As a Brit travelling in a post Brexit world, there are a bewildering array of forex solutions. The data for this post was compiled on 15th October 2016.
I live in the UK, help run a small business based in France and spend time with family in Spain. The GBP is currently feeble and I am fed up with paying extra for money.
Most people rely on their debit or credit cards when abroad, or maybe you still buy currency at the airport — I know, people do still do this!
I started investigating this when I discovered that First Direct (who I like a lot) seem to think that going abroad was reason to help themselves to my cash.
For all non-Sterling (foreign currency) transactions, including cash withdrawals, first direct will charge a fee of 2.75% of the amount of the transaction.
So my bank thinks that this is OK, surely a credit card company designed for travelling… American Express might have a different approach:
If you make a transaction in a foreign currency, you will be charged a non-sterling transaction fee of 2.99% on the transaction amount. If you use your Card to withdraw cash abroad a cash fee of 3% of the withdrawal amount or £3 (whichever is greater) will be payable in addition to the non-sterling transaction fee.
If you knew all this already, how do you get around this stupidity? It seems nuts that the financial service providers take advantage of this small gap in our understanding of our own behaviour to lighten our wallets. The airlines still think fuel should cost extra and many mobile operators are taxing calls unnecessarily — BTW Vodafone have excellent international plans.
The new fair way to instantly send and spend money globally.
I have been using a Revolut card for the last couple of years. It is basically a pre-pay credit card with fantastic currency rates. Using a mastercard platform, I have only found a couple of instances where it is not accepted; the motorways in Europe don’t like it and neither do many municipal car parks… other than that it has been quite reliable.
I have found that using it with the family, allows you to “send” money to other cards instantly, ideal for emergencies.
It also lets you withdraw cash from an ATM using its excellent currency rates.
Link all your bank cards to just one Curve MasterCard®.
I have been using a Curve card on a daily basis for the last 6 months and it has single handedly shrunk my wallet to just 2 cards. Curve’s main feature is that it allows you to “register” all your existing credit cards in their app, and then choose which card to use (via the app) when you present your Curve card. It won’t let you register Amex cards but otherwise it works as advertised.
Curve also offer very favourable forex rates, providing a layer between your card company/bank and the merchant.
The Results — 15.10.16
- XE.com: 1 GBP bought 1.1111 EUR
- Transferwise: 1 GBP bought 1.1114 EUR
- Revolut: 1 GBP bought 1.1051 EUR
- Curve: 1GBP bought 1.1001 EUR
- Thomas Exchange: 1 GBP bought 1.0945 EUR
- Marks & Spencer: 1 GBP bought 1.0816
Both and Curve & Revolut offered better rates than could be found anywhere else (with the exception of transferwise which is a different — but excellent — product).
For peace of mind, that you will be getting the absolute best exchange rate without ANY additional fees these two solutions are excellent.
Revolut’s easy sending of money between cards is an great feature while Curve’s plastic consolidation is also very handy. I will continue to use both.
For some people the idea saving 2%–5% on “holiday” money may seem trivial, however in my experience travelling with a family, it quickly mounts up and more importantly is unnecessary lazy financial friction — which deserves to be called out, even if you don’t do anything — be aware that its going on.
If you do decide to do sign up curve feel free to use my Promo Codes: 9QQPM. Should get you £5!
My Revolut card has worn out… I have used it a fair amount. Revolut seem to think that this is my problem and I should pay £10 for a new card. On this basis, I would recommend Curve over Revolut…
Curve are continuing to innovate and have excellent customer service, sadly Revolut need to pick up the pace.