Consumer group Which? recently investigated in-store rates on a £500 exchange in 10 locations across the country on a single day and found a significant difference in how many Euros your pound will buy.
Regional variations were so great that there was a difference of more than €13 for every £500.
With some estimates putting the price of the average holiday spend at £784 – that’s the price of at least one lunch that you’re throwing away by accepting a less-than-competitive rate.
So, armed with the knowledge that the best foreign currency exchange rates are only available to those who know their stuff and shop-around, here’s how to ensure you’re one one of those who bags the best deal.
1. Shop around
While the majority of holiday makers just pitch up at the counter and take whatever they’re given for their pounds, the smart cookies shop around.
And the difference can be enough to get in at least one extra round at the bar.
And it’s so simple to do.
First, check the exchange rate on offer (which tells you how many euros/dollars etc you get for your pound) and the commission charged. This could be a flat fee, based on a sliding scale, or free, which is how most currency exchange is sold these days. If it is commission-free then that exchange rate is the all-important part.
There are even tools available online so there’s no excuse for not doing a tiny bit of research before you buy. After all, how hard can it be to type in ‘400’ or however much you want, and hit the return key?
Try Moneysavingexpert.com’s nifty ‘travel money maximiser’ tool, which gives you all the latest rates.
2. Plan ahead
Leaving it until the last minute is the easiest way to pay top dollar for your holiday money.
Bureaux de change at airports, ferry and train terminals will charge you the most for your money. So it makes sense to plan ahead and shop around a little before you set off on your holiday.
3. Move fast
When you spot a good deal, jump on it. I dilly-dallied and ended up losing out on an extra tenner when I bought euros the other day – all because the rate on euros (being a little jittery at the mo) shifted so much in one four-hour period.
4. Ditch the credit card
While they’re a convenient way to pay when you’re abroad and provide a safety net if you run out of money, most credit cards hammer you for buying foreign currency with them.
First the bureau de change will get charged a fee – that’s passed on to you – if you use a credit card to buy currency.
Then the credit card company will charge you another fee for borrowing cash on your card – and at as much as 2% of the sum that can add up.
Then, if you don’t clear your balance straight away, you’ll find the interest soon racks up as there’s likely to be a higher APR on cash transactions; just as if you borrow cash on your credit card at home.
Simply swap cash for cash instead and the upshot will be more money to spend while you’re away.