Max your hols with the best international exchange rates

Don't do it at the airport. Compare the best exchange rates on international money transfers and get ready to brag.

You can get more for your pound if you take the time to find the best exchange rates. Understanding how to exchange money can make a big difference when it comes to trying to save money. We compared dozens of ways to exchange money and found that the best methods typically avoid banks and in-person exchange kiosks.

How to find the best exchange rates

When transferring funds internationally or exchanging currency for a trip overseas, you will want to get the most value for money. So here’s our top tips on how to get the best exchange rates possible:

Do

  • Consider money transfer specialists. Providers like OFX, WorldRemit, Wise, Revolut and similar online money transfer services can offer bank-beating exchange rates and low fees.
  • Convert currencies when rates are favourable. If you know you need to make an international transfer or you will be traveling overseas, then try to exchange your cash when rates are favourable to you. Carry out your conversion at an exchange provider that charges low fees and has a competitive rate.
  • Set rate targets. If you have the luxury of time, you may opt to use a service like TorFX which lets you set rate targets that can trigger an exchange when the rate hits a target you set. You may alternatively be able to lock-in rates today for a transfer in the future.

Don’t

  • Exchange money at airports or train stations. Although such booths may be convenient, they never offer the best exchange rates. You will find they take advantage of people’s need to exchange their money and charge highly for the convenience.
  • Use a credit or debit card abroad (unless you know it’s fee-free). While some credit cards and debit cards offer fee-free spending overseas, if you don’t have one of these and still use your card abroad, expect to incur currency conversion fees of around 3%.

How to get the best exchange rate on international money transfers

If you plan to use an international money transfer service, then it’s best to shop around and compare your options. The more time you can leave yourself before needing to send the transfer the better. Here are a few things to think about when comparing money transfer exchange rates:

  • Know the mid-market rate for the currency. Money transfer providers skew exchange rates in their favour. Therefore it’s best to use the mid-market rate (which you see on Google) as a baseline and see who is offering the closest exchange rate.
  • Skip the bank. The bank is not your friend in this situation, as they almost never offer the best exchange rates.
  • Use transfer tools to save money. Consider using recurring payments, forward contracts and limit orders to get a stronger exchange rate.
  • Compare providers. Use our table to compare providers. It is also worth getting quotes from a few providers and seeing which offers the better deal.
  • Focus on the final sum your payee will receive. Some services touting “no fees” will bury their margin in a weaker exchange rate, while others might tout “real, interbank exchange rates” while adding a hefty fee on top (and some even do both). By focusing on the overall cost plus the sum your payee will actually get, it’s easier to identify the best deal.
  • Consider a multicurrency bank account. If you plan to send regular transactions using commonly traded currencies, then a multicurrency bank account like Revolut could make life easier and save money.
  • Try larger amounts. You’ll usually find that money transfer providers offer stronger exchange rates for larger transfers. If you’re planning to send say, £490, you might find that sending £510 puts your transfer into the next rate bracket and you end up with a better rate.

Compare exchange rates of money transfer services

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Name Product Fastest transfer Fee Key benefits Amount received
OFFER
TorFX
Within minutes
£0
Get a £50 Amazon voucher for each friend you refer who transfers £5,000 or more. T&Cs apply.
$3,814.93
OFFER
Atlantic Money
Within minutes
£3
Pay no fees on your first Atlantic Money transaction with this link.
$3,839.68
OFFER
Wise (TransferWise)
Within minutes
From £0.20
Refer 3 friends to receive up to £50 referral bonus
N/A
OFFER
CurrencyFair
Within minutes
From £1.20
New customers get unlimited fee-free transfers for their first 3 months. T&Cs apply.
$3,821.96
WorldRemit
OFFER
WorldRemit
Within minutes
From £1.99
Use promo code 3FREE and pay no fees on your first 3 transfers. Conditions apply.
$3,812.65
OFX
24 hours
£0
$3,830.13
OFFER
Currencies Direct
24 hours
£0
Get a £50 Amazon voucher for each friend you refer who transfers £5,000 or more. T&Cs apply.
$3,790.49
Lloyds Bank International Transfers
24 hours
From £0
$3,695.98
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Please note: You should always refer to quotes you receive from transfer services themselves directly for exact amounts as they may vary from our estimates.

Where to exchange currency in the UK before your trip

If you know in advance that you will be travelling abroad, then there are several options for how to get the best exchange rates for your GBP:

  • Check your local bank. If you bank with one of the larger bank chains in the UK, they will almost certainly be able to sell you a wide range of foreign currency. Just beware of poor exchange rates. Even smaller banks can often order money from larger branches.
  • Use a currency ordering service. Services like Travelex allow you to order more than 50 currencies and have them delivered straight to your door. However, keep in mind you won’t get the mid-market rate.
  • Use an international transfer service, but have it delivered to your destination. Find a provider that can deliver your transfer for cash pickup at an agent location and have it waiting for you when you arrive at your destination.

How best to monitor exchange rates

One of the ways to save yourself money when making an international money transfer is to carry out your conversion when the exchange rate is most favourable. If you know in advance you will be sending money abroad or travelling overseas, then you can monitor currency trends ahead of time. Take a look at our live currency converter to see what exchange rate you would get for converting your cash today.

Market demand dictates how much one currency is worth compared to another – this is known as the mid-market rate. It is also the rate that banks use to trade money with one another.

When you convert money through a money transfer service, you will typically find that the provider adds a margin on top of the exchange rate to make money. So it is worth keeping this in mind when you are monitoring exchange rates.

Select the currency pair to fit your needs

Time is your best friend when it comes to getting the cheapest exchange rate. Whether you’re taking money out for a foreign trip, buying a property overseas, or making a money transfer abroad, you’ll want to keep an eye on the currency markets in advance of needing the cash. Being on top of what’s going on, and buying when the pound is strong against the currency you’re exchanging is key.”

Rebecca Goodman, financial journalist

Exchanging currency outside of the UK

When traveling internationally you’ll typically get the best exchange rates at banks, ATMs and post offices. If you have a bank card that doesn’t charge international ATM fees, this will most likely be the strongest and most convenient option.

It may be possible to exchange money at your hotel, but double-check the rate against the mid-market rate to see how strong it is. You may also find that some local shops and restaurants offer to accept payment in your native currency.

Here’s our dos and don’ts when it comes to exchanging currency outside of the UK:

Do exchange money at:

  • ATMs
  • Post offices
  • Banks
  • Your hotel

Do not exchange money at:

  • Tourist destinations
  • Street-side exchange bureaus
  • Airports, train stations, bus stations and the like

Frequently asked questions

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you. Most of the data in Finder's comparison tables has the source: Moneyfacts Group PLC. In other cases, Finder has sourced data directly from providers.

Written by

Kate Steere

Kate Steere is an editor at Finder, specialising in fintech, banking and cryptocurrency. She has previously written for The Motley Fool UK and Fitch Solutions, where she covered a wide range of personal finance topics and kept a close eye on market trends. Kate has a Bachelor of Arts in Modern History from the University of East Anglia. When not working, she can usually be found curled up with a good book or heading out for a run. See full profile

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2 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    torFXJuly 13, 2017

    Is torFX a safe and reliable money transfer company to use?

      AvatarFinder
      AnndyJuly 21, 2017Finder

      Hi there,

      Thanks for your question.

      torfx is a legitimate business that is registered in England & Wales. They are also authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority as an Electronic Money Institution.

      You can visit this page to learn more about torfx.

      Cheers,
      Anndy

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