Travel money: How to get the best rates

Jetting off on holiday? Find out how to get the best exchange rate for your travel money with this handy guide.

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You save all year for a dream holiday, only to be told it’ll set you back some hefty fees to exchange your pound sterling into your desired foreign currency.

But it doesn’t always have to be this way. We explain just how you can get a good deal on your travel money, as well as the most cost-efficient ways of buying it.

What is a good deal?

Put simply, this is the best exchange rate with the lowest additional charges, such as delivery fees.

For this, it’s a good idea to compare foreign currency deals online and in-store to find which company will give you the most travel money in total.

If you haven’t quite found the deal you were looking for, don’t fret. Taking foreign cash with you isn’t the only way to spend abroad, so make sure you explore all your options before your trip, which can be found below.

What are the costs?

You should consider four main costs before purchasing your travel money: the exchange rate, the cost of commission, how much it will cost to be delivered if you ordered online or over the phone and if you’re buying with your credit card, how much you will be charged for the transaction.

Exchange rate

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

Travel money providers buy foreign currency at a wholesale price, meaning they can sell the currency to you at a profit. If you ever wondered why there are so many different exchange rates flying around, this is it.

The higher the number, the better the exchange rate.

Commission charge

This is taken by travel money providers to handle the administration of your order.

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

Delivery cost

Buying your money online or over the phone? A delivery charge may apply which will vary depending on the company. Some offer free delivery to your home address, while others offer free delivery for collection from a branch or at the airport.

Credit card charges

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

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?

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

Online

  • More choice
  • Better rates
  • Less-common currencies available
  • You will need to wait for delivery
  • You may be asked to pay delivery charges
  • The money you order could get lost in the post
  • Some cards still charge a fee when you carry out a transaction overseas

In-store

  • Many options available that are easily found on the high street
  • You can collect it straightaway
  • No delivery charges
  • Less choice available
  • There may be limited stock
  • It will take you much longer to compare rates in-branch

Can you order in advance?

You can and this can often be the best option.

Otherwise known as pre-ordering, ordering in advance means:

  • You can avoid delivery charges by picking up the currency in-store.
  • You will need to leave plenty of time for arrival if you have your currency delivered.
  • It gives you time to weigh up the pros and cons of your options and consider online cash orders or travel money cards too.

Top tips for getting the best deal

Whether you choose to buy your currency online or in-store, there a few surefire ways to ensure you get the best deal possible.

Focus on the overall cost

Don’t just look for the highest exchange rate, because you could find a lower rate is better overall if commission and delivery charges are excluded.

Do not use your credit card if you can avoid it

Use your debit card instead, or simply swap your sterling cash into your chosen currency to avoid excessive credit card charges.

Avoid cheap tricks

Don’t be swayed by companies offering 0% commission on travel money as this will apply to almost every travel money company.

Prepare in advance

Shop 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.

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