View Full Version : Need advice - Currency Conversion
2nd Feb 2012, 12:16
Most of you know that many airline FA's are paid a Per Diem allowance while down route away from base. By careful eating of Pot Noodle and avoidance of the High Life it is usually possible to bring some money back home at the end of the duty tour. So far so good.
When I take my hard-earned US and HK dollars into the bank for conversion I rapidly become aware that I am an essential component in the rebuilding of their global liquidity. The rates offered have moved beyond making a small profit, directly through raw avarice and straight to near theft. There is often a 15 - 20% spread between Buy and Sell rates.
I figured one of you global travelling folk would know the answer. Where is the best place in the UK to buy £ Sterling with a foreign cash? Is there actually a best place or should I just learn to grit teeth and live with it?
2nd Feb 2012, 12:56
Your per diem is paid in cash?? Who still does that?? Maybe when AirNZ replaces its flying boats with those nice new DC-8s, you'll move on to 20th century payment methods too...
But in the meantime, the first rule with cash exchanges is You Can't Win. The second rule is Do As Few Exchanges As Possible. Do you really need to buy sterling? I'd just keep the USD and HKD, take it with me on future trips, and spend it locally (of course, this depends on what you need your money for). If you have a big pile, and you need something in the UK, try and change it in one go when the rate is favourable.
Even better would be to open bank accounts in Hong Kong and the US respectively, and deposit your cash there, making occasional transfers back to the UK. This may not be possible if you are not resident, but perhaps there is a friend or colleague who could help (or even the AirNZ local office)? Another possibility might be to open USD and/or HKG accounts in the UK.
Once you have a local-currency account, your options are much wider. You can use the bank's own transfer facilities (which will probably already be much better than changing cash in the UK), or you can use third-party exchange services such as www.xe.com (http://www.xe.com), which offer still better rates.
If others have better advice, I'd be most interested myself.
2nd Feb 2012, 13:54
Based on my own experience with Euro/Sterling (but not as CC), I'd say find CC who have a similar problem but the other way around and come to a mutually benefitial arrangement. Easily said I know but if your airline has US and HK based crew this may be possible. Failing that, perhaps CC from other airlines might be interested and you could use the CC forum to investigate this idea further?
2nd Feb 2012, 14:15
I'd say find CC who have a similar problem but the other way around and come to a mutually benefitial arrangement
Indeed. Or why not take it straight to the SLF - announcement on the flight from LHR to HKG: "If any passenger would like to buy Hong Kong dollars at an advantageous rate, please contact the purser". :E
2nd Feb 2012, 16:31
Hmm, such PA announcements would be frowned upon by the company I suspect ;)
3rd Feb 2012, 10:02
The best exchange rates I have ever found (ready to be disproved) are the Casino Cages in Vegas. They'll take anything at extremely good rates in the hope you'll give it back!
Not the UK I accept but if the town is on your holiday list, you could live very well there for a couple of weeks - good quality cheap food and accommodation and of course, you never know..you might just get those lucky numbers ;)
I get to the States about twice a year on the business and much of the family's spending is based around those trips: a new pair of trainers; those Uggs my daughter has always wanted; jeans; a new iPod etc etc. The exchange rate, at least against the Euro, is still pretty good. Plan to use the dollars to buy stuff you'd be buying sooner or later at home.
P.S. your airline is definitely my favourite in business on the LA route. Keep it up. It even makes a stop in Heathrow worthwhile.
What about "Bitcoin". Here's (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/9555513.stm) a BBC interview on the subject.
Just an other number
3rd Feb 2012, 19:47
Assuming you are being given HKD in HK, then do not bring it back to UK - you will get royally ripped off. Change it in HK - the money changers just inside Chung King Mansions will give you the best rate; but if you prefer a high street bank then Hang Seng is No. 1.
And the same goes for USD - if you can change it in HK then do so.
4th Feb 2012, 03:22
By UK I assume you are able to chanfe your cash in central London.
The best places I have seen are a combination of Thomas Global Exchange, ACE-FX and Best Foreign Exchange or ICE. To avoid traipsing around different places, go to the Travel Money section of moneysavingexpert.com - it's usually pretty accurate at who is giving the best rate on the day. Forget about Hight St banks, the post office or walking up to other big brand bureaux de change - you are likely to find yoursely stung with some very hefty fees.
Having said that, changing USD or EUR into sterling will get you a good rate at one of these places, if you have cash in a currency for which there is little demand in London like Chilean pesos, you will find it a little more difficult.
4th Feb 2012, 03:22
I agree with Just another number- you get a much better exchange rate for the Hong Kong Dollar in Hong Kong itself (I'm currently in Hong Kong). Yesterdays intra-bank exchange rate was $12.26HKD to the pound. I managed to get $12.22HKD. The buying rate was $12.35HKD so the spreads can be tiny.
Chungking Mansions has some of the best rates in town. It also has some of the worst so make sure you shop around. World Wide House in Central has some good rates too (it's always full of Filipino domestic workers wiring money home).
I also echo Just another numbers sentiments about the US dollar. USD/HKD are pegged so there is vary little variation in the exchange rate you get on the ground here.
4th Feb 2012, 09:18
Many thanks to all of you. As expected some really useful suggestions.
I'm particularly fond of the idea of making an Inflight PA request. It would be career limiting, but boy, talk about going in style!!!
4th Feb 2012, 11:05
Yes, TS, but you could immediately set up as a money changer and work for all your (by now EX) colleagues and take a rake off from each transaction. Simples!
Mark in CA
4th Feb 2012, 13:11
Just a thought, but what if you converted the HK and US dollars into prepaid Visa or MasterCard debit cards in each country? These could be used globally, and the banks would do the conversions at (probably) a better rate because now they are electronic.
4th Feb 2012, 15:07
Conversely, instead of living on pot noodles while you're away, why not spend all of your allowances on really fine dining & then when you get back to the UK go on a diet & bank all of the money that you save by not shopping at Tescos? :ok:
9th Feb 2012, 12:28
if youre anywhere near Bank/Liverpool St, try CityForex.com best rates for FX by a country mile, and they deliver if youre local.
9th Feb 2012, 14:13
Be careful walking around Chungking Mansions though ...
9th Feb 2012, 14:50
Or - if you don't want to do all that, you could buy - say - amount X of currency Y at Travelex before leaving London, with a guaranteed buy-back price. Then, on return you could "buy-back" sterling at the rate. Would mean you always had some currency in hand but why not? No need to do it at the same branch etc...
9th Feb 2012, 19:07
Have you looked at a UK Post Office?
Just an other number
9th Feb 2012, 19:47
Yes redsnail but the Post Office wants HKD 13.90 to sell you a pound.
Foreign Currency Notes Exchange Rates - Hang Seng Bank Limited (http://bank.hangseng.com/1/2/rates/foreign-currency-notes-exchange-rates)
Hang Seng on the other hand want only HKD 12.47.
I know where I would go.
10th Feb 2012, 09:16