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Can you give your money extra mileage when travelling?

Your holiday is the highlight of your year, and you want to get value for money on your travel and accommodation. However, after taking such care over planning our break in the sunshine, it seems that many of us don’t seem to take the same care with our holiday money.

In a recent survey, only half of the UK’s adults actually shop around for the best rates when it comes to exchanging currency and getting our holiday cash. One-third admitted they just took whatever the rate was at the first bureau de change that they came to. The difference between the best and worst rates on the high street can vary by 10%. It may not sound like a lot, but that could be the difference between having £100 in your pocket, or just £90. That’s an extra meal, a couple of drinks, or the entrance to a theme park.

It’s quite easy to find the best deals; get yourself online and have a look at some comparison websites. Simply typing “bureau de change comparison” into your browser gives you a huge selection of websites which can find you a better deal on your holiday money. Choose one which is impartial, and not one which is run by a company with a vested interest, who might promote their company above others.

Don’t just assume that you’ll get the best deal by looking at the exchange rates though. Whoever you buy your currency from will also charge a fee for their services, which will be shown as “commission”. This can range from £1.25 to £3 for the majority of providers. Be wary of companies offering “Commission Free Exchange”. They may be calling their fee a different name, or have extra charges elsewhere during your transaction. Read the small print thoroughly before committing to buy.


If you find a good deal on currency exchange, and you’re happy with the fees, make sure you exchange enough cash to last for the duration of your holiday. A third of UK holidaymakers confess to running out of cash before the holiday is over. It’s too easy to treat yourself to that extra drink, souvenir or night out. The cash is available, and sitting there in your wallet in larger sums than it would be at home. You can’t spend this foreign currency in the UK, so you may as well spend it abroad, right? Before you know it, that large block of cash is down to just two or three bank notes, and you’ve got another week of your holiday left.

Should you find yourself in this situation, there are a few options open to you. If you have access to a credit card, you could use that, but be wary of the high interest rates. You could borrow money, either from family back home if you can get in touch, or see if you can find a short-term loan to support you until you get home, or get paid. Just like with looking for currency exchange rates though, remember to shop around for the best deal.

If you’ve been budgeting, your holiday money should last you for the duration of your holiday. Back at the airport waiting for your flight home, you may find that your wallet still has some of that foreign currency, and it’ll be no good to you once the plane lands. The airport shops are the last place you can spend it, and they set their prices to take advantage of this abnormal consumer expenditure. UK holiday makers waste £1 billion annually at the airport in an attempt to get rid of that last bit of foreign money.

In order to avoid this trap, use the same common sense you would before going on a road trip at home. Ensure you buy everything you need before you begin your journey home. Local shops will also appreciate your business much more than the multi-nationals you’ll find at the airport. If you have a good amount of money left, you can bring it home with you and convert it back into UK currency. Quite often, if you keep your receipt from when you converted your money in the first place, you’ll get a good deal on changing it back to UK pounds. Most bureaux de change will only take bank notes, and not coins. Another option, if you think you might be returning to the country you visited, is to hold on to your foreign currency until next time; for universal currencies such as the euro, you’re likely to be able to use it on your next holiday.

Take the time to consider how you can make that holiday money work for you before you get on that plane – a little preparation can make a big difference!

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