The 3 big pitfalls of travel money and how to avoid them

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As with many aspects of planning your trip, the more preparation you put into it, the more you get out of it. Sorting your travel money shouldn’t be any different. 

Getting the right rate when changing your currency can be a daunting and challenging task. Follow the three big “Don’ts” when exchanging your money and you are half way there!

–          Don’t change your currency at a tourist hotspot. Airports, Train stations, Times Square, Leicester Square… You get the idea. Whilst it seems obvious, millions of pounds are lost every year by people getting ripped off for the sake of convenience. These tourist hot spots are where you are likely to lose money and find some of the worst rates on the market.

–          Don’t be fooled by 0% commission. Companies that advertise “0% Commission” are not as friendly as they may make out. After all, any company that worked on “0% commission” wouldn’t be in business too long! The majority have a range of hidden fees, usually built into the rate they are offering.  Compare the rate with that of an online currency provider and you will suddenly see just how little “commission” they are making.

–          Don’t pay in anything other than the local currency. From time to time you may be asked if you want to pay in Sterling (or your home currency) whilst abroad. Sometimes vendors may not even ask and it will just appear on the card machine, as if by magic. Whilst it may be appealing to have the exact Sterling figure in front of you, the rate is usually inclusive of a high exchange rate created by the retailer. Always ask to be billed in local currency to avoid paying increased prices.

Getting more from you money with currency cards –

Increasing in popularity are prepaid currency cards, which offer very competitive rates and provide a safe way of carrying money abroad. They can be easily replaced if lost or stolen and also provide an excellent way of sticking to a budget on your travels. As they are prepaid, you cannot get into debt and the cards are simpler to obtain than a credit card.

Several companies allow you to conveniently top up the cards online and they even be topped up by a family member back home.

As the best card providers like FairFX are only based online, they save money by not having the expensive overheads that airport kiosks demand. Luckily for consumers, this saving is passed on their customers with the exchange rates they offer.

Unlike the FairFX cards, some prepaid currency cards have hidden fees for inactivity and more fees each time you top up. Be sure to research the right card for you before getting one.

3 Responses to “The 3 big pitfalls of travel money and how to avoid them”

  1. Arkytoothis says:


    While I usually respect your writing, this ad for FairFX cards is a bit over the line. Looking at the rates and charges, it is clear that this is not a good option for backpackers. Their conversion rate is 1.4%, which can be bested by good exchange offices in nearly any location. In addition, the company charges L0.80/minute for telephone customer service. What kind of company charges their customers to speak to them? Definitely not one that I would want to do business with. Anyway, cheers for the otherwise good blog.

    • jane says:

      Hi Arkytoothis, thanks for the comment. I do understand where you are coming from, but all companies such as FairFX have rates and charges factored in so they can make money. I won’t ever advertise a company I think is bad, or non travel related, but FairFX are a a legitimate travel related company who offer a service that some travellers may be interested in. If travellers can find a better deal out there, then there is no reason why they can’t shop elsewhere. Thanks for the comment though! It’s always good to hear a vairety of opinions. 🙂

  2. Steve says:

    Martin Lewis seems to think that FairFX offers the cheapest prepaid travel money card:

    I’ve been a FairFX cardholder for about 9 months now and I’m happy with them – no hidden fees unlike lots of other big name companies I could mention! 🙂


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