Consuming Issues: Don't be left short-exchanged on foreign currency

So, you're withdrawing a wad of notes from the cashpoint machine, when someone snatches the last £50 note. You may chase after them. Or call the police.

Why should you take any less care when getting foreign currency? According to the Post Office, the average Briton changes £529 for a summer holiday. Poor exchange rates and credit card charges could snaffle almost £50 of that.

Following a few tips will make more of your holiday kitty: order currency online and collect it, and beware that credit cards can skim 5 per cent off transactions.

First, changing your money. On a recent trip to Europe, I was surprised at the claim made by a friend that the biggest airport money-changer, Travelex, was good value. It isn't, though more competitive rates are available from its website.

Generally, ordering online and collecting currency in person is much cheaper than handing over a tranche of money at the airport, or elsewhere, on the basis of my research last week on changing £500 for euros.

The best rate was 575 euros at two small bureaux de change, Best Exchange and Thomas Exchange, which have a few outlets in London.

With 300 kiosks around the country, No1 Currency offered 566 euros and, in an impressive exception to the online rule, paid the same rate for impromptu visits to its branches, many of which are in other shops.

The Post Office offered 564 euros for collection of online orders, and, for unannounced visitors to 8,700 branches, 542 euros (about £20 less).

Next best was Marks & Spencer, which offered 553 (although you have to have an M&S card to order).

For online orders, Travelex paid 563 euros but, with no advance order, Travelex at Heathrow T4 paid just 530 euros, hitting travellers with an unimpressive exchange rate and 1.5 per cent commission.

A summary? The difference between the cheapest London bureau (575 euros) and Travelex Heathrow (530 euros) was 45 euros, or £40 – enough for a good meal out abroad.

Plastic can be handy for foreign trips, especially if you want to limit the amount of cash you are carrying to avoid theft or loss (although that risk can be diminished by storing some in luggage and some on your person).

Credit cards – though not debit cards – also give protection for faulty purchases costing more than £100.

But beware of hefty credit card charges, which are especially steep when you withdraw cash. According to banking experts Defaqto, the average credit card charges a 2.8 per cent foreign exchange fee for purchases abroad – more than £5 for every £200 slapped on plastic.

Cash withdrawals are even more expensive, attracting the 2.8 per cent foreign exchange fee and an extra cash-withdrawal charge averaging 2.76 per cent. This means that if you are withdrawing the equivalent of £200 in cash, the bank will pocket £10.

Some credit cards are significantly cheaper. The Post Office credit card and the Santander Zero credit card from Abbey (whose record on customer service is chequered) both have 0 per cent exchange fees for foreign purchases.

The Nationwide Building Society gold credit card and Saga's Platinum card waive fees for purchases on mainland Europe, but charge, respectively, 0.84 per cent and 1 per cent for other foreign transactions.

Debit cards are cheaper than most credit cards, while still being widely accepted overseas. The FairFX prepayment debit card can be pre-loaded for trips and has no commission and good exchange rates (£500 bought 576 euros, the best deal of all).

Current-account debit cards charge an average 2.2 per cent foreign exchange fee per transaction.

One other tip: Defaqto's banking analyst David Black advises against accepting a foreign retailer's offer to pay for goods in sterling: the exchange rate will be worse and the purchase will end up costing more. After all, there's no point funnelling money to financial providers when it could be used for your fun.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business


    £50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

    (Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

    Finance Officer

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education are seeking a Fi...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice