How to get the best rate for travel money

Last Updated on 19 January 2021 by Dan

Hello! As the rain seems to go on and on as we slide through into March, thoughts are particularly inclined to turn to holidays and travel……

(Well, subject to the coronavirus of course. I wrote this post before the situation worsened, and I am rather wondering if mine will be happening! If you have a holiday booked, you should read my article on the importance of being covered by travel insurance here.)

And with those holidays comes a dilemma – how exactly do I get the best travel money rate? Today I’m going to share with you some of the resources I use.

This post was inspired by some otherwise highly intelligent people who made a very deep, dark confession to me….they get their travel money at the airport.

PLEASE do not be that person! You get abysmally ripped off and it’s so wasteful it might make me cry. And you wouldn’t want that, would you?

Depending where you’re travelling, I’d recommend taking some cash for tipping and emergencies and putting the rest on card. However where you get that cash and what card you use are two very key considerations here.

Getting the best rate on Travel Cash

For the cash, one of my favorite resources is comparison website You fill out what you’re looking to get and add on a few criteria – how far in advance it is before your holiday, if you’re looking for delivery or collection (always better if you can) and if you live in London.

The site then provides a comparison of potential sources, starting with the cheapest – it’s never led me wrong and I think it’s fantastic.

(For those in London, a note that every single time I use this, collecting directly from Thomas Exchange Global comes up number one every time – I suspect they set their rate to ensure they’re unbeatable. I have used them many times and would recommend. Just be aware you need to pre-order via their fast track service to get the best rate).

One final note on getting holiday money is always to pay for your holiday cash with a debit card not a credit card. Most credit providers can see spending of this nature as a “cash advance’ (a bit like if you tried to withdraw £ at an ATM with your credit card) and charge you for it.

A man organising his travel money.

Getting the best Travel Money credit card

For your spending on card there are a few good options – the most important thing is that you probably don’t want to use your regular bank card. Even if your bank says they don’t charge you for purchases in foreign currency, they can set the conversion rate at whatever they like, and it’s not usually in your favour.

So it’s worth getting a specialist card for your holiday spending, and there are quite a few good options around the market.

Personally I use Revolut, which provides currency at about the best rate you can get. It works similar to a pre-loaded card which you manage through the Revolut app – you transfer cash into your account, and have the option to either create a dollar-denominated account and convert it at the time of you choosing or keep the cash in £ and it will convert at the rate as you spend, which is normally how I go.

One thing I really like about it is the fact that you also get a notification to your phone when spending telling you exactly how much you’ve spent both in home currency and locally, which I find comforting. It also shows your spend history.

You can also withdraw up to £200 a month in cash – enough to cover you for small emergencies. Premium options where you pay a monthly fee let you withdraw more if you wish.

There’s a minor negative, which is that if you’re spending at the weekends you get a slightly worse rate (this is a liquidity premium as there is less money in the FX markets at the weekend. This is not enough to detract from using the card).

Getting a card with Revolut usually costs £5, however if you sign up via the Financial Wilderness’s link you can get it for free.

There are some other good options out there, but at time of writing I’m not aware of a better option available on the market, as rivals have scaled back their FX offering a little bit. If you hear of one, please let me know as this market changes all the time.

And that’s it! If you’ve got any other travel money secrets, I’d love to hear about them. Have a very happy holiday!

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