Shop around for better rates


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

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsSchool leaver's YouTube video features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain