Make your holiday money go further

With many looking to get away this festive season to either sunnier climes or to hit the slopes, it’s important to think about getting the most of your foreign currency – particularly given the weakness of the pound.

But it’s not just the exchange rate that needs to be considered. Many travellers choose to use either a credit or debit card whilst away as they are viewed as a more convenient and safer option than carrying cash or travellers cheques. However, many do not consider the charges that are levied when handing over the plastic.

For those who do like to carry cash, there’s a plethora of foreign currency retailers on the high street and online but how do you know if you are getting the best rate? Also, are you going to be stung by nasty commission charges before you get your hands on your currency?

Peter Harrison,’s travel money expert, said: "There are a number of different options available to holidaymakers and picking the right travel money product could save them a packet.”

So, if you are torn between cash or card, read on.

Credit cards

Seen as one of the most convenient ways of transacting abroad, along with debit cards, many travellers choose this option. However, you can be stung by hefty charges each time you use your card overseas which can make it a more expensive option than you were expecting.

Most credit card providers levy a loading fee of around 2.5% – 3.0%. And if you use your for cash withdrawals, there’ll be an additional charge of about 2.0%.

For example, spend €1,000 on a Thomas Cook credit card, which levies a 2.50% loading charge, and it would cost you an additional £22.73 in fees.

Avoid using credit cards to withdraw money from cash machines – not only will you be charged the loading and withdrawal fee, you’ll probably also incur a higher rate of interest than that charged on purchases. What’s more, you’ll start accruing interest from the day the cash is withdrawn. This means even if you pay off your credit card in full each month, you won’t avoid interest.

The good news is that some credit cards are cheaper than others for use overseas and, if you’re a regular traveller, it’s well worth applying for one of the cheapest options.

The Santander ZERO card levies no charges for purchases or cash withdrawals made abroad, however you need to be aware that any cash withdrawals that are made will still incur interest of 27.9% per annum.

The Post Office Platinum card is also free for foreign spending, although you will be charged a 2.50% withdrawal fee if you use it to take cash out of an ATM.

Nationwide’s Gold card is also free if you use it within the Visa Europe region, although you’ll be charged 0.84% elsewhere in the world. There is also a 2.50% withdrawal fee for cash withdrawals.

If you’re 50 or over, the Saga Platinum card is another good one for use on holiday. As with Nationwide though, it is only free to use in the Visa Europe region. There is a 1% loading fee elsewhere in the world.

Debit cards

Another popular way to transact, debit cards again offer convenience abroad. However, just like credit cards you can be stung by foreign transaction fees and ATM charges. 

Again, Nationwide will not charge you for transacting in the Visa Europe Region with their FlexAccount Debit Card, however you will be charged 0.84% for transactions made outside of this region. Unlike the credit card, you will not be charged a fee for withdrawing cash from an ATM.

If you do choose to use a cash machine abroad with either a debit or credit card, bear in mind that the ATM provider may levy its own charge on top of the amount that you withdraw. This charge is unfortunately beyond the control of your issuing bank. 


Pre-paid cards

Pre-paid cards are becoming increasingly popular for those who want the convenience of a card but also want the option to be able to budget their money and earn a good exchange rate – all you have to do is load money to the card and you’re ready to go. 

Most cards are available for either Euros or Dollars, although Caxtonfx offers a Global Traveller card and FairFX has an Anywhere card which can be used for any currency.

However, there will be a transaction fee with FairFX and Caxtonfx's global cards – FairFX charges 1.50% and Caxtonfx charges 2.50%.

With Dollar and Euro cards, providers such as FairFX, Caxtonfx and Travelex don't charge you for making purchases abroad. Caxtonfx and Travelex also let you withdraw cash for free. If you apply for a FairFX card via and load more than £500 onto it, you will receive a £5 credit.

Most providers will not charge you an initial fee to purchase the card or to load money onto it - but some do this so this is something to watch out for.

The cards will either carry the Visa or MasterCard sign, meaning that they will be accepted at thousands of outlets worldwide. And because you load cash onto the card yourself, you do not risk the danger of overspending on those all important holiday purchases.

One of the great things about prepaid cards is that if you’re heading abroad on holiday and have left it too late to apply for a cheaper credit card, there’s still time to get a prepaid card. Because you can only spend the money you’ve loaded onto your card, there’s no credit check. As a result, if you order a card over the internet, it can be with you in a couple of days.

Use our pre-paid card comparison tool to get the best deal for you.


Cash is still the most popular option for holiday money. However, exchange rates vary significantly and with sterling so weak against the Euro and Dollar, it’s more important than ever to get the most competitive rate possible.

The best rates are available online: providers such as Travelex will allow you to order online and give you the option to collect your cash from a Travelex outlet or have currency delivered to your home address free of charge. Travelex also offers the option of ordering online and then collecting your cash from the airport (check it has a desk at the airport you’re flying from, though, as it isn’t present at all the UK’s airports).

ICE Currency Exchange also offers competitive rates, 0% commission on all orders over £400 and they also give you the option to pay for your currency via bank transfer. Next day delivery of your cash if you order before 3.30pm is free or you can choose to collect your currency from an ICE Branch. Also, for a limited period they are offering guaranteed delivery on a Saturday free of charge. 

The key to obtaining the best rate for your cash is to purchase in advance, do your homework and compare exchange rates online.  Don’t wait to get to the airport to purchase your currency as you will not receive the best rate and you will more than likely be charged a commission fee – meaning you will be getting even less currency for your money. 

Above all be savvy and think ahead!

In the current climate of a weak pound, it pays to shop around. Even though this will require you to take a few minutes out of your day to research your rates and charges, in the long run you will end up getting more for your money without being stung by hefty charges.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct

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