The best way to change your money when travelling

Are you going overseas on a holiday or business trip? Are you planning to spend some time south of the border?

Either way, you’ll need to change currency and, if you’re not careful, then it’s easy to get ripped off. Often people ask what the best way to change currency is, but the fact is that it varies in different circumstances and there are pros and cons to every approach. These pointers will help you to get the best deal available for your journey.

Ahead of time

If there’s one rule that applies to everyone planning to change currency, it’s that it’s better to think about it sooner rather than later. If you change your money at the last minute, then you’ll be stuck with whatever the exchange rate is at the time. If you start watching that rate a month or two beforehand, you can pick an advantageous moment to make your move. The difference may not look like much on-screen but it could mean that you have significantly more money to spend on the things that matter. Just make sure that you have your cash ready and can make the exchange as soon as the moment comes.

Through a bureau de change

Once upon a time, every holidaymaker changed money in the bureau de change as a matter of course, and many still do. It can seem like the simplest option, especially if you’re travelling at short notice or you’ve managed, despite yourself, to leave changing your money until the last minute. The advantage of this approach is that you can usually change even very small amounts and there’s no messing about. The disadvantage – and it’s a big one – is that you’ll pay more there than virtually anywhere else. One thing worth keeping in mind is that airport bureaux de change actually tend to charge less than the ones you find in town centres or near tourist beaches.

Through an online exchange

These days you’ll often find the best rates available through online currency exchange specialists. Be cautious about these, though. They often charge high fees which could result in you losing what you would have saved on the conversion itself. You will also normally have to pay a flat rate fee to get the currency you’re buying delivered securely to your home. This means that this is a more practical option if you’re changing a larger amount of money. Bear in mind that it’s better to use a debit card than a credit card to buy currency this way, as that will allow you to avoid paying an additional fee.

Through a broker

Online brokers like ATFX can be good places to buy currency, especially if you’re planning well ahead as most of them offer tools to help you explore the way that conversion rates have changed historically and help you make a more accurate prediction about the best time to make the exchange. There are usually fees attached to membership, but some brokers offer good deals to new members, and if you plan to use them for trading anyway, you won’t necessarily have to pay anything else on top of the standard monthly charge.

In a bank

If you run out of money in your destination country or if you’re travelling in a hurry and don’t have the chance to change money until you get there, banks will often offer you the most favourable rates. Most major banks around the world have at least one staff member who can speak English so it’s relatively simple to make yourself understood and get the help you need. Many banks won’t change money under a certain amount, however – often around fifteen to twenty pounds – and they sometimes charge flat fees on top of the conversion rate, which means it’s better to change your money all at once than bit by bit.

If you get stuck and find that you don’t have cash available when you’re abroad, you’ll usually be able to use a card instead. If possible, avoid using a debit card in these circumstances – it will incur an extra charge every time. A credit card is almost always the cheaper option. If you’re asked if you’d like to use your card to pay in pounds instead of the local currency, go with the local currency – this means that your lender, rather than the shop or restaurant, will set the exchange rate, and they have much more interest in making you like them.

These simple tips should make changing money a lot simpler for you, and leave you with more cash to enjoy

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