Travel money on the high street

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Although there is a big shift to online shopping, travel money on the high street from Bureau de Change aka currency shops is alive and well and comes in all shapes and sizes. There are not many shopping areas in any part of the UK where you can’t find an outlet for your travel money. Even in the remotest of locations such as the Scottish Isles or the welsh valleys you will find a part-time Post Office, although it’s unlikely you would be able to just walk in and get your holiday money without ordering first. 

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Scarista Post Office, Isle of Harris, Scotland

Variety

Apart from little huts in the rural Scottish highlands, the variety of places you can obtain your currency is huge.

Supermarkets

Yes the Supermarkets cottoned on ages ago to the fact they could sell you almost anything with your baked beans including your travel cash. It’s not entirely clear when this trend started but most of the big UK supermarket brands offer travel money today. The discounters like Aldi have yet to catch on but they probably will.

Department Stores

Yes them as well. Debenhams, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer are some of the major brands with bureau de change that vie for your currency business. Some such as M & S and Debenhams now have their own banking arm and some will use a third party such as Travelex. A lot of the tactics of course are to get you in the store in the hope you will buy other things – your suitcases or sunglasses maybe?

Pawnbrokers

Yes a lot of large chain pawnbrokers like the Money shop and Ramsdens will sell travel money. It’s easy really, you sell your grandmas gold necklace and swop it for your holiday money. I’ll drink (Sangria) to that!

Franchises

Yes if you have a retail outlet of any kind you too could sell travel money! The biggest player in this game is No1 Currency who have a unique franchise model and their website says “Travel Agents, Credit Unions, Jewellers, Pawn Brokers, Tourist Information Centres and Pharmacies are just some of the many businesses that have seen their expansion rewarded with additional revenues”

Indeed No1 currency are represented in places large and small across the country from little newsagents to big Tourist Information Offices. The advantage of this is that the rates are the same across the business so better than the rip-off rates from the airports or booths.

Booths

Yes Booths. We can’t really describe them as independents as such although a lot of them are. They are tucked away inside souvenir or similar shops in tourist areas. The idea of course is that they get the tourist unawares with their signs prominent on the pavement at the front of the shop. If our unsuspecting foreign visitors manage to escape from the very poor rates at the airport currency exchanges they may step of the train or the bus looking for the first sign for ‘money exchange’ and if that’s a booth in a souvenir shop then great – they may not get good rates but they can buy their fridge magnets at the same time.

Independents

Yes if your’e looking for travel money on the high street then these are the guys that don’t sell baked beans or suitcases or send parcels and deliver letters; you won’t find any souvenirs either. Most have decent premises with properly trained staff. There are many like Covent Garden FX and Ace-FX that may just have one or two premises and they pride themselves on the service they give to customers. One of the longest established and largest and most successful of the independents is eurochange. We spoke to Nick Waters at eurochange HQ and asked him about their place in the big world of currency exchange.

He told us eurochange was founded in 1975 and now has 181 branches in many locations right across the UK. They take care to train their staff so they are all foreign exchange experts. They are well represented on the high street and in shopping malls and unlike the airports and booths, their rates are competitive.

One message Compare Holiday Money likes to promote is that walk-in rates to high street bureau are never as good as the online rate. This is true for all currency exchanges that sell online so we asked Nick why there is a difference in rates, he told us:

“Our rates are better online than in branch. We call these ‘Web Rates’ and you can secure these by placing a ‘Pay & Collect’ order. In branch we match our rates against local competitors and although our rates are still great, we can’t quite offer the same rates as online, due to costs such as staffing and rent that needs to be factored in. Online we don’t have these costs so can pass these savings onto our customers”

Tiered rates

Eurochange are one of a small number of currency suppliers that offer tiered rates, that usually means the more you buy the better the rate. We asked Nick to explain a bit more:

“eurochange offers tiered rates online and in branch, although the currencies and amounts are different. Online we offer improved rates on over 20 currencies, including euros – buy over €600 to improve your rate, and US Dollars – buy over $750 to improve your rate. Tiered rates are there to provide customers with a better exchange rate should they wish to take more currency”.

Brexit

Yes the dreaded Brexit word! It’s had a marked effect on UK travellers and the currency exchange rates because of the volatile pound. We wondered if it had made a difference to the currencies that people had been buying over the last 2 years and Nick told us:

“Europe has always been and will continue to be the number 1 overseas destination for holidaymakers. During the past 3 years since the EU referendum, we have not seen any significant shift away from the Euro being the most popular currency – perhaps maybe because we currently still remain a member of the European Union. Even after Brexit, if and when it happens, expectation is not for a dramatic change in customer behaviour. Europe will remain a key trading partner (with or without tariffs), and it will remain a key holiday destination.

So there you have it, euros are and always will be king of the UK currencies at least for the foreseeable future. The exchange rate you get can range enormously and it’s always best to check online. If you want to buy your currency from your local eurochange branch or anywhere else on the high street, remember the motto: Order online to get the online rates!

Posted by Graham Morley

Graham Morley

Graham is the Business Development Manager for Compare Holiday Money.

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