Seeking foreign exchange & holiday money experts

Journalist: Rebecca Goodman, Freelance

ended 04. May 2022

I'm writing a feature for The Independent on foreign exchange rates and getting the best deal on holiday money. 

Is it wise to get holiday money now/while rates are good? What's the best way to lock in a good exchange rate? Or should you wait until nearer the time of going away? And what are the cheapest ways to get it?

3 responses from the Newspage community

Star Quote
“Predicting the future path of exchange rates is tough at the best of times. In the current volatile climate, it really is crystal ball territory – rates can rise or fall dramatically in the space of just a few days, or even hours. “Picking the ‘perfect’ time to buy your travel money is tricky, but leaving it all to the last minute is seldom a good idea. If the Pound weakens between now and the day you travel, you’ll get less foreign currency for your money compared to what you’d get today. “However if you buy all your foreign currency today, and the Pound then strengthens, you’ll kick yourself for missing out on an even better rate. “That’s why it can make sense to hedge your bets. Once you’ve booked your trip and decided how much cash you want to take with you, start keeping an eye on the exchange rate of your chosen currency. “Remember rates can differ quite a bit between different travel money providers, so do shop around for the most competitive quotes. Good providers charge no commission and offer a range of convenient ways to get your cash, such as click and collect or home delivery. “When the rate seems good, try exchanging half of the spending money you’ve allocated for your trip. That way you can be sure that you won’t lose out on this half of your budget if the exchange rate moves against you in the coming weeks. “Then exchange the remainder of your spending money a day or two before you travel – never leave it to the airport. If rates have improved in the intervening time, you’ll pocket the difference. Equally, if rates have worsened, you’ll have limited your exposure by exchanging half of your money at a more favourable rate.”
Star Quote
"Exchange rates are constantly fluctuating and so getting the timing right is never guaranteed. Forex markets are notoriously fickle and phenomenally hard to predict. As a rule, though, exchange rate fluctuations have little impact on smaller amounts. They tend to affect customers buying holiday homes overseas and transferring larger sums of money. However, with Brexit, Covid and now the Ukraine/Russian war, we are seeing even greater movements in the exchange rate. In 2020, at the start of the pandemic, the GBP/EUR rate dropped by around 12%. Even with £2000 of holiday money, you would have been out of pocket to the tune of €300. That's the difference between a few meals abroad rather than a few pints. "When it comes to holiday money, there are a number of high-street providers and banks to consider. In some areas, you will find that companies price match within their area, and you may have to travel slightly further afield to see a difference in the exchange rate. It is also worth bearing in mind that, with increasing fuel costs, your savings may be negated depending on how much money you need to exchange. Travelling 40 miles to get a better rate could cost you what you're saving in petrol. "It will always be more expensive to buy your money at the airport as foreign exchange companies capitalise on the fact that you have left it to the last minute and need to offset their high rent costs and pay the airport management company. You are basically a captive audience. Instead of taking cash, you can use a pre-paid card or card provider. There are a lot more competition and options out there these days on that front. When researching your card provider, make sure you check for any hidden costs, e.g. What exchange rate am I being offered? Is there a fee to exchange my money? Will I be charged to make a purchase on the card? Will I be charged to withdraw money from a cashpoint? For example, in some countries, many of the cash points/ATMs will have their own charges as well. Will they charge me to hold my money on account? (This can be after a certain period of time. Some providers may charge a monthly inactivity fee or charge on amounts over €15,000). "Also, always be sure to check where the card can be used. Some pre-paid cards are not recommended for car hire. From personal experience, I struggled to use a pre-paid card in San Francisco. The hotel's merchant wouldn’t accept a pre-paid card or the uber app. It is also important to understand what level of customer service you will be offered and what happens if your card is lost or stolen. While cards are often seen as more secure than carrying cash, what process do they have in place if your card is lost or stolen? How easy is it to get a replacement and access your money?"
Star Quote
"I'm not sure I would call current rates good but if you want certainty, then doing something about it now makes sense. Rule number one is to never leave this to the last minute, especially at the airport, as you'll be robbed of valuable cents or euros on your exchange, making your holiday even more expensive. If you must go down the traditional route of using a foreign exchange provider, book well in advance to obtain a fairer rate. "The best option, one I have used myself a few times already this year, is a Wise card (formerly Transferwise). You can have multiple currencies on your card and get proper market rates on your currency transactions. It's so simple to use either via a card or on your phone, which was the easier option as your phone is usually always with you. Even if you are a last-minute person, the phone app will be usable immediately so you don't even have to even for the physical card. I've used Wise for years and although they've increased fees recently, the technology and service is second to none."