it covers you for travel even within the UK. If you book a weekend away in Cornwall and then fall ill then you could claim on your annual policy. Dispite the name an annual policy is not the right policy for a gap year oran extended round the world trip. Annual policies have a maximum number of days you can be away from home either in a single trip or for the year in total.

I am not going to detail every possible type of insurance you can get or the merits of each type, needless to say there are specialists for every niche from students to cruising. Just bear in mind that most policies will exclude any alcohol related incident (or drugs for that matter), if the insurer thinks you contributed to your loss then they will not pay out, so take care of your belongings and only about half of the policies I looked at will cover you terrorism related losses and that includes delays at the airport for bomb scares not just being the direct victim of an attack!

Best debit card to use abroad 0

Best debit card to use abroad

We pretty much live in a cashless society today what with the surge of online shopping and self checkout tills at the supermarkets. The majority of us are now used to using our debit cards or credit cards to pay for everyday things which is fine when we are at home.

However, going abroad for our holidays or business travel we can often incur hefty bank charges when we use our debit cards or credit cards whilst on holiday overseas which means we are no longer getting a good deal for our money and card transactions.

Andrew Hagger from Money Comms recently put together a useful comparison table for the best debit card to use abroad which was featured in a Guardian travel money article. Please see as follows the table which shows you what is the best debit card to use abroad as of the 2nd June 2014:

Best debit card to use abroad

As you will see above the majority of the big high street banking brands are towards the bottom of the table which shows they are not the best value debit cards to be using whilst overseas on holiday for your travel money requirements.

In fact only this month I purchased some travel money from the website and when I compared this to my own bank which is the Co-operative bank the debit card comparison table showed me that I would have been much worse off what with all the extra purchasing fees and withdrawal fees that they add on for overseas transactions.

The best debit card to use abroad comparison table is very useful, however, one area which it does not cover is what exchange rates your bank might be adding on top of these purchasing fees and withdrawal fees. Depending on what bank card you use you will either have a Visa debit card or Mastercard and to see what exchange rates they are using you can check the Visa exchange rates or the Mastercard currency conversion tool to see what your bank will use to convert your overseas transactions.

If you are lucky enough to be with either the Metro Bank or the Norwich and Peterborough building society they will not add any extra purchasing fees or withdrawal fees to your overseas transactions and then all you have to worry about is whether you are getting a good deal on your exchange rates. However, be careful of the Metro Bank debit card as you can only use it in Europe and not outside of Europe as some recent backpackers who went to Australia found out.

If your bank is on the best debit card to use abroad comparison table you may like to double check the information with your bank to make sure it hasn’t recently been updated and then compare the rates with our currency comparison table to see if you can get a better deal by taking cash with you instead. Just remember the more currency you buy the better deal you will get or you can opt to take some cash and pay for some holiday costs via your debit card depending on how you would prefer to manage your money whilst on holiday.

If you come back from your holiday with left over currency we have a buy back currency comparison table with compares all of the top UK currency suppliers to ensure you can find the best deal for selling your old unused travel money back.

Large Denomination Euro Notes 0


If you tried to buy a cream tea in a cafe in St. Ives with a £50 note not only would you be deeply unpopular but chances are they wouldn’t accept the note. We even say that you can spot a tourist as they have wads of £50s. If when you get your holiday money you see a load of €100 and €200 notes then you are not going to be happy. The reality is that these large denomination Euro notes are not a problem to spend. All of Europe is far more cash based than we are and their banks do not punish the small traders when they do discover a forged note (which is extremely rare) which is what UK banks do. If a small business here hands over a forged £50 note then it is the small business that takes the loss. That is why they don’t want these high value notes.

Over in the Eurozone though cash is used far more frequently than it is here and that means that the trader or cafe wil be holding a lot of cash and a lot of notes of all denominations. Believe me changing your €100 will not be a problem. This is a very British attitude and one you can lay to rest as just one of the things that the Europeans laugh at us about; a bit like drinking too much and falling asleep in the sun, another stereotypical British trait.

In my opinion I would rather have a €100 note in Paris than a £10 Scottish one in Penzance. You’ve got more chance of getting it accepted.


Compare Holiday Money Guide To Bitcoin pt 4 0


This is part 4 of our guide to bitcoin. If you would like to read part 1 then you can find it here Compare Holiday Money Guide To Bitcoin pt 1 or alternatively you can download the entire guide as a pdf Compare-Holiday-Money-Guide-to-Bitcoin

Part Four: Trading Bitcoins

If you had $1 worth of bitcoins and you did one trade a day, selling when the price started to drop and buying back when the price levelled off. If you made just a 3% gain each time, in one year you would have over $48,000.

First things first, you are unlikely to turn $1 into $48,000 in a year. The reason being that it nothing in this world is simply that reliable. Typically the bitcoin market moves between 0.3% and 20% each day but I have been watching it all day while I am writing this and it has only moved 0.43% today.

So how do you trade Bitcoin?

It is not that different to placing a classified really. You decide how much you want to sell. You then put a price on that and submit it to the market. This is a sell order. If you want to sell your bitcoin quickly you price it competitively. You can decide if you will allow people to buy just part of your order. Yours and all the other sell orders are available to look through at any time. Someone will then hopefully click on your sell order and buy it (or part of it).

If you want to buy bitcoin then you look through the for sale list which is listed with the cheapest offers at the top and click on the one(s) you want to buy.

Whether you are buying or selling the minimum trader value is $1 and you may have to pay commission of about 0.5%.

The over-arching beauty of all this is that if you get your bitcoins for free and you are only paying commissions on the trades you actually do you can never be out of pocket. The worst that can happen is that you sell your bitcoins just before the price goes through the roof and you miss the boat but then you haven’t really lost anything, you just didn’t make anything.


Anyway, that is the theory so here is the practice. You are going to need a market in which to trade and for that we have chosen bitstamp as they have offices in Aldermaston here in the UK. Many of the biggest bitcoin markets are based in china but then it was some of these that have gone bust recently so we chose to avoid them. It is free and quite easy to set up a bitstamp account but you will need to go through some additional security and just like any other brokerage you will need to provide proof of your identity and address. We did this by scanning our passports and a utility bill or bank statement and submitting them through the website. It then took three or four working days before we were approved. You cannot transfer funds into your trading account until you have been approved so while you are waiting you can relax and watch the markets if you wish. This approval process is all part of bitstamp’s anti-money laundering procedures.

Once you are approved you can transfer your bitcoins into your trading account by logging into your wallet and then sending the money to the address that bitstamp give you. Once they have appeared you are ready to start trading. As I said above you need a minimum of $1 worth of bitcoin to trade with and trading will mean selling your coin for US Dollars and then buying back more coin with the balance in your account. You just need to keep repeating this hopefully making a profit on each transaction. The commission starts at 0.5% but as your cash value in the past month increases the commission will drop eventually to just 0.2%.

So when should you trade?

Below is a market chart showing lots of confusing lines, blocks and red and green ‘flares’. I have labelled a particularly significant moment and will attempt to explain what is going on and how to read the chart.


  1. At this point the price of bitcoins dropped suddenly and sharply. It is this that provokes what happens next. The price of the bitcoins or more accurate a µBTC is the yellow number on the far right in US Dollars.
  2. This block is the total volume of µBTC being traded. Because the price has suddenly dropped sharply lots of people are trying to trade bitcoins. The number in grey to far left is the number of millions of µBTC being traded.
  3. The green flare is the number of people placing ‘buy’ requests. People want to buy bitcoins when they are cheap so the drop in price has caused a lot of buy requests.
  4. The red flares below the line are sell requests. There is a small one directly below the price drop which was people trying to sell the bitcoin before it dropped too much in value and the another one a little while later when the bitcoin price started to rise and then plateau out.

There are really two strategies to try when trading. You can go big and slow or small and frequent.

Big and slow

You will probably do a single trade a day or every few days and you are waiting for a significant difference between what you paid for your coins and what you want to sell them for. When I took the screenshot above the price was $634 for a coin, today it is $608. If you had sold then and bought today you would have made 4.3% profit on the trade.

Small and frequent

The idea here is that as long at the difference between buy and sell prices are greater than the commission on the transaction then you are going to make a profit. It may be a tiny percentage but it is still a profit. To make it worthwhile you try and buy and sell your coins tens of hundreds of times a day and rack up a gain every time.

These two options are not mutually exclusive and there is no reason why you cannot just do one or two trades during the week when you are buy and then many trades over a weekend when you are around to watch the markets.

We cannot guarantee that you will trade at a profit and we cannot guarantee that bitcoins will become worth millions of Dollars but all the advice we have given here we have used ourselves and continue to do use it now.

Later on this year we will post a follow up and let you know how we have got on…

US Dollar Flash Sale 0


USDnotesAt around this time of the year we start to see a flurry of Flash Sales, currency ‘happy hours’. One of the most common is the US Dollar Flash Sale. Why the US Dollar is special is because it is accepted all over the world. The official users are the United States (obviously), El Salvador, Panama, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the United States Minor Outlying Islands. If you then add in the countries where it is widely accepted such as Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Barbados, Cambodia, East Timor, Lebanon, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Caribbean Netherlands, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands, Bermuda and British Indian Ocean Territory you have a belt that circumnavigates the globe. But that is not all. There are seven counties that have currencies pegged to the US Dollar so the currencies can be freely interchanged and these are Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

So with the global nature of the US Dollar when it is being offered at a discount then it is an important opportunity for a great number of people.

We are not allowed to publish the exact dates of upcoming flash sales before they happen because the currency suppliers do not want competitors to steal their thunder. What we can say is that there are at least two sales that we already know about scheduled for July. As the cliche says watch this space and we will make sure you are kept informed.

Updated 30/06/2014

American Express (AMEX) have just announced the first of their summer flash sales running from 10am Monday 30th June through to 4pm Friday 4th July.

Updated 04/07/2014

The Post Office have announced a flash sale for running from 4th July to to 8am Tuesday 8th July. The currencies on offer are Euros, US Dollars, Australian Dollars, Swiss Francs and South African Rand.


What currency is used in Mexico 0

What currency is used in Mexico

Question: What currency is used in Mexico

Answer: The local currency used in Mexico is the Mexican Peso

More Information:

If you are travelling to Mexico for your holiday then the Mexican Peso is the local currency which is used in Mexico. We always advise our customers to use the local currency in whatever country you are travelling to as you will find that you will get a better deal on purchasing goods or services from vendors or suppliers when using their own local currency.

The reason for this is that if a vendor or supplier accepts any other currency other than their own they will need to exchange this foreign currency into their own at the end of the banking day which can often cost you even more as the vendor or supplier will mostly use a poor bank exchange rate to change the currency money and they therefore need to cover their costs for supplying this service.

Although, as Mexico is very close to the USA you will find that the US Dollar is widely used in Mexico which means that sometimes the US Dollar can be extremely competitive with the Mexican Peso exchange rates when changing from the British Pound so you may like to compare these just in case there is a big difference between the US Dollar and the Mexican Peso exchange rates to ensure that you get the best currency deal for your money.

In Mexico, street crime is a major concern to tourists so therefore you may wish to think about taking a currency card which means if your wallet is stolen then the thief will struggle to use the money as they will need the currency card pin number. You would ideally need a US Dollar currency card, however, the exchange rates on currency cards versus taking cash can be more expensive and therefore if you are looking for the best currency exchange rate deals then taking Mexican Peso in cash will give you the best exchange rate deal for your holiday money and it will be much easier to use the money with vendors or suppliers locally in Mexico.

The Mexican Peso originates from the Silver Spanish Dollar and Eight Piece which was introduced by the Spanish government and it was widely used in the USA and Canada as the official currency until eventually the USA designed the US Dollar coins in 1792. After several years of inflation and devaluation the Mexican currency was renamed to the Nuevo Peso which is also known as the New Peso until recently in 1996 the Mexican currency became the Mexican Peso of today.

If you are going on holiday to Mexico and you are looking to get a good deal on your Mexican Peso exchange rates please compare all of the top UK currency suppliers by using our currency comparison table for the latest travel money rates. If for any reason you come back from your holiday in Mexico with some left over Mexican Peso please use our currency buy back service to compare all the buy-back suppliers to ensure you get the best buy back exchange rates for your holiday money.

Euro Currency Cash vs Euro Currency Cards 0

Euro Currency Cash vs Euro Currency Cards

As the banking industry continues to advance and we all become much more digital with handling our money and paying for things via our plastic banking cards or mobile phones we at thought it would be a good idea to compare euro currency cash vs euro currency cards for holidays.

Following a recent report from the British Retail Consortium we are all now 11% more likely to use our debit cards for buying things compared to cash which is mainly down to the rise in online purchases. With this continuing trend to use less cash are we better off with currency cash or currency cards for our holidays.

We have always advised customers that using debit cards and credit cards abroad is one of the most expensive payment solutions for paying a bill at the hotel or buying dinner at a local restaurant as your bank or credit card provider will charge a fee for this and they will have to convert the currency for you which will be at a very poor exchange rate.

So the options left in order to get a good deal on your currency exchange rates for your holiday travel money is to either take currency cash or use currency cards as the main cheapest solutions for your holiday money. However, the market for this has rapidly expanded in recent years with many new currency suppliers coming onto the market which has created good competition and much better choice for consumers.

With there being plenty of choice on the currency market the question is, are consumers still better off with currency cash or currency cards. As most British holiday makers travel to European destinations we thought we would compare euro currency cash vs euro currency cards. Please see below more information on what is the best valued payment solution for exchanging your money in today’s currency market and what are the practical advantages and disadvantages of taking cash vs cards on holiday with you:

Euro Currency Cash

  • The benefit of currency cash is that you can make payments to suppliers or vendors whilst on holiday who do not accept card payments such as taxi drivers or market stall owners.


  • If you appreciate the service you get on holiday you might like to leave tips to hotel or restaurant staff and currency cash allows you to do this.


  • If you have kids and you would like to teach them about money then handling money to pay for things on holiday is an experience and it enables you to share travel money out between family members for your holiday spending.


  • The downside to currency cash is that if you lose your wallet then there is a risk that you won’t have enough money for your holiday. Alternatively, you can always leave a proportion of your currency cash in your secure hotel room safe.

Euro Currency Cards

  • Euro currency cards allow you to lock in exchange rates so if you decide to top up your currency card whilst still abroad on holiday then you can do this. Although, you must be aware that some currency cards will charge you for reloading your card with extra travel money so please make sure your card doesn’t have excessive charges especially if you are topping up your currency card with a credit card. We would always advise taking a card that is free for reloading extra travel money and to at least to do this via your debit card to avoid extra credit card charges.


  • Euro currency cards will allow you to withdraw travel money whilst you are away on holiday, however, again some currency cards will levy a charge for this so please make sure that you get a card which is free from ATM charges so that if you need to keep withdrawing money more often than you thought you are not wasting money on currency card charges from cash machines.


  • Using currency cards for paying bills at your hotel or whilst out and about is a secure way to handle all your holiday money and some currency card suppliers will give you an additional card for free which your partner can have. It allows you to easily budget and if you lose a card you can get a replacement. Although, some currency card suppliers will charge for a replacement so please make sure that you read all the extra information and terms and conditions before purchasing a currency card for your holiday.

How Much Can You Save

Despite currency cards being new, secure and flexible currency cash is actually still the best and cheapest solution for taking travel money with you on holiday. The difference in exchange rates can be up to £30 to £40 on euro currency cards compared to taking euro currency cash with you.

This is based on converting £750 into euro’s worth of currency cash compared to currency card exchange rates including currency cards that have no ATM fees and ongoing charges. So our advice at present is if you are travelling to Europe and you need Euro’s then euro currency cash is the cheapest option and the more you buy the better rate you get on currency cash exchange rates.

If you would like to compare euro currency cash please use our currency comparison table or if you would still prefer to carry a euro currency card please compare currency card suppliers before placing your order online. Competition #EscapeNow 0 Competition #EscapeNow

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Well here is your chance is running a competition until the 30th June 2014 for a chance to win a trip around the world for two inclusive of all your expenses.

All you have to do is provide your email address and choose three of your favourite dream adventure trips from around the world which include some of the following:

Inca Trail Trek in Peru

Inca Trail Trek

Great Wall in China

Great Wall

NYC Empire State in New York USA

NYC Empire State Competition #EscapeNow

There are thirty adventure trips to choose from on the website. Where would you like to go in the world?

If you would like to win the grand prize of an all expenses paid trip around the world please visit the competition page to complete your entry before the 30th June 2014.

All NEW Forums! Why not ask our community your travel money questions? The Compare Holiday Money Forum