December 14, 2012 by Jools Stone
The excitement of a journey usually starts with the planning. I know most of you enjoy plotting your rail routes but, well you probably don’t muster quite as much excitement about planning your travel finances, but the truth is that a little savviness with foreign currency can help your holiday kitty go the extra mile.
Step forward to the footplate then travel money expert Daniel Abrahams, Co-Founder at MyTravelMoney.co.uk and MyCurrencyTransfer.com, to shed some light on how to save money when travelling by train. I first met Dan at a travel blogger conference in Genoa and am pleased to give him this platform, particularly as MyTravelMoney is fast becoming a go-to place for pennywise holidaymakers. Over to you Dan the Man!
Buy holiday cash in advance
Buying holiday money in advance comes out the overall cheapest. Major currency suppliers like Moneycorp and ICE will let you book online and offer the ability to collect your currency at an airport or train station. If you are embarking on a long haul train trip and the start of your journey requires you to take a flight, never buy foreign currency at the airport last minute. You’ll be lamped with an extremely poor rate of exchange.
Mystery shops conducted by MyTravelMoney.co.uk have seen airport bureaus apply margins of up to 10% of the amount you are looking to exchange. That’s potentially costing you £50 on every £500 worth of foreign currency ordered. As a pro tip, don’t fall for the myth of 0% commission on foreign currency. This is purely a marketing gimmick and often covers up a poor rate of exchange. Currency companies all make money in the same way, by building profit into the rate offered.
A good starting point is to use MyTravelMoney’s travel money comparison tool, which aggregates live exchange rates for over 65 currencies.
Specialist credit cards can save you a fortune
If you are taking a credit card abroad, take particular care. Consider a specialist card that waives foreign exchange fees. Most credit cards add up to 3% to the exchange rates banks get themselves. These charges can be avoided by taking out a specialist credit card for spending overseas, that do not add a ‘load’ charge, meaning you will obtain exchange rates very close to the market exchange rates.
Consider a pre-paid currency card for long trips
Most debit cards can be a killer, adding £1.50 every time you use abroad. Consider the use of a travel money card, Think of these as almost like an Oyster card for travel. By loading a pre-determined amount of foreign currency onto the prepaid card, it serves as an excellent budgeting tool when going InterRailing, particularly for an extended period of time. Currency cards exist to wipe out the myriad of additional charges one faces when using a standard UK debit card abroad, including point of sale transactions and withdrawing foreign cash from an overseas cash point. However, as always, read the small print before considering the purchase of any card.
Always pay in local currency at point of sale
When travelling by train, it’s more than likely you’ll be hopping on and off at multiple destinations. Whenever you are in a foreign shop or restaurant and they ask if you should pay in ‘local currency’ or ‘home currency’ (i.e. GBP) always say local currency. This will help you avoid hidden charges by letting the retailer apply their own currency conversion charges. By selecting pounds (i.e. home currency) it will stop you incurring charges of up to 4% of the value of the transaction. The technical term is ‘dynamic currency conversion’ and can hit you hard if you choose to pay in your home currency.
Haggle at a currency counter, it pays!
The MyTravelMoney.co.uk research team found that a bit of good old-fashioned haggling can go a long way. Whether you are at a train station bureau de change or airport, never settle for the first deal you stumble across and if you aren’t happy the rate, politely ask if they’ll do better. You’d be surprised at how far the lady or gentleman at your currency counter will go to win your custom. Good luck!
About the Author
Daniel Abrahams is Co-Founder at MyTravelMoney.co.uk (travel money) & MyCurrencyTransfer.com (international money transfer), which he describes as ‘the UK’s leading foreign exchange comparison sites.’
This post was supported by My Travel Money.
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