Holidaymakers have been told the best ways to make their money go further whilst abroad so they can make the most of the time away. UK residents spent £12.7 billion on their visits abroad in the first few months of 2023, that’s £5 billion more than the year before.
It has likely been several years since people have ventured on holiday so it’s sensible for travellers to take a look at how the travel money market has development, especially since the surge in holidays looks set to continue – with 15.3 million visits abroad for UK residents in the first four months of 2023, up from 9.6 million visits during the same period last year.*
Price comparison experts at Quotezone.co.uk have researched the top ways Brits can make the full use of their money whilst holidaying overseas this summer.
Using a travel card
Applying for a travel credit or debit card allows holidaymakers to avoid additional transaction fees when paying in foreign currency, which is typically three per cent extra. There are also specific prepaid travel cards available, where the exchange rate is locked in, giving travellers peace of mind that their money won’t be impacted by fluctuating exchange rates.
More recent travel card apps allow people to track the fluctuating rates live, so they know what’s a good deal and can buy when the price is right. Note some travel cards have an initial admin fee of approximately £5 to send you a physical card you can use at ATMs, however, there are other options available for free, so it’s worth shopping around. Be aware not all travel cards are free to use abroad either, some will charge for ATM cash withdrawals.
It’s also worth being mindful that some businesses abroad, such as car rental companies, will not accept travel or debit cards – they normally require a credit card to guarantee the loan or purchase so it could be worth carrying one in case of emergencies.
Avoid commission charges
Although many of us rarely use cash anymore, taking some abroad can be handy when buying small souvenirs, paying for taxis or at local market stalls which usually don’t accept card payments. Some providers will charge a commission on travel money cash, so shop around for the best currency rates online with little or no commission charge – there may be little difference between the exchange rates of some providers but for large volumes of cash this could soon add up. They’ll also have a wider variety of more unusual currencies.
To get the best exchange rate when taking out cash from an ATM whilst in a foreign country, always select the option to withdraw in local currency, else a higher rate will be applied – typically three per cent more.
This also applies to contactless payments, some machines ask if you’d like to use the local rate or go with your bank rate – it should show you the rate on the screen to help you decide but best to familiarise yourself with what’s fair beforehand to avoid making snap decisions at the till.
Planning how and when to take cash out before going abroad will also help avoid hefty administration fees; for instance, don’t exchange money at the airport, they can charge over 10% extra than the more competitive bank or high street exchanges.
What do the experts say
Greg Wilson, Founder and CEO of Quotezone.co.uk said: “According to recent research, holidays are the most popular reason for UK residents to travel abroad, and getting prepped for holidays can be a stressful time, especially now that there are so many options for taking your cash with you – from travel credit cards and prepaid cards to ordering currency online. We’ve compiled a handy list to help holidaymakers save money and relax in the sun.
“It’s also worth noting that most standard travel insurance policies don’t cover loss or theft of cash, so if holidaymakers intend on taking a large amount of cash with them, it would be worth speaking to their insurance provider and adding on any additional cover they need.”
Top tips on making travel money go further
Prepaid travel cards
Travel cards that are designed to be used abroad will require to be prepaid but the exchange rate will be locked in, instead of getting the rate at the time of spending as you would with a credit or debit card. Certain businesses won’t accept prepaid travel cards such as car rental firms, so it’s important to be mindful of where you’ll be spending. As these cards are pre-paid, they are also a good way to manage your budget whilst abroad.
Travel debit cards
Debit cards for travel are also available without the non-sterling transaction fees. Many banks offer these cards, but as it is a debit account, money will need to be added to the card before being able to use it.
Travel credit cards
Specialist credit cards for spending abroad do not add an extra fee for non-sterling payments, which is typically around three per cent for your typical credit card used at home. However, as with any credit card, it’s important to be able to repay the amount back in full every month, or else the exchange rate could change.
Withdrawing foreign currency
When taking out cash at an ATM machine abroad, always select the option to withdraw in the local currency or else you could be charged for a higher exchange rate. The same goes for spending money – if given the chance, choose to spend money in the local currency on card machines.
Exchange money before getting to the airport
It might seem convenient and time efficient to change your money into the local currency whilst waiting around at the airport, but there are often hefty service fees added on top. Research shows that some airports charge between 10% – 13% more than high street or bank exchanges.
Consider purchasing online travel money
It’s worth looking at what the exchange rates online are offering to customers before heading out to the high street or local bank. If you’re travelling to a less popular holiday destination then many in-person stores won’t have the currency in stock, so ordering online may be the best option.