When you're planning that all-important holiday, sorting out your travel money should be high on the list of priorities. After all, why spend all that time sourcing the best hotel deals and cut-price flights, only to let your hard work go to waste with a poor exchange rate? Here are a few top tips on how you can find the best exchange rate and get more bang for your buck (or euro/peso/dirham…).
Exchange rates constantly fluctuate, so it can be difficult to know when's the best time to make your move and buy your currency. That's why it's important to be ahead of the game – start watching the rates at least a month ahead of your holiday so you can get a feel of when would be a good time to buy, i.e. when the pound is strong enough against your chosen currency so you can get the most euros or dollars (etc.) for your sterling. Many things can impact this, such as economic forecasts, employment figures and wider interest rates, not to mention continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit, so keeping tabs on things is a must.
Currency exchange can be confusing at the best of times, but if you familiarise yourself with the jargon, it could be a bit simpler to understand. For example, you'll want to know the difference between the sell rate (what you get when you exchange your pounds for new currency) and the buy rate (what you get back when you exchange any leftover foreign currency), both of which are vital to bear in mind when you're comparing exchange rates.
Not only do exchange rates fluctuate on a day-to-day basis, but they also vary between providers, which means it's vital to shop around and compare exchange rates before you make your decision. This means you'll want to head online to compare providers – don't just rely on the Post Office, travel agents or your usual provider, but do a whole of market comparison to get a thorough idea of what's out there.
There are various online tools available that can help you do just that – much like if you're looking to transfer a large amount of money overseas, in which case seeking an international money transfer service is essential – and remember to never leave it until the last minute.
Buying your currency at the airport is a complete no no as you'll get the worst possible rates, so save yourself some cash by comparing exchange rates and buying your currency in advance. This means you're far more likely to get a better deal as you're giving yourself time to compare the options, and if you're buying online, you'll need to order your currency early enough to get it delivered. Which brings us to…
The days of needing to buy your currency on the high street are long gone. Nowadays, you can often get far better exchange rates by heading to a specialist online provider, which is why it's so important to shop around in advance – if you plan ahead you'll be able to order your currency online and arrange to have it delivered (or even choose to pick it up in store), and can often find far better deals.
While having a bit of cash when you're abroad will be vital, you probably won't want to carry around huge wads of it. That's where travel credit cards come in. As long as you've got a specialist option, you needn't worry about foreign usage fees and can often enjoy great exchange rates, together with added security. Just remember to always pay for items in the local currency to avoid being hit with a dynamic currency conversion rate; this is something that businesses will apply to convert your purchase into sterling, so it's best to avoid it.
Alternatively, if you don't want to use credit, what about a prepaid travel card? Again, you'll get the security of plastic but needn't worry about getting into debt, as you can only spend what you pre-loaded onto the card.
Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.