Preparing to go on holiday can be stressful. No doubt about it.On top of important things like work deadlines and getting your pet cat sorted, there are super-important things like choosing which factor sun cream to buy or constructing a witty “out of office” email.
One thing that often gets left to the last minute is exchanging your foreign currency.
It’s one of those jobs that we don’t think much about, but it can actually make a big difference to how much fun we have. You don’t want to be worrying about finances on holiday. And the more you have to spend, the better – obviously!
With a weaker pound – picking out the best deal on foreign currency hasn’t been this important in years.
Luckily the pound to Lira rate hasn’t been hit as hard as the pound to the dollar, or pound to Euro rates, but that’s not to say that digging out the best deal isn’t still necessary.
Don’t Exchange Your Money at the Airport
Airport bureaus consistently provide the very worst rates on foreign currency. Be prepared to take up to an 11% commission/whack! If you take £1000 cash to one of the bureaux, you’ll only actually be exchanging £890 once they’ve taken their fee. That’s £110 you could have been spending on meals out, cocktails, or day trips.
Don’t Use Your Debit Card
This is possibly the most convenient option. Your debit card already lives in your wallet after all. But using your UK debit card can actually end up being super-expensive.
Let’s take a Halifax debit card, for example. They would charge you £1.50 for each point-of-sale transaction and/or £1.50 for every ATM withdrawal. On top of that, a 2.75% conversion commission is charged each time. Costly.
Don’t Take a Packet of Currency, it’s not 1997.
Many people still go to the Post Office or M&S, swap all their money, and take it in their suitcases.
Not only are these traditional providers often expensive, but how often do you walk around with hundreds and hundreds of pounds in your wallet in the UK? It’s not a very good idea.
Even if you hide a few hundred Euro under a mattress, in a ball of socks or inside the curtain, it’s not exactly bulletproof. If it doesn’t get stolen, it is easy to lose.
Keep an Eye on Politics
It’s no secret that the pound has struggled over the past 9 months. The Brexit vote in June was compounded by Donald Trump’s US election victory. That’s left British holiday-makers worse off when it comes to holidays. If you see a big political vote on the horizon, then think about exchanging early.
Okay, okay – we get your point. So what is the best solution?
Prepaid Currency Cards
Of course, you could just do the exchange once you reach your destination. However, spending the first day of your holiday scanning for the best deal does not sound like much fun anyway. A glass of wine by the pool is much more fun.
Instead, prepaid currency cards are cards that you load up with money and use abroad as if you would with a debit card here. I.e. by withdrawing money from an ATM or spending with the card over the counter.
It’s a bit like a pay-and-go mobile phone in that you fill it with credit, can easily track your spending and “top up” anytime using an app on your smartphone.
Take the WeSwap prepaid travel money card. They charge just 1% commission for exchanging your currency. Your money is swapped at the midmarket exchange rate that is the perfect exchange rate – not even the banks get a better rate!
The cool thing about WeSwap and the reason they can afford to do everything so cheaply is that they actually swap your money directly with a traveller heading in the opposite direction. Its peer-to-peer currency exchange meaning your GBP is exchanged with LIR with a Turkish traveller coming the other way.