The best advice we can give the would-be traveller or holidayer is to imagine that there is no rate of exchange.
Imagine that the country you're visiting uses the same currency as home. £1 for €1/$1.
The reason we suggest this is so that when you get home and you look at your receipts, you'll have a nice surprise when you realise you actually spent less than you thought.
On the flip side you can drive yourself potty trying to find the most competitive place or mechanisms to shave fractions of a cent off the rate of exchange when in fact you'd be better off not buying that ice cream at the beach...the saving would be about the same.
Now, let's put cynicism to one side for a second - in this series of posts we will look at the common mistakes of the seasoned traveller and suggest some useful hints, tips and pointers that should save you time, money and angst.
2| ATMs -Foreign and Domestic
Whether you're visiting the UK or taking cash out of an ATM overseas, just because it is perceived as more direct access or debit from your current account doesn't necessarily result in a better rate of exchange or fewer costs.
Most banks charge a foreign transaction fee for just using your card abroad.
Many charge you an unreasonable percentage for withdrawing funds directly from an ATM.
And, even those who advertise no overseas transaction charges or ATM charges are covering themselves and applying charges out of kilter with what most people would consider good value.
Please do not be fooled in to thinking that these|any charges in some way mean you're going to get a better rate of conversion. These charges are on top of a woefully poor rate of conversion.
Lloyds for instance charge you 3% to withdraw funds from an overseas ATM.
Now, they specifically tell you that they charge either 3% or £3 'whichever is greater', so, if you are withdrawing £100 worth of euros then 3% = £3, but, anything more than this and your cost goes up.
If you withdraw £20 of euros then the fee is in excess of 10%.
By anyone's standards that can't be justified - and that is before one even considers the rate at which they exchange the currency you're withdrawing.
If you must take money out of an ATM and you're travelling with others who need to do the same, offer to withdraw their money too and then ask them to settle up with you in GBP when you get back home. That way there is only one exchange rate hit even though the fees will still be 3% of the total sum withdrawn.
There are certain banks, challenger banks, who do not charge you to withdraw funds or use a debit card abroad.
Banks like Starling.
Given these institutions are growing and trying to attract business, plus, because their business model is geared more towards borrowing and lending rather than money exchange, you will likely get a better rate of exchange from them than you would the more established high street banking brands.
In fact, more than one of our team have accounts set up with Starling purely to use the debit card abroad for free - it is not about moving one's banking activities over to them (although that hasn't been ruled out)...but, it is about supporting a challenger who has created a pricing model that treats/reflects one's use of their systems fairly and appropriately.
Our team have no formal tie-in with any banking institution, but we are all consumers and, given the line of work we're in we may have greater exposure to this area than you. So, by all means call us if you would like to some advice on this subject.