Save on foreign currency: spend abroad without being ripped off

Back to Travel tips
How to save on changing your travel money: holiday savings

Make your travel money go further with these five tips from a finance expert, to make sure you’re using the best exchange rates

Follow these five rules for better value travel money: where to exchange your currency for the best rates and how to spend on plastic.

1. Don’t buy currency from your high street bank

Changing currency at your bank is an easy and convenient option – but will offer poor exchange rates. While writing this, I checked at my own bank and in return for £750, they offered me €830. A quick search online got me €862.50, delivered the next day. That’s an extra €32.50, enough for a decent meal or taxi fare at my destination.

2. Avoid airport exchanges

Generally, changing money at the airport is even worse – you’ll be lucky to be handed €775 for your £750. However, if it’s your only option, you’ll get a much better rate if you order online at least 24 hours before you arrive at the airport. This is preferable to waiting until you get overseas, as you’ll get an even worse rate.

Discover more travel advice from the experts

Where to find cheap UK holidays and weekend breaks

Eco-tourism: book your next holiday with sustainability and ethics in mind

The future of travel: expert predictions from Simon Calder

How to save on travel money: changing foreign currency

3. Tuck your bank cards away

While it’s useful to have a little currency for tips and taxis, the best way to pay abroad is on plastic. But not on your own cards. Most high street banks have hidden overseas transaction charges of up to 3% on their cards as well as poor exchange rates, which means you’ll pay well over the odds if you use them.

4. Use a prepaid travel card

A prepaid travel card will have no fees, offers some of the best exchange rates and should be backed by Visa or Mastercard, which means it can be used in millions of locations to pay or withdraw cash.

Search online for the best deals and avoid the few that include cashpoint charges abroad. Once you receive your card, you can easily top it up online from your own bank. A plastic card is also safer than cash as if it’s stolen, you can have it replaced, while cash will be lost.

5. Always pay in local currency on cards

A final tip: if you’re paying on plastic – or using your card to get cash out of a machine – while abroad, you’ll often be asked whether you want the transaction to be in sterling or the local currency. Always choose the local currency or you’ll fall victim to a local exchange rate, which will certainly be worse than you can get at home.


Simon Read

Simon is an award-winning finance journalist, broadcaster, consumer rights expert and pundit on BBC 1’s Right on the Money.

You might also like