Shop around for better rates

HOLIDAY MONEY

Marks & Spencer comes out best for buying foreign currency from a survey by the Independent on Sunday.

You can get more than 2 per cent more foreign currency for your pounds from M&S, compared with the worst of the banks and other well-known bureau de change operations.

For the three big holiday currencies surveyed (see table), if you are changing pounds 500 this difference could be worth an extra 19 US dollars, 85 French francs or 30,000 Italian lire.

The retailer has nine branches with bureaux de change, three of which are in London - at Marble Arch, the Pantheon store on Oxford Street close to Oxford Circus, and in Kensington. Other branches with exchange facilities are in Bath, Edinburgh, Oxford, York, Canterbury and Windsor. Many of these, though not all, offer commission-free currency sales. Banks and other bureau de change operations generally make a charge.

The table is just a snapshot - the comparisons will not necessarily last (let alone the rates) - but it is noteworthy that in general terms the high-street banks and Thomas Cook come out poorly. Lloyds is the obvious exception.

It may even be worth shopping around at different branches of the same institution. Two different foreign exchange companies run the M&S bureaux de change, hence the two sets of rates in our table. Thomas Cook, meanwhile, will often do special deals, waiving commission, for example, to win your business. Lloyds says all its branches have the same rates and charges, but we were quoted different exchange rates and commissions by four London branches in Camden, Islington, Oxford Street and Piccadilly, and by the bank's head office (the last of which we used for the table). Three branches of TSB, now part of the Lloyds group, also quoted different commission charges.

Other complications are the effect of the different levels of charges and the fact that some institutions are better on different currencies. Given that most services make separate commission charges, it is important to compare more than headline exchange rates. Note too that flat-rate charges will have a disproportionate effect on very small transactions.

Changing pounds 500 - what's on offer

Bank or firm Charges Dollars Francs Lire

Abbey National 1.5% plus pounds 2 741 3,716 1,116,998

American Express pounds 2 749 3753 1,128,299

Barclays 2% 740 3709 1,124,550

Halifax 1% plus pounds 2 744 3731 1,121,514

Lloyds 2% 756 3785 1,138,025

Marks & Spencer

Marble Arch No charge 759 3775 1,147,000

Oxford Circus No charge 755 3785 1,139,000

Midland 2% 742 3700 1,118,670

NatWest 1.5% 746 3701 1,129,303

P&O 2% 745 3704 1,127,000

Post Office 1% 747 3715 1,125,977

Thomas Cook 2% 742 3700 1,118,670

TSB 1.5% 745 3738 1,123,885

Rates as at 23 July 1996. Research by Diana Koshel

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
football
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
weird news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?