Many people leave buying their money until the last minute. There is no reason not to but you will not get particularly good exchange rates if you leave it until you get to the airport or having to get your money on the high street. The most cost effective ways to get foreign currency will depend on your personal circumstances.
You have the five options detailed below but the key to getting the most out of your travel money is to do plan a little ahead and be organised. Just like everything else foreign currency and exchange rates up up and down in price in response to market competition (or they get worst just when you need to buy your money and they get better the day after you have bought it) so you can shop around for the best deals.
Travel Money Options
Buying currency – The worst rates are with either on with the high street banks or when buying on the plane. The advantage offered by the bank is that you can walk in off the street and buy some of the most common currencies over the counter their and then. On the plane they will have the right currency for your destination. You can still buy currency on the high street but get better rates by being more organised. The Post Office offers two rates, they have an ‘in store’ rate and an online rate. The online is much better and you can order online but still pick up your cash at your local branch. Marks & Spencers offer the same rate online as they do in store so you can get a decent rate their but if you have to make a special trip then the cost in petrol could easily wipe out the savings. The best rates are available from the home delivery services. You will need to leave yourself at least two working days to use one of these but that is the same amount of time that the banks and post office will need to order in any currencies they do not have in stock. The currency is then be delivered to you by special delivery and you need to sign for it. The savings can be as much as 20% over the high street providers and normally over 10%. Delivery is normally free if you are spending more than £450 to £500.
There is one note of caution you should be aware of and that is that there is at least one online provider (not on our site) that offers really good rates but during the ordering process asks you to gamble with your money. They ask you to accept the rate they are offering now or to accept the rate at the time when they receive your payment. The suggestion is that the rate will improve over night. If your holiday money is money you can afford to lose then you may get a half a percent more as rates may go up as well as down.
Travellers’ Cheques – this has always been considered one of the safest and easiest ways to carry money abroad but today’s choices in credit cards, online foreign exchange and cash withdrawals are giving us more options. Some holidaymakers use cheques in conjunction with other forms of exchange. Travellers’ cheques are very safe to carry, but it can be hard finding a way to cash them if you are in a remote place. There are also a few associated scams relating to fake cheques that you should be aware of.
Pre paid currency cards – These are the traveller’s cheques for the 21st century but wth chip and pin security. As ATMs (cash machines) are so common now a pre paid currency card is a very easy alternative. You transfer money on to the card either before you leave or by using your online banking at any time. You can have multiple cards on the same account so that you can all spend from the same pot of money or a spare card can be left in the hotel safe should you lose a card or have it stolen then you can clear out your account before the thieves do. These cards are not connected to your bank account so that even if a card is stolen they do not get access to your bank. Anyone can pay money on to a card so should a teenage son or daughter find themselves stranded you can pay money on to their card and they can draw it out as cash or buy things using the card like a debit card here in the UK. The only thing to be wary of is that some cards have a monthly or annual fee and this can eat into your money even if you are not using it. These cards are to be avoided.
Cash withdrawals abroad – this can be very expensive if you are withdrawing from your credit card, so it is best to use your debit account if possible. Look out for hidden charges. There are two notes of caution. Firstly ATM machines are the favourite haunt of muggers and bag snatchers. You should try and use ATM machines where you go inside an atrium or inside the bank. Secondly it is possible for your card to be cloned anywhere even here in the UK so there is no reason to think that while you are abroad in a country where you probably do not speak the language your card will be any safer. If you standard debit card is cloned then the thieves have access to your entire bank account.
Credit cards – everyone should know that credit card companies charge different interest rates for different types of transaction and that the way that your balance is paid off. Cash advances by credit card is the most expensive kind of transaction and the last to be paid off if you do not clear your balance in full at the end of the month.
Travel Money Safety
There are various risks for travellers when it comes to using currency abroad. There is always the worry of theft, and although this risk can occur at home, it is always much more troubling when you are in an unfamiliar place. Tourists are key targets for thieves and holiday locations can become crime hotspots.
How to keep your travel money safe:
Invest in travel insurance that can cover for some/all of the amount lost.
Spread the risk and don’t carry all your travel money on your person.
Use the hotel safe if they have one.
Don’t have your wallet visible in your trouser pocket or shirt pocket.
There are a range of money belts and alternatives that are cheap and available from outlets such as the post office and online from Amazon amongst others.
Buy your travel money before you go on holiday, but also use a backup form source abroad to share the risk.
Use ATM machines situated inside a bank or atrium.
Protect your pin at all times
If you have any other safety tips please let us know (you can use the comments box below) so we can share them.