What is the best way to change money?
26th January 2011 | Kevin Geary
Last modified on January 27th, 2020
It is a question many skiers and snowboarders will be asking themselves this week as they prepare to head away for half-term next week. It is one of the busiest weeks of the season. Don’t fall for the financial face plants that are around.
There is a substantial difference in the cost of changing your hard earned sterling.
The exchange rate is already pretty lousy if you are going to one of the countries in the Eurozone; France, Austria, Italy, Spain or Andorra.
The rate is €1.1 to £1.
If you are going to North America it is around $1.55 for £1and if Switzerland is your chosen destination then you will have to dig deep. £1 currently buys you 1.4 Swiss francs, but just three winters ago it was 2.4.
The rates above were offered at the weekend.
There are, of course, variations between banks and other currency exchanges.
Last weekend The Post Office offered $1.50 but Thomas Cook was offering $1.56 for £1.
So there is something you can do though to ease the pain; shop around and change your money in advance.
Simply doing it at the airport as you fly out is probably one of the worst options.
At the airports rates get worse.
One PlanetSKI reader was passing through Terminal Five at Heathrow at the weekend.
The exchange rates were slightly worse.
With Thomas Cook £1 bought €1.07, $1.47 and 1.38 Swiss francs.
It was almost identical at the Travelex counter.
However there was a minimum transaction fee of £3 with a standard commission fee of 1.5%
Using a credit card or cash machine card abroad can also cost you dearly.
A quick check with a currency comparison site online shows there is now a £20 difference between the cheapest and most expensive price for €500.
The differences between cards can be just as stark.
Banks can add a ‘load’ onto your debit or credit card so that £100 of euros could cost you £103.
Cash withdrawal charges can be added to both debit and credit cards.
These are usually around 2.5% or can be a flat fee.
Some cards charge a penalty every time you spend.
A few banks set their own exchange rate, lower than most of the competition.
Unexpected interest could be charged to your credit card for cash withdrawals even if you pay it off in full each month.
Cash is always a winner but don’t leave it to the last minute to buy it. Look online for the best deals at sites like travelmoneymax.com
Don’t buy at airports. It is cheaper to pre-order and to pick it up there.
Credit cards and some debit cards charge an additional fee if you use them to buy cash from a bureau de change.
The Post Office has been expanding and promoting its currency business recently.
Many branches have special desks so you don’t have to queue up with people buying stamps or trying to get a form for a tax disc.
One PlanetSKI reader had an interesting experience recently though.
“I walked up to the till and asked to change £100 and was immediately told that if I wanted €150 it would cost me just £136 as they liked to deal in round numbers and didn’t offer coins. It might have been a better rate too I guess.
“No thanks I want to change £100,” I said. Then I was told that if I wanted €120 then it would just cost me another £9.
“Er, no I want to change £100.”
She then gave me €110 for my £100 which seemed a fairly round number to me. The only conclusion I could draw was that they were trying to get me to change more money than I actually wanted to.”
Prepaid cards are the new travellers cheques.
They cost about £10 and are easy to transfer cash onto it and can be used like a credit or debit card. If you lose your card you don’t risk losing all your money.
Charges vary, just like other plastic
If you take as much care planning your finances as you do your travel and accommodation you could save a substantial amount.
Most of the charges can be avoided if you shop around. And don’t forget to tell your card company when you travel.
Check sites like moneysavingexpert.com or thisismoney.co.uk for advice on the best deals to smooth out the banking bumps.
For the spirit of the mountains