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UK Travel Money and Currency Exchange Options

Shop Around for Best Value Currency Exchange When Leaving the UK

British travelers have a wide range of options when they need to buy foreign currency for their trips abroad.  The choice on offer holds some great bargains and some hidden traps, but there is no issue with convenience because of the very wide selection of foreign exchange outlets available.

UK Foreign Exchange Options

Bureaux de change can be found in all of the major high street banks and building societies; however there are numerous other sources:
•    The Post office – which offers no commission deals and convenience
•    Hotels
•    Travel agents
•    Online suppliers
•    Supermarkets - Marks & Spencer, Tesco and others provide a foreign exchange service either in-store or through their respective websites plus there are bonus shopping points to be collected
•    Airports & Ports

With so many different foreign exchange suppliers, the customer can become overwhelmed with the information and the deals on offer.  Certainly, British travelers have no issues in finding a bureau de change!

Is it Worth Making Comparisons?

The UK’s leading consumer research organization, Which? conducted a study using 10 bureau de change and found the difference between the best and the worst value was £35 when buying 500 Euros.

The situation is further complicated by the daily fluctuations in foreign exchange rates, and even changing money at your bank one day after checking rates can lead to a nasty surprise.  

The answer is obvious – you must compare the deals you are being offered to get the best value for money and you must also compare them at the same time as one another, in fact on the same day!

Commission Free Does Not Mean FREE!

The foreign exchange rate used between different bureau de change will vary, but so will the additional charges, such as handling fees which come with the transaction.

Some bureau offer commission free deals, such as the Post Office, but sometimes it may be better to pay a fee and get a better exchange rate.

Here’s an example:

(A)     Buying £500 of US Dollars @ $1.56 (or £0.64) commission free    
                                     = $780 received

(B)     Buying £500 of US Dollars @ $1.61(or 0.62) with £15 charges
     = $790 received

Even though B pays a fee, they still buy more US dollars than customer A who has the benefit of a commission free deal.

Always look at the net amount of foreign currency you will receive after the transaction when you are comparing and avoid focusing on the exchange rate alone.

A Final Word of Warning – Using the Plastic to Buy Foreign Currency

Many customers choose to pay for their foreign currency using either a debit or credit card, especially if they are using an online portal for the transaction.  Using the wrong plastic can be extremely costly because some card issuers will also charge you for the privilege of making the purchase.

A typical cash advance fee is payable for most credit cards, typically around 3%, but if you do not pay the balance off by the due date, this will also attract a greatly inflated interest charge (usually over 30%).  When you are paying with plastic it is usually always better to pay with a debit card rather than a credit card, though fees may also be levied with debit cards to so be warned!



1 GBP = 1.221 EUR
2.513 AUD - Australian Dollar
2.361 CAD - Canadian Dollar
12.456 HKD - Hong Kong Dollar
2.694 SGD - Singapore Dollar
9.835 ZAR - South African Rand
2.539 CHF - Swiss Franc
1.601 USD - U.S. Dollar

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