Travel Money: How to Get the Best Deals on Cash, Cards, Mobiles and More | Foreign currency

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Get an exchange offer

If you plan to carry foreign currency – and most people like to have at least £100 worth of local notes and coins when they arrive – use a site such as TravelMoneyMax, run by Martin Lewis’s MoneySavingExpert.com. Enter your postal code, indicate when you want the money and it will provide you with a list of the best offers.

Basically, three options are available to you: home delivery, withdrawal in agency or at the airport. Some companies require a minimum order value. Sometimes you will get a better rate if you buy more, while small orders may incur additional charges. Exchange rates are constantly updated.

We used TravelMoneyMax to do a price check on £300 euros. When we opted for delivery, Travel FX came out on top, giving us €347.81 after all charges, while Tesco came in at a pretty good €344.42.

A better rate was offered when we selected collection in central London: Currency Online Group locations in Waterloo and Trafalgar Square came out on top, giving €353.76.

Financial Site’s Andrew Hagger Moneycomms.co.uk says supermarkets – especially Tesco and Asda – are also quite competitive.

Don’t leave it too late

Try to avoid changing currency at the airport. Photography: Tim Ockenden/PA

Don’t buy currency at the airport unless you are desperate. You could get a good deal if you buy it in advance and order it to pick it up just before your flight. We tried this option at TravelMoneyMax, but collection at the airport didn’t yield much result. The site says that due to the Covid pandemic, “many providers have suspended some or all travel money services”, so it has fewer than usual on its site.

Pack the right card

Pick the wrong credit or debit card to use abroad and you’ll end up spending more than you need to.

Financial data provider Moneyfacts warns that a holidaymaker who withdraws £250 from an ATM overseas with a debit card will typically face a fee of £11.88. Use a credit card and you could incur up to £14.95 in charges, before interest is applied.

Shopping abroad can also be expensive. Some banks apply a charge for buying foreign currencies (50p at Lloyds and Halifax; £1 at TSB) on every transaction outside of Europe, in addition to conversion charges when buying anything other than sterling, so if you make a lot of small purchases you could face a hefty bill.

Locals and travelers at a bar and restaurant on Treasure Beach in St Elizabeth, Jamaica.
Locals and travelers at a bar and restaurant on Treasure Beach in St Elizabeth, Jamaica. Photograph: Anthony Piggeon/Alamy

The good news is that there are several debit and credit cards with no fees. Most use Mastercard’s exchange rate in their calculations. The new Chase digital bank current account comes with a debit card with no fees or charges when used to pay for things or withdraw money outside the UK. You can also earn 1% cashback on eligible debit card spend in your country and abroad for 12 months.

And Starling Bank is another current account provider that does not charge fees for overseas spending and cash withdrawals.

In terms of no-fee credit cards, Halifax’s Clarity is probably the best known and still a good deal, says Hagger. Everything you spend abroad is converted into sterling by Mastercard. There’s also the Visa Barclaycard Rewards card, which offers the added benefit of 0.25% cash back on everyday spending.

Remember that with many credit cards, including Clarity, interest charges will immediately apply to the money you withdraw. Also be aware that some overseas ATM providers charge fees. As a general rule, it is better to make one or two larger withdrawals than many smaller withdrawals.

If there are several weeks until your vacation, consider applying for a free card or account now. Otherwise, check the overseas charges that apply to your debit or credit card before you go. You can then adjust your spend to get the best deal.

Check your credit limit

If you plan to rent a vehicle, make sure you have enough credit on your card. Car rental counters will often seek to hold a large sum on your card as a deposit for the duration of the rental if you do not purchase their excess insurance.

Check your credit limit before you travel and, if necessary, ask your card provider to increase it, perhaps for a short time. Car rental companies usually insist on a credit card, as opposed to a debit or prepaid card, and usually it must be in the renter’s name.

Don’t spend pounds

Outdoor restaurant, Mykonos
Beware of the dynamic currency conversion trick in some stores and restaurants. Photography: Jan Wlodarczyk/Alamy

When using your card abroad, be aware of the dynamic currency conversion trick in some shops, restaurants and ATMs, where the cost or withdrawal amount is presented in pounds rather than local currency . DCC allows companies to calculate the invoice according to their own exchange rates, which are more favorable to them. The general advice is to always pay or withdraw money in the local currency.

Consider prepaying

Prepaid cards can be useful for people on a tight budget or who don’t want to carry a lot of cash. They’re easy to get and once you load them from your UK bank account with a typical currency conversion fee of 1-2.5%, they can be used overseas like no other. any other credit card.

Who? warns that almost all prepaid cards come with various fees and charges, such as application fees or fees for ATM withdrawals.

The Caxton Currency card is one of the best known, with no overseas ATM fees and “no hidden fees”. In the meantime, which one? highlights the free Revolut Standard account and card.

Reduce mobile phone bills

Man relaxing and using smartphone.
Has your mobile operator reintroduced roaming charges? Photography: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy

How much you pay for data, calls and texts will depend on your provider and your destination, so check this before travelling. Be aware that some mobile operators have reintroduced roaming charges for UK consumers traveling in Europe. For example, with Vodafone, if your plan doesn’t include mainland roaming it will cost you £2 a day, although they offer eight and 15 day plans which reduce the daily price to £1.

A popular option is to make sure your phone is unlocked and buy a local SIM card when you arrive. For example, if you go to Mexico, some bloggers recommend buy a Telcel SIM card in an Oxxo store.

But the best advice is, whenever possible, to use free wifi in hotels, cafes, museums, airports and other places.

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