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holiday money - best place to get it?

14 replies

robinw · 20/10/2002 09:18

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SueW · 20/10/2002 11:04

We usually pick up a few dollars at the airport, not normally more than 100 quid's worth, so that we have sufficient cash to see us through cabs, tips and incidentals on arrival.

We never use travellers' cheques preferring to use credit/debit cards. The last time I used TC's I was 19yo going to Greece, so quite some time ago!

In theory you may pay higher handling fees by getting your cash out from cashpoints over there (unless your card is from an insititution which offer low/no fees for this). OTOH, friends who came to visit us in Australia found that the exchange rate moved against them by 10% between ordering their TCs and the middle of their holiday - quite a significant difference, really.

JMO - it's worked for me everywhere I've travelled since debit cards became widespread and I've been around an awful lot, TBH! Even more so DH who wouldn't know what to do with a TC if it jumped up and bit him on the nose.

SofiaAmes · 20/10/2002 11:58

I always use a visa debit card when abroad and find it's the easiest way to get money. I've had no problems getting money even in places like china and ethiopia. It means that you don't have to carry around large amounts of cash so you don't have to worry about theft. Also generally the exchange rate given by the bank that my card is on is quite good. Just make sure to doublecheck that your bank doesn't charge extra fees. Some do and they can really add up. I've always found that travellers checks are more trouble than they are worth. And it's probably even worth paying the small "convenience" fee that atm's charge in the usa, to be able to have cash when you want it and without having to worry about theft.
If you want to get some cash before going, I read an article a few months ago that researched the cheapest way to get foreign money in england and they said that Marks & Spencers was by far the cheapest place.

SueDonim · 20/10/2002 15:36

We don't have a bank account in Indonesia (banks are too dodgy to risk putting our money into) and use a debit card instead. We don't get charged by our bank at home for the transactions and get a good Rupiah/GBP or $/GBP rate as well. Our neighbours lived here for five years without a bank account, so I don't think the US will be a problem. SofiaAmes, I also heard that about M&S being the best by far.

robinw · 20/10/2002 16:05

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SueDonim · 20/10/2002 17:24

DH thinks it cost 1.5% last year in the US. HTH

SoupDragon · 20/10/2002 18:44

We just get a small amount of cash too and put everything on credit card. It's a shock when the bill comes in but works well If we need more cash, we get it out of an ATM when we're there. I'm not sure what the charge is - we've not had a bank statement since we went and DH got themoney out so I didn't see on screen.

GillW · 20/10/2002 22:19

To get the best exchange rate your best bet is to get yourself a Nationwide Visa card and use that for as much of your purchasing as possible (easy in America where everwhere takes visa) - and even use it for your cash withdrawals.

Unlike most of the other cards (check your cards t's & c's!) Nationwide don't charge you a fee for using it abroad - hence you effectively get the commercial exchange rate (which is quite a lot better than the tourist rate) on all your foreign transactions.

This is a bit complicated - but the way credit card charges for international transactions works is:

i. Mastercard and Visa charge an issuer fee: this is 0% inside Europe and 1% outside
ii. The card company charge an optional fee: this is set by the card company, but operated by Visa and Mastercard on their behalf. In most cases the fee is set at 2.75% which usually includes the 1% fee outside Europe as the card company absorbs the cost.

Nationwide does not charge an optional fee and they also absorb the cost of the issuer fee outside of europe. Therefore both inside europe and outside europe you simply get the wholesale Visa exchange rate.

Nationwide is also substantially cheaper than any other for credit card cashwithdrawals at 0.5% per transaction (50p min). And also unlike some others, it gives an interest free period on cash withdrawals, something to watch when withdrawing cash from credit cards.

Just to clarify - I don't have any connection with them, other than as a happy customer with more money to spend on my holidays

robinw · 21/10/2002 06:53

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zebra · 22/10/2002 00:20

"Everyone" says the exchange rates used by credit card companies are supposed to be so great... but I'm convinced it's generally not true. I can always get better deals elsewhere. Usually by buying from some local small exchange dealer. As GillW says, most credit cards actually charge a fee for each transaction! Not too long back there was a big cover story in one of the Saturday papers about this, how actually credit cards don't really offer the best exchange rates, after all. sorry I don't remember all the details, but it totally confirmed my experience. Now I have saved some credit card slips from past trips, with exchange rate details to document when people argue with me.

For short trips, what we do is try to buy left-over currency off of other people (ie, friends) who have just travelled to the country, at the official (currency market rates). Best deal for everyone, but not always possible to get enough money for your trip. Euros and US dollars are often easy to find, though.

Willow2 · 22/10/2002 14:08

From your partner.

Bumblelion · 22/10/2002 16:27

Not read all of this, but the best place I have found is the Post Office - commission free!

And don't forget the Post Office for travel insurance - I have been away twice this summer and since I was travelling on my own as a single parent (first time with 2 children and last week with 3 children), they offer a single parent policy which costs the same as a single person's insurance (last weeks cost me £17.50 for 1 week's travel insurance to Gran Canaria for me and 3 children).

And, NO, I don't work for the Post Office.

SoupDragon · 22/10/2002 17:46

I don't think Goldfish charge a fee and their US$ rate seems reasonable from our last statement.

But I agree with Willow2 - that's certainly where I get my money from!

GillW · 22/10/2002 18:34

Can't see anything on goldfish's website which confirms it either way - you'd probably have to ask them the specific question - but this site backs up what I knew about Nationwide, and gives a couple of other possibilities for lower than average international charges.

robinw · 22/10/2002 19:20

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