“ Foregin currency exchange services. „
The big problem when planning a holiday is what to do about money. I must admit that I have never been altogether comfortable about using a credit card abroad although these days I do use one credit card (Nationwide) that I only ever use abroad. But credit cards are not much use when the things you want to buy are relatively low priced; for those you need something else. That something else may be a pre-loaded debit card, a sort of electronic purse, such as Caxtonfx or the Travelex one that I have used, unsuccessfully, some time ago and which I reviewed here.
But in the end there really isn't any substitute for cash, moolah, dough, loot... good old money, notes and coins. Of course, the big problem with living in the UK is that just about anywhere we want to go we have to change our Sterling for other currencies. Britain's continued idiotic refusal to sign up to the Euro has meant that not only do we have to change our money for even a short hop across the channel, whether that be to France, Belgium or Holland, it's also the reason why the Pound in our pocket is worth about 20% less than it would have had we joined years ago.
So, accepting that changing money is an inevitable part of trips abroad, where to change it in order to get the best value? I have used many places in the past: the Post Office; my own bank; the various travel agents; and also the foreign exchange kiosks, especially those at the airports. None of these have really impressed my that I was getting a good deal. They all want their cut, not only by way of commission but also by the difference between the rate at which they buy currency and that at which they sell it.
However, the charging of commission seems to be on the way out. This "Having your cake and eat it" two bites at the cherry attitude has led to a mass exodus from those foreign exchange agencies that still think that they can get away with it to those that don't charge commission. I've yet to find a foreign exchange agency that charges commission that offers in any way shape or form a decent value for money on changing currency, no matter how much you buy.
So, how do those that don't charge commission make their money? Well, that's simple: their profit is he difference between the exchange rate at which they sell currency and that at which they but it back again. If you take a look at the boards they post of their current exchange rates you will see a substantial difference. That's their markup or profit.
I first became aware of Eurochange through an article on the Internet, comparing the amounts that you could get in exchange for Pounds Sterling by way of Euros and US Dollars. Eurochange came out best in all comparisons. Expecting that in order to get this good a deal I would have to do my transactions over the Internet, I was surprised and somewhat delighted to discover that Eurochange has nearly 70 kiosks around the country. Not only that but there were three within a short distance of where I live.
I needed Mexican Pesos and US Dollars for a holiday so I went to the one in Farnborough. I had already checked on the Internet what exchange rates I should expect and had visited my own bank, my previous usual source for foreign currency. I discovered that even for less usual currency, Eurochange offered and exchange rate that was as good as if not better than the best. The only problem was that they didn't have in stock the amount I required. They could, however, provide it the following day. That would mean two trips but that would cost me nothing with my bus pass!
Collecting my currency was a relatively painless procedure and, as I paid with my bank Debit Card, cost me nothing in charges. I was offered and decided to accept, for £3, the guarantee to buy back any unused currency at the same rate at which I had purchased it, so avoiding the buy/sell differential. I accepted the offer, for the pesos. I rarely accept such offers for Euros or US Dollars as you can use those up virtually anywhere and so I always keep what's left over for another occasion.
So, when changing money in the UK I would always recommend Eurochange for a relatively painless and very good value experience. There's probably a kiosk somewhere near you though not at any airports, so buy in advance.
Now, after making all these recommendations it might seem strange that I am going to make another recommendation that seems to negate all this! What I am going to suggest to you is not to change any currency in the UK at all. What I suggest you do is take your Pounds Sterling with you when you go abroad and change it at a bank at you destination.
I've always found that I get a better exchange rate abroad than in the UK. It does depend upon where you are going though, and how easy it is to get money changed. Hotels rarely offer good rates so if getting to a bank isn't easy then change your money here and take the worse exchange rate. So long as you do it at Eurochange, you shouldn't be too much worse off.