Summer is here, and for many of us, that means holidays. But holidays are expensive enough, without any nasty charges to your bank account just because you spend money abroad on fun-filled activities and postcards back home. So, if you’re heading abroad this summer, here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your money works for you even while you’re sunning yourself on an exotic beach.
Use the right bank account
If you’re going to use your debit card abroad, make sure you pack the right one. Different accounts charge different amounts – including foreign handling fees and withdrawal fees. If you don’t want to switch bank accounts, you should at least research what fees your bank will charge you. Consumer group Which? has a list of the best cards to use when you’re abroad, showing that while customers of Norwich and Peterborough Building Society pay no foreign handling fees, TSB customers pay 2.99%. Over the course of a holiday, these charges really rack up, so anticipating them, or better yet avoiding them completely, means no shocks at the end of the holiday (and no excuse not to buy a little more sun-cream!).
Tell your bank
Security is of paramount importance, so if a bank clocks card usage abroad this will be flagged up as unusual activity. They’ll swiftly block the card, which risks leaving you stranded without any cash. Before you use your card abroad, you should let your bank know where you’re headed and when, so they’re aware that far from being ‘unusual activity’, you’re just enjoying your vacation.
Buy cash in advance
Cash, as it always is, is a great alternative if you don’t want to risk using your cards abroad – just don’t leave buying it ’til the last second or your pounds are going to go quite as far. It might not sound like a lot of fun, but it’s worth taking the time to look at exchange rates well in advance of your holiday. Those devilish rates shift and flow, up and down, but pretty soon you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s a good exchange rate for your money. When those exchange rates reach a comfortable peak, that’s the time to buy your holiday cash
Pay in local currency
In some countries, when you pay by card you’ll be offered the choice of paying in both local currency or your home currency. You’ll typically be offered this choice in restaurants and cafes, and you should always choose to pay in the local currency. See, these work on what’s known as a dynamic currency conversion. Paying in the local currency means your exchange rate is calculated by Mastercard or Visa, which standard method; pay in pounds, and the rate’s instantly decided upon by the shop’s bank.
Try pre-paid cards
The last thing you want to do on holiday is waste time worrying about your money – not when you could be exploring all those striking locales. If you want to keep a strict eye on your money while abroad, try getting pre-paid cards. You can pick these up pretty easily online – using a trusted company, of course – but they only work with certain currencies. Best of all, you can lock in your exchange rate, so you always know how much you’re spending. They’re essentially like pay-as-you-go phones that work exactly like a debit card. You pre-load a set amount of money onto the card, and you’re good to go.