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.
The current high street banking paradigm is rather a simple one.
Financial institutions - those with a 'banking license - provide all things monetary.
As core facets of a growing consumer capitalist model they are the go to providers of that which makes the world go round, money, and as such they have also become the purveyors of other products and services like insurance.
Borrowing, lending, investing and saving. These are the key areas catered for by banks and these are the main revenue streams for them too.
In a country like the UK you may think there is little, intrinsically, that separates one high street banking brand from another. You would be correct. So, where are the areas open or ripe for change and development?
Presentation and engagement is probably one of the most obvious.
Many of us are used to the emotive and overly produced advertisements for the sector. Within the first few moments one can guess the ad is either for a bank, a car or a mobile phone. It is all about the same imagery. They're trying to take us on much the same journey - and yet, the majority of us are bored of the stale and predictably economised service these huge organisations back their flashy ads up with.
We are the one's opening the doors to challenger financial services brands.
There is a service war begun. Big banks want to hold on to their monopoly. Challenger financial institutions want to find the unicorn that captures the imagination of the main stream market.
Pre-amble out the way - when it comes to accessing and using your local currency, the currency in which you earn, there are a number of clever ways that enable you to circumvent or avoid any, many and some of the issues we mentioned in parts 1 - 3 of this series on cash currency.
:: Convenience. ::
:: Competition. ::
:: Control. ::
Challengers are not just going after your spending abroad. They are trying to shift the entire conversation about how, when and where you use money and financial products.
This means that when you buy-in to one of these brands, becoming an early adopter as it were, you're buying in to a business that will continually push itself to undermine the familiar in such a way as to prioritise the three elements above.
Unlike the other posts in our series, this one is a bit trickier to pitch.
There are no glaring shortcomings to the offering of brands like Revolut, Transferwise, Starling, Ripple, Monza etc. - and we say that both as consumers and potential competitors.
Yes, Prime Cap is only a competitor of these brands in as much as these companies try to offer competitive rates of exchange, but, be assured we will never be straying concertedly into the financial services space at large.
Now, what does all this have to do with getting cash out for your travels?
Cripes - will you get on with it! - ha, LOL.
As we have said before - finding a debit card provider that won't charge you for taking money out overseas or using the card in overseas shops etc. is something of a goal. If one can also find something that gives you a good rate of exchange to boot then happier days.
Starling bank is an obvious stand out from our perspective.
Because Starling do not view 'foreign exchange' and the conversion of your money as a revenue channel per se (they prefer to win you borrowing and day to day spending) they sell you the currency more cheaply than your bank would. They give a better rate of exchange.
You have a debit card, but, funds are debited straight from your sterling account rather than loaded to the foreign currency you're using whilst away; so you're not committing to the exchange of a set sum you might not use and then have to sell back. This is a plus and something we think is personally appealing.
The very same thing is true of Revlout.
You can either load/exchange a certain amount of money as the currency of your destination or you can opt for a live exchange from the currency you hold.
With both these providers you have to remember that the rate of exchange moves with the market, so, just because you see a nice rate on a Friday does not mean that by the Saturday morning you're going to be able to use the same rate. That is the nature of the live market. Frankly, we like this because it ticks the control box and is more user friendly that these currency cards which lock you in.
One of the slight downsides is that you're not insured for misuse by others - someone can still pinch your card...
Unlike a credit card, your activity is not protected from fraud or theft. Frankly though that is a minor concern. Plus, with both Starling and Revolut you can login to their app based platform to cut off any would-be scoundrel trying to spend your money.
As said earlier in the series, the differences we're talking about in the rates of exchange may only be fractions of a percent (well, actually closer to two or three percents) so, if you're not spending much then you might not want to bother, but something like Starling is incredibly quick and easy to set up and, on the basis that you can have an overdraft bolted on from the point of application, even if you don't remember to top up the account (if you only use it for overseas spending) you can just top it up when you get home.
You might also wish to avoid numerous PINS and cards etc.
If that is the case then the broader day-to-day banking ability of these challengers means that you might just as easily and just as well more away from whomever you currently use.
Martin Lewis constantly says that the way to get the best value from banks is to vote with your feet and keep changing to providers who offer you more.
As we've said, these challenger firms are looking for volume of customers in the first instance. They're putting a whole heap of effort into attracting you with fluid and relatable usability and they are relying on your apathy towards your current bankers.
Who cares whether a bank has been 'by your side for 250 years' if they're paying their share holders (a third or which are the tax payer) rather than removing the £3 fee on overseas cash withdrawals.
The current construct is flawed and we reckon these challengers are you best bet for the longer term - cash currency and all.
If you would like to discuss any of the topics or suggestions in this post or across the series, give us a call on 0203 172 8193.