View Full Version : Airport FX Versus Home or Abroad?

27th Jul 2004, 14:12
Any views on obtaining foreign currencies at reasonable rates? Is the easy holiday option of using a UK bank card in a foreign cash machine a good one? The options are hard to compare with the convoluted ways people describe their offer, eg: absolutely no commission! But awful exchange rate… Why are the airport bureaux de change always deserted? Any hard information on this topic would be appreciated.

27th Jul 2004, 14:34
Post Office is a good option, as it appears to be reasonable rates for all currencies.

Using cards for purchases overseas - only bother with the Nationwide Credit Card, which is one of the few that have zero commission and a decent rate on translation to GBP.

Credit cards in machines are all generally subject to cash advance charge, even if there is no commission in addition to this; I have not used a debit card overseas but suspect the deal may be better.

Airport forex places (particularly Travelex) do not adhere to the offers they advertise elsewhere at their airport locations - it is advertised as zero commssion, so I used it but it wasn't.

Don't let them take a credit card to purchase currency at any location, as this too will count as a cash advance charge even though you are not taking GBP from the card directly. Use a debit card.

Land After
29th Jul 2004, 13:35
Don't use a debit card for cash - there will be a "service charge" of around 1.5% , min ca. 2GBP, plus a loading on the rate of around 2.75%.

Even with the cash advance fee of 1% on the Nationwide Visa and the interest charges, it's still cheaper than using the debit card. Also, there's nothing stopping you overpaying your credit card and avoiding interest charges.

29th Jul 2004, 22:01
Thanks for your ideas. My use of a debit card doesn't have anything other than an exchange rate showing. No charges shown. Can't comment on the rate other than it's generally been in line with the high street gang.

I suspect it's like taking a different route to work to save time. You never know what would have happened if you'd gone the normal route.

Land After
29th Jul 2004, 23:38
Mike Jenvey

Have a careful look at the Lloyds charges, you'll see a fee of 1.5%, min £1.50 for cash and a loading of 2.75% for all foreign charges. You'll only see the one fee for cash withdrawls, as the 2.75% is hidden in the forex rate.


I suggest you have a quick look around your banking providers Ts&Cs on the web, you'll probably find a similar loading.

30th Jul 2004, 11:46
I suggest you have a quick look around your banking providers Ts&Cs on the web, you'll probably find a similar loading.I'm not saying you're wrong so please don't take offence, but my transactions aren't loaded in any form other than whatever fx rate they use. I don't pay charges for the account either.

30th Jul 2004, 12:02
Recent withdrawals from overseas ATM's using Abbey National debit/ATM suggest Abbey charge 4% commission on the applicable spot rate + 1.5% handling fee. Robbery. ATM's used to be the best way to convert money, the banks have obviously realised they were giving their customers a good deal and have stopped it.

Land After
30th Jul 2004, 16:35
If anyone's interested in the % uplift from their banks, whether declared or not, have a look at


which will give you a figure - you may be surprised at the results! :{

31st Jul 2004, 10:35
slim_slag - they should print the commission charged on the statements - I believe it is now a legal requirement.

31st Jul 2004, 12:15
Re-heat, they show the actual exchange rate used, which I could just as easily calculate myself by dividing the currency I paid in by the pounds I paid.

They don't show the exchange rate THEY got, which as it is a very large bank, will be as close to the spot rate as you can get.

Land After's excellent link shows that I paid 4.0% + 1.5% to Abbey for a recent foreign debit card/ATM transaction. I paid 3% commision on a recent foreign Abbey Credit card transaction. So the way to do it is to use credit cards whevever possible, and not cash. Well, I learn something every day. I was looking at the bureau de change in Prague the other day and the good ones appeared to be charging 4% on the mid rate between buy/sell. Thats better than I get from my own bank using an ATM with an electronic transaction!!!

Best thing to do is have USD, Euro and GBP accounts - if you can do so.

31st Jul 2004, 22:57
Has anyone used Euro travellers cheques - do they compare favourably at all??

Land After
1st Aug 2004, 17:27
I do travel with about £500 GBPs worth of TCs in my bag - though I'm abroad once every two weeks or so. I have US$, GBP and EUR in stock for emergencies only. I use them only if I can't manage to get local currency on a card from a machine. You (generally) pay a commission to buy them and (sometimes) a fee/commission to encash them. The main exception is US$ which can be used as cash in the US, but you still need to purchase them upfront.

My advice would be to get one or more low loaded credit cards and to use them for your spend abroad. You'll only pay a 1% loading on the Visa or MC rate - which is very close to the interbank rate., and a cash advance fee. If you have two low rate cards, you can overpay one card to avoid interest on cash advances and use the other for purchases. Such a strategy is optimal, just using one card for advances and purchases will still save you money.

The best cards at the moment are Nationwide, which also gives .5% cashback on purchases, Liverpool Victoria with 0% loading in the EU and 1% outside, and the Lombard card.

2nd Aug 2004, 20:23
Travelex in the UK have a price promise that they will not be beaten on price for money ordered over the web.

I was recently heading out to Burma and did a pretty wide search - and for purchasing $800 they were the cheapest (just!). Simply place your order and then pick-up at the airport as you fly out.

The feature that was really useful to me was being able to specify small denomination notes only - the $800 was dully handed over in $1 / $5 / $10 notes.

And no I don't work there!

3rd Aug 2004, 18:50
The best deal I get is using Travelex buying over the internet and picking up at the airport. The rates are miles better and there is no commission.

The staff at the airport sometimes have a bit of a difficulty dealing with the internet transaction as it comes as someone elses business.

Anyway, you just stand there give them the debit that was used to buy the currency and you get it. all you need to do is look at the rate you got and the rate they advertise before commission and laugh your self to the bar.

6th Aug 2004, 05:02
Travellers cheques are useful but are not as accepted as they used to be, especially US$ in Europe. Many places also charge fees for redemption BUT in France at lease A Express are redeemed for free at POST OFFICES.

6th Aug 2004, 06:17
If you are abroad a lot, open a Nationwide current account - you get the benefits of a better exchange rate and no commission or other charges. I have an account anyway, but put money into it to last me when I'm away. I use it for ATM withdrwals and as many purchases as I can, and have yet to lose out on the currency exchange rates.

Land After
6th Aug 2004, 16:25
Just out of interest I looked at the cost of 100GBP worth of US$ from Travelex today. I was a little surprised at the results:

100GBP gives 177USD.

A little reverse engineering on http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert.cgi shows:

177USD gives 95.89 GPB

This looks like a commission rate of ca. 4% to me :yuk:

Llademos has the best plan for a regular traveller, though this could be improved by using a Nationwide credit card for purchases, gaining the cash-back and tying up less cash in the flex account.