September 10, 2018 3 min to read
How to safely spend money abroad? Travel money spending tips
When you travel abroad you are often prone to spending money on things that should be free or you can overpay for services. There are many ways you can overpay – hidden fees, unreasonable high currency exchange rates.
To avoid paying too much or being surprised after coming back home that you were charged too much, I have combined the list of the things to consider.
❌ A bad idea: exchange money at the airport or in tourist places
If you find yourself in situation where you have only your home currency and you need to buy some foreign currency, you might be tempted to use currency exchange shop that is right at the airport or not far from it, or even in some touristic place where you want to spend money quick. Generally speaking, this is a bad idea. These shops in highly populated by tourists areas have usually exchange rates that are not in your favour and possibly there are fees on top of it.
That is the worst option as you will overpay a lot.
🛑 Usually a bad idea: taking out cash from ATMs (cash machines) abroad
It might be tempting to use cash machines abroad as you get used taking out cash whenever you need it. The problem is that cash machines don’t have to dispense your money for free and a fee associated with it sometimes might be quite big. On top of that, your bank might charge you for a cash transaction made in a foreign currency and add some extra fees.
If you have to use a cash machine abroad, make sure that you use card that doesn’t charge you extra for taking out cash in a foreign currency, has good exchange rate and – if possible – the cash machine itself doesn’t charge you any fees.
⚠️ Sometimes a bad idea: using your bank card
This is not the worst option, but it really depends on few factors. For starters, it really depends on banks. Some banks might charge extra fees for using card abroad and have in general not favourable exchange rates. Although, quite often banks don’t charge any fees for payments made with a debit card and exchange rates depend on debit card issuer (MasterCard, Visa etc.) and this can be checked on their websites. Usually they are reasonable and if there are no extra purchase fees – this might work for you.
I haven’t tried myself using Apple Pay abroad, even though I use it quite often in UK. I assume exchange rates and fees in this case would depend both on your bank and Apple. Once I try this method out, I will update this article (probably in the middle of September).
❇️ Usually a good idea: exchanging money before going to travel.
It’s good idea as long as you have checked the currency rate and it’s close to the official average buy rates for the day. Make sure to check the best deals online. You might also try to bargain in some stores, especially if there is any competition nearby. You can always say that the competitor has better price and most of the time, the currency shop will amend their price in your favour, especially if you exchange a lot of money. Some big chains won’t allow bargain (I had no luck with Debenhams Money and Post Office), but many others will fight for customers by amending the price.
✅ Always a good idea: Getting prepaid card with a good currency rate
My favourite way for getting travel money is to use prepaid cards. This is the most secure, fastest and the cheapest way to get a foreign currency. There are many prepaid cards on the market with really advanced and convenient mobile apps, like Monzo, Revolut, WeSwap and many more. Monzo allows you to have a bank account with them (FSCS protected), Revolut has some nice app functionality and WeSwap tries to convince you by giving £10 for free for signing up. If you would like your account to be automatically topped up with £10 when you sign up, please click this link for free £10 (no strings attached!) and to download the app. No matter which one you will end up using, you should be satisfied – I have them all and use them interchangeably.
Prepaid cards with mobile apps are the most secure because you decide how much you put in there and the account can’t go in credit. In case you lose your card, you can freeze the card with one tap on the mobile app.
If you have any other suggestions that you would like to add or any other spending money tips, please let us know in comments below!