A recent trip brought home the need to plan ahead and be smart about spending money abroad.
A self-guided cycling tour across Europe towards the end of last year was quite possibly the best travel experience I’d ever had. It was also one of the most expensive. I was keen to find out about options for cheap holiday money.
Since bank statements now disclose transaction and cash charges for the use of debit and credit cards abroad, I became aware for the first time just how much using my British debit card was costing me. The cheap Euro, it seems, wasn’t translating into cheap holiday money in my case.
Here are two typical examples:
- Paying a €115 bike-service bill with Visa Debit cost me not just £91.63, but also a 2.99% non-sterling transaction fee of £2.73 from the card provider.
- When I withdrew €300 from an ATM in Germany, £239.40 left my account. So did £7.15 (for the non-sterling transaction), and a cash fee of £3.59.
Helping travel money travel further
The best way to swallow the painful memory of these additional charges was to avoid the same error on my next trip.
It’s worth noting that pre-paid cards don’t offer the same spending protection as regular debit and credit cards. However, avoiding very large purchases, you are likely to find that disadvantages are far outweighed by the benefits:
- Pick your exchange rate: You have flexibility to choose where you exchange your money, instead of being locked in by your bank.
- Avoid unnecessary charges: Paying for goods and services in the local currency means you won’t get penalised by your bank or card issuer. And you’re cash will go further, making the most of the higher purchase power of sterling versus euro.
- Speed and convenience: no queuing at bureaux de change; buy your cash online from currency providers like Travelex, MoneyCorp or the Post Office as late as the day before your trip, then pick up your preloaded card from your nearest branch or at the airport (check availability first)
- Safety: A great alternative to carrying cash around with you, travel money cards – like regular debit cards – are protected with pin numbers and signatures.
- Never run out of cash: Reload quickly and easily online.
- More than one currency: currency providers like Travelex offer multi-currency cash cards so that you’re covered for all your trips and those travel money cards don’t pile up.
If you aren’t pushed for time, another source of cheap holiday money could be a high-street bank debit or credit card with good rates for payments abroad. This would stand you in good stead when you’re making online purchases in different currencies, too.