If you are looking for a way to buy currency that is consistently the cheapest then you are going to be disappointed. It depends on a number of factors which include what currency you want to buy, how much of it you want and where you are. This guide will give you an idea as to where to find the best ways to exchange currency in the UK for your next trip abroad.
What you will learn in this guide:
- The 5 most cost effective ways to buy money for an overseas holiday.
- Best way to buy currency depending on your situation.
- Tips on how to get the most from your currency conversion.
The 5 most cost effective ways to buy money for an overseas holiday
Buy currency online
Buying currency online is popular for a couple of reasons:
- The exchange rates are often better than those you’ll be offered in stores.
- There are thousands of locations where you can pick money up. Some will even deliver currency to your door.
It’s not all positive though. If you use a credit card to buy currency online then you will incur fees from your provider. To avoid these charges, we recommend paying by debit card or bank transfer. It’s also vital to remember to buy ahead of time as it can take a few days for the money to be ready for you.
How safe is it?
As with any online purchase this is dependent on the company you are using. A well respected, global company is a safe and secure choice.
Head into town and use a money exchange service
If you are buying large amounts of a popular currency such as Euros or US Dollars then this can be a particularly cheap way to buy currency.
Getting a good rate is often down to the place you choose. If you are in a city centre then you will have many businesses competing to offer you the best possible rate. Shop around and ask them for a decent rate.
The disadvantage is that these places don’t always have large stocks of currency available. The majority also won’t have more obscure currencies that you might need. Some exchange places may also run out of most currencies on particularly busy days. It is always worth calling ahead to make sure you aren’t making a wasted trip.
Use a bank
Using a bank to buy cash for your overseas holiday isn’t always the expensive option it is often portrayed to be. Sometimes it can be the cheapest option.
They aren’t usually particularly competitive when it comes to popular currencies such as the Euro or the US Dollar, but banks can often have cheaper rates for other currencies such as the Chinese Yuan or the South African Rand.
Always compare exchange rates in advance.
From a friend
We aren’t recommending that you buy currency from your friends, but sometimes leftover currency from a friend’s holiday can be a good option. Basically if your friend has significant leftover Euros, for example, you can work out an exchange rate you both agree on and go from there. You are avoiding costs and charges and the deal could work out well for both of you.
There are downsides however, regardless of the trust you have in your friend. You friend cannot guarantee that the notes they are handing over aren’t old issue or counterfeit. If you do have issues then you have no right of comeback. It is for these reasons and the sake of your friendship, that we don’t recommend this option.
It may be cheaper to wait until you get to your destination in order to get a better exchange rate. Places such as Bali and Singapore are potentially good examples of this. This task is made harder though if you don’t speak the language and you certainly run a higher risk of being conned.
Regardless of the above examples, the general rule is that the further away you get from the UK, the worst deal you’re going to get. This is simply because the further away you get the less common sterling is going to be, therefore you’re less likely to get a good rate.
The best way to buy and exchange currency in the UK by situation
Under £2,000 for a holiday
Ordering online is usually the best option if you need less than £2,000 cash for your holiday.
Very few banks or currency exchanges make money by charging a flat fee. This means they make money through the exchange rate and this is the only difference between them. The difference between a good online exchange rate and the best rate you can find offline will only be a couple of pounds.
However, we would recommend locking in a good exchange rate online and picking it up nearer to the date of travel. It’s far more convenient than driving all over town just to save a few quid.
Buying or selling larger amounts over £2,000
Getting a whole large amount in one go is your best bet if you are going to take more than £2,000 on your trip.
Stores will offer you a far more favourable exchange rate for larger amounts. Not all online providers will make the same distinction. Banks will be non-negotiable entirely, their rates are set in stone. Smaller currency providers in stores are going to be far more opened to negotiation.
If you’re travelling to a country that doesn’t accept Pounds, US Dollars, Euros or Yen then you might want to consider using a bank or a company such as Travelex.
Small independent currency exchange stores usually have good rates for US Dollars and Euros but they won’t necessarily have a large stock of other currencies. For other currencies if their stock is low then you’ll generally get a much worse exchange rate.
Travelex is well renowned for a large stock of many types of currency but make sure you check their online rate. It’s likely to be much more favourable than the one you’ll be offered in store.
Last minute currency
Make sure you don’t order online at the last minute as it can take 3-4 days to arrive! Travelex offers a one day turnaround for airport pick ups but you have to pay by card which will end up costing you.
If you can’t get to a town exchange before you leave, buy the minimum amount you can get away with at the airport and sort out the rest when you arrive.
Currency conversion tips to get the most out of your money
Watch out for fees
When you exchange your holiday money, it is unlikely you will be charged a fee. However, it isn’t completely unheard of. Wherever you buy your cash make sure you ask if there’s a fee for the transaction, if you are buying online read the Ts & Cs before you confirm.
Ask for a better rate
If you don’t ask you don’t get! If you’re in a store and you’re changing up more than £1,000 then there is normally always room for manoeuvre and they won’t offer you the best rate first time out.
If you find a nearby currency exchange and they’ve got a rate you like, then call.
Currency exchanges only hold small stocks of each type of currency, especially those that are not Euros or US Dollars. Some may not even stock some currencies at all.
Call them and ask whether they stock the currency you need and whether they have the amount you require. It’s also worth asking if they have the denominations you’re after. You don’t want to be stuck with a wallet full of €200 notes!
Don’t rely on one medium of payment
When you’re going on holiday remember that you don’t have to rely solely on cash. Consider a mix of options.
- Carry some cash for taxis, excursions, meals and tips.
- Take a prepaid travel card for use in hotels, on transport or for buying things in shops.
- Take your UK debit and credit cards in case you run out of money.
Jason and Roderick are going on a three week holiday of a lifetime to Dominica and they need to take East Caribbean Dollars with them to spend.
Jason knows that his bank offers a good rate for less well known currencies and changes up his money with them. Roderick tries to change his money in town but finds that nobody has any XCD currency in stock.
Jason helps Roderick by searching for a decent rate online. He shows Roderick how he can order his currency in this way. The currency will take around 4 working days to arrive. However, they have two weeks until they leave so this doesn’t matter. It will also be delivered directly to their house at a convenient time.