Travel Money Made Easy

Travel Money Made Easy image

With summer (hopefully) approaching, we thought it would be helpful for us to share our top tips for spending money abroad.

We admit we’re not experts on the topic but since we sometimes get asked about it, we’ve consulted some of our favourite consumer experts to create a little guide for you. For more information, we recommend taking a look at Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert (click here) or Money Supermarket (click here). 


Cash used to be the most common way to pay when abroad. We all have memories of popping down to the Bureau de Change to get out a stash of Euros or Dollars. Some people still prefer to carry only cash and we think that it’s a good idea to at least carry a little cash. So, where and when should you exchange your pounds?  

Money Saving Expert have a great tool on their website called Travel Money Max (click here) which compares the rates of various companies so that you can pick the best option for you. It allows you to request either collection or delivery, shows you how much of your chosen currency you will get and also lets you know if the company is FCA authorised. You may be tempted to wait until you arrive at the airport to exchange your cash but bear in mind that travel ports such as airports and ferry ports offer dismal rates. They are aware that they are your last port of call and make the most of it, so try and exchange your cash earlier if you can. 

It’s a good idea to use cash if you want to stick to a strict budget, if you want to lock in a specific exchange rate and if you have a secure place to store it. However, it is important to note that if you use cash, you won’t necessarily be getting the best rate for the duration of your holiday, you may be asked to pay for some things with card (e.g. accommodation on arrival) and you are at risk of losing everything if it is stolen. 

Remember that you can sell your left-over currency back to the Bureau de Change when you come home, but they will only take notes so try and use up all your smash before you get home. 

Credit or Debit Card 

While you can use your regular credit or debit card abroad, be aware that you may be subject to large fees. Therefore, it’s a good idea to look into specialist credit or debit cards. 

Specialist credit cards don’t charge fees and therefore you’ll get the same exchange rate that the bank does. You will find that many high street banks such as Halifax and Barclays offer this type of credit card. You’ll need to shop around to make sure you find the best one for your needs. Make sure that you keep track of your credit card spending and ensure that you have a plan in place to pay the bill off as soon as you can. 

A specialist debit card will also help you to avoid unforeseen charges. You will be required to open a new bank account, but it is possible to use it as a secondary bank account, you don’t need to switch banks. Unlike a credit card, you’ll need to make sure that the money is already in your account before you spend so you will have to save up before your holiday rather than pay it back when you get home. Some banks that offer this type of debit card include Starling, Chase and Monzo. You can find more info about some of these banks in our ethical banking guide (click here). 

If you choose to use card payments when abroad, you may be asked if you want to pay in the local currency or your own currency. Money Saving Expert advises that you always use the local currency as the exchange rate is likely to be more favourable. 

Prepaid Travel Card 

Prepaid travel cards work in a similar way to debit cards i.e. you have to make sure that there is money preloaded onto them before spending. The benefit of prepaid travel cards is that you can lock in a good exchange rate in advance rather than whatever the rate is as you spend. However, like with cash, you need to be aware that you won’t always get the best rate for the duration of your holiday. These cards are great for helping you stick to a strict budget and are more secure than cash as your balance will be protected if the card is lost or stolen. However, there are some places, such as car hire firms, who do not accept them. You can purchase a prepaid card from the Post Office or companies such as Revolut. As with credit and debit cards, it’s a good idea to shop around before making your choice. 

If you’re going abroad this summer, we hope you have a lovely time and that we’ve given you some helpful tips. 

It is important to take professional advice before making any decision relating to your personal finances. Information within this article does not provide individual tailored investment advice and is for guidance only. We cannot assume legal liability for any errors or omissions it might contain. Ethical Futures llp is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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